Returning to his home state for a national title is the next step as Tasmania’s first professional snooker player for Kurt Dunham.
The 24-year-old is in Launceston to compete in this weekend’s Australian six-red championships,a shorter format of snooker likened to Twenty20 cricket.
However, Dunham’s thoughts will inevitably drift towards his upcoming trip to England to begin a two-year stint as a pro, living in the same city and practising daily with Australia’s former world champion and world No.1 Neil Robertson.
“He’s been my mentor for a while, he’s a really nice feller and I’d love to follow in his footsteps,” said Dunham.
“He’s been over there for 15 years and is one of the greats.
“I don’t know what I’m going to be up against over there but I’ve got nothing to lose. At the very least I can come back after a couple of years and if I don’t make it will still be one of the top players here.
“As soon as I heard this tournament was in Tasmania I booked my flights. It’s awesome to come home to play and I tried to get a lot of boys from Victoria to also come over and support it.”
Dunham, who was born in Burnie and went to Yolla High School but is now based in Melbourne, secured his two-year ticket to play in Europe by winning the Oceania championships in New South Wales.
“Six-red is a lot more cut-throat and faster paced than snooker so better to watch. If you make a mistake the other guy can pot out very quickly.”
Northern Tasmanian Snooker Association member Gary Elliott said the opportunity to host the national titles at the Working Mens Club in Launceston was too good to miss.
“We were trying to push to get a lot of mainlanders over and were delighted to get the Oceania champion,” he said.
”We have about 20 players and it’s a pretty strong field including the under-21 Australian champion in snooker and billiards, Cale Barrett, from Penguin.”
Elliott said the profile of snooker in Australia took off when Robertson won his world title in 2010.
“Before Neil made it in England snooker was a dying sport and he has made a real difference.
“From 2011 onwards there’s been a world-ranking event in Australia and that’s on the back of what Neil achieved.”
Dunham said the sport had become a lot more professional in recent years and he practises for eight hours a day.
“I’ve travelled to many countries through this sport and would not trade it for anything. But if you really want to go pro it’s almost impossible unless you devote your heart and soul to it.”
The tournament runs from Friday to Sunday.