Teenager Oliver Lines is gearing up for his driving test – and his first professional snooker season. Richard Hercock reports.
Leeds teenager Oliver Lines dreams of being a world snooker champion and driving a flashy Lamborghini.
But while the 19-year-old’s snooker career is certainly on an upward trajectory, he may have to wait a little longer for the Italian super car.
For Lines is still taking driving lessons, although having passed his theory test this week, he hopes to sit the second part in a few weeks.
And with the promise of a silver Audi TT from his sponsors, York-based Bering Boutique, as an added incentive, Lines is determined to pass with flying colours.
“I love cars, my dream car would be a Lambourghini, I would love one of them,” said Lines, the European Under-21 champion. “It’s slightly too expensive at the minute.
“I take lessons in a Corsa. My sponsor has got the TT for now, because he loves it. But when I pass he is going to give it to me.
“I can’t wait until I can start driving on my own,” said Lines, whose father Peter is also a professional snooker player.
“My dad is virtually my taxi, he takes me everywhere.
“I have got him a chauffeur’s hat, but he won’t wear it.
“I think my dad is waiting for the roles to be reversed, so I can start taxiing him about.”
On the table, Lines is also motoring in his first season on the professional tour, jetting out to Thailand today having qualified for snooker’s elite Grand Finals.
Only 32 players from this season’s Players Tour Championships (PTCs) have been invited to Thailand – mainly consisting of the world’s top 16 players.
So for Lines – currently 81st in the world, but quickly rising up through the ranks – to be included is a major achievement, as he will be the lowest-ranked player on show.
“There were three PTCs in Asia, and I got to the final in one of them, which guaranteed me a place in the Grand Finals,” he said. “It’s the best 32 players from the PTCs.
“It’s full of the top 16 players, apart from Ronnie (O’Sullivan). He’s the only player not in it. I am the lowest-ranked player in the Finals.
“I guess there isn’t any pressure on me, but I am hoping to have a decent run.
“I have Matthew Selt in the first round (on Tuesday), who I played a few weeks ago in Poland. I beat him 4-3, but hopefully I can do it a bit easier this time.”
With snooker’s global tour now in full swing, it offers amazing travelling opportunities for rookies like Lines.
“I like the travelling,” said Lines. “I don’t just like staying in one place. I like to go to different places and see new things.
“I have heard that Thailand is unbelievable so I am really excited. I have never been before. My dad was going to come, because he didn’t want me going on my own, but I am going with one of my mates instead.”
Lines is arguably the best young talent emerging in English snooker, and his results this season have reflected that.
He won six matches in the Asian Tour PTC in Haining, before losing out to Stuart Bingham in the final.
The teenager also shocked world champion Mark Selby, beating the world No 1 6-4 in the International Championship qualifiers.
It would crown a remarkable debut season if he could finish off with a place at the Crucible next month in snooker’s premier tournament, the World Championship.
But first he must win three qualifying matches, with all players outside the world’s top 16 scrambling for places at Ponds Forge in Sheffield next month.
“I am hoping to qualify for the Crucible, but so is everybody else,” admitted Lines, a touch of realism dampening his youthful enthusiasm. “But in my first season, I would take just winning a few rounds, win a few matches, get a taste for the matches. You are used to it then for the second season, when I can really go for it.
“Everybody outside of the top 16 has to win three matches just to reach the Crucible. There is some competition now, and some serious prize money.
“Last year we got hospitality tickets, so sat right by the scoreboards at the front. We were right next to the table and I just wanted to swap places with one of the players.
“The crowd are so close. I can imagine if you are playing well you would love it, but if you are struggling it could get on top of you.”
Crucible or not this season, it seems only a matter of time before Lines will grace the home of snooker.
And the clock is also ticking to Oliver overtaking dad Peter in the world rankings.
Lines junior is ranked 81, following the recent Indian Open, while 45-year-old Peter – a Tour veteran of over two decades – is 65th.
“So far, I am the highest ranked of the first-year professionals,” said Lines.
“Hopefully in the next year I can make a big push up the rankings. I want to be No 1 at some point.”
To achieve that, he first has to pass his father, although Lines believes that won’t mean a few uncomfortable moments at meal times.
“I think my dad wants it to happen, as soon as possible, so he can stop worrying about it,” said Lines of the inevitable shift of power. I can win some money, start driving, then I can be his proper chauffeur. I think that’s what he’s after,” he joked. “I might just give him his bus fare.”
As for dad, Peter, he is hoping for a change in fortune when he jets out to China. He has endured a tough season, being knocked out in the early rounds after being paired against some of the sport’s top players.
Lines lost in the first round of this month’s Indian Open to world No 6 Judd Trump 4-2, while his progress at York in the UK Championship was halted by five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.
He came through the qualifiers to earn a spot at the China Open, and plays wild card Yuan Sijun in his opening match in Beijing a week on Monday.
But if he can beat the Chinese amateur potter, Lines faces a tricky match against world No 9 Stuart Bingham.
“I have drawn a wild card, and if I win that I play Stuart Bingham,” said Lines.
“I have drawn somebody I don’t know.”
Lines and all modern-day players have been forced to swap snooker halls for airport lounges as they travel the world on snooker’s global tour. Having returned from Mumbai this month, he now travels to Beijing, but accepts the travelling is just part of the job.
“If you win, it’s all right,” said Lines, who has been a professional snooker player for over two decades. “But I would rather be going, than not going.
“This season has been okay, but it’s been tough. I have drawn a lot of top players.
“It’s the luck of the draw, but it has been difficult.
“It doesn’t get any easier as you get older.”