Patrick Wallace is thrilled by the opportunity to ‘mix it with the big boys’ again at next week’s Coral Northern Ireland Open.
Dungannon’s 47-year-old Wallace played on the professional tour from 1994 to 2011 and reached the quarter-finals of the World Championship in 2001.
He now works as an administrator for his father’s company, but is still a regular player on the amateur scene. In fact Wallace won the Northern Ireland amateur championship last season and finished top of the rankings, which earned him a spot as a wild card in the new pro event.
The Coral Northern Ireland Open runs from November 14 to 20 at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast, and Wallace will face world number 106 Michael Georgiou in his opening match in the evening session on Tuesday November 15.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Wallace. “It will be nerve-racking because I thought my days of mixing it with the big boys were gone, having not played on the tour for five years. There’s a fantastic history of snooker in Northern Ireland so it’s brilliant to have a big tournament back here, and for me to have the chance to play in it.
“When I left the pro game I wanted to continue at the highest level I could, because I love snooker and I’ve been playing since I was ten years old. I still practise around ten to 12 hours each week, I really enjoy competing in amateur tournaments and I have done pretty well in them.
“As you go through your 40s your consistency level goes down, but every now and then I can still produce my best form, and hopefully I can do that in Belfast. I’m under no illusions because I know every player on the pro tour now is going to be very tough to beat.
“I have no plans to try to return to the tour. If I was young and single then I would jump at the opportunity because the number of events and the prize money are so much better than they were when I was a pro. If there had been 25 or 30 tournaments a year back then, I would have been similar to the likes of Stuart Bingham and Mark Davis, playing in everything I could, and that might have brought me on as a player.
Wallace played Joe Swail in the quarter-finals at the Crucible in 2001
“In my era, it was tough just to qualify for a venue, and then when you got there you were up against one of the top guys in their comfort zone. These days everyone starts in the same round, so the lower-ranked players have got used to playing the elite, so there is less of a fear factor.
“But I have a family and a regular job now so it wouldn’t be practical for me to try to get back on the tour.”
If Wallace wins his opening match in Belfast, he could face local favourite Mark Allen in round two, as long as Allen gets the better of Mark Joyce.
“To play Mark would be a fabulous occasion,” added Wallace, whose run to the last eight at the Crucible 15 years ago ended when he lost to close friend Joe Swail. “But I can’t think about that because I’ve just got to try to win my first game.”
With 128 players in the field and eight tables in the arena in the early stages, the Coral Northern Ireland Open is an incredible chance for fans to see live sport at the highest level. Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, John Higgins and Jimmy White will be among those competing for the £70,000 top prize and the Alex Higgins Trophy.
Certain sessions could be sold out soon so BOOK FAST. A SPECIAL OFFER OF 20% OFF tickets for the first three days of the event is currently running. For details call 0844 847 2455 or CLICK HERE