Short Stories

‘Jimmy White’ By: Seán Creedon



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Alex Higgins was nicknamed ‘The Hurricane,’ then along came another great

player, left-handed Jimmy White who became known as ‘The Whirlwind,’

because of his fluid, attacking style of play.

Jimmy, was born on May 2,1962 and grew up on Strathbourne Road in Tooting,

South London. Jimmy, never achieved much academic success, as he was often

truant from school from the age of eight or nine and spent more and more time

at Zans, Ted Zanocelli’s Snooker hall.

It was around this time that White met Tony Meo with whom he would compete

in money matches at various venues. His natural aptitude for snooker led to a

successful amateur career. After winning the English Amateur Championship in

1979, a year later he became the youngest ever winner of the World Amateur

Snooker Championship, aged 18.

White, has won two of snooker’s three majors, the UK Championship in 1992

and the Masters in 1984 and a total of ten ranking events. He is currently tenth

on the all-time list of ranking event winners. He reached six World

Championship finals, but never won the event. The closest he came was

in 1994 when he lost 18-17 to Stephen Hendry.

In the deciding frame White only needed to sink a few more balls to secure his

first world title when he missed a straightforward black. ‘‘Stephen was 16-14

up, but I won the next two frames and it was there for me in the last. But I

twitched on the black. In snooker you have only got to slightly move your head

to find trouble.’’

He is one of only six players to have completed a maximum break at

the Crucible Theatre, doing so in the 1992 World Championship. He has

compiled more than 300 century breaks during his career.

Jimmy is the only well-known player from the eighties, who is still playing

competitively. He has tried and failed qualify for the World Championship in

2019, 2020 and again this year, losing to Stephen Hendry

He was one the most exciting players on the circuit in the eighties. But why

were so many players from that era into smoking, drinking and taking drugs?

Jimmy said: ‘‘I used knock about with Kirk Stevens the former snooker pro

from Canada and he would be on crack. One day I tried it. It’s the most

addictive thing ever. Kirk had no idea how to get cocaine, but I had come from

the street, so I knew 20 dealers. For me to get cocaine was easy. So I became

hooked on crack for a few months. It’s like being an alcoholic, the first hit is the

best, like your first drink.’’

Jimmy eventually kicked the habit, the night he ran out of money. He said:

‘‘One night the pass machine wouldn’t give me any more money as I had

drained one account completely. I got the heebie-jeebies. I had a day trying to

think and then I knew that I had to stop. I stayed away from it because I knew

that I had let a lot of people down.

After overcoming cancer, crack, a gambling habit that cost him over a million

pounds and the heartache of losing six world championship finals, the

Whirlwind is still flying. ‘‘My life is totally different now. I want to produce

some of the snooker I show at exhibitions. I played Ronnie O’Sullivan on the

Legends Tour and held my own for ten nights. You can’t do that unless you

have still got it because Ronnie is the best player I have ever seen.’’

White was married to Maureen Mockler, and they had five children: Lauren,

Ashleigh, Georgia, Breeze and Tommy. He now lives in Epsom with his

girlfriend Jade. He was awarded an MBE in 1999.

Jimmy was a huge fan of Alex Higgins whom he first played in a Working’s

Men’s club in Balham when he was 13. When Alex died in 2010 his funeral was

delayed until White returned from Thailand. ‘‘Alex’s sisters and I raised three

chunks of money for him. But giving money to a gambler is like giving heroin

to a junkie. The money just allowed him to gamble more. I think the iron in

Guinness kept him alive because he was not eating much,’’ said Jimmy.

Has he any regrets? “I would have prepared differently before big matches but I

wouldn’t change my life. On my 50th birthday the Rolling Stones played at my

party at Grosvenor House. That’s not bad for a kid from Tooting,’’ he said.