Rod Lawler’s career looked over at the end of last season. Relegated from the professional circuit and into his 40s, he was faced with a bleak choice: chance his arm in the Q School or get a job.
The latter didn’t appeal so much so Lawler paid the £1,000 entry fee and, at the third and final time of asking, qualified.
Even so, few could have expected what was to follow. Lawler won four matches to qualify for the final stages of the season’s first ranking event, the Wuxi Classic, where he beat Stephen Maguire and very nearly beat Graeme Dott.
Lawler had some good wins in the next few tournaments as well before his remarkable capture of Players Tour Championship event 3 in Gloucester last night.
Yesterday alone he beat four ranking tournament winners: Stuart Bingham, Stephen Lee, Dominic Dale and, in the final, Marco Fu.
His win over Fu was his 43rd match of the season, including Q School. Relegation appears to be the best thing that could have happened to the Liverpudlian. It refocused his mind and his priorities. He is now grateful for a second chance, match fit and his confidence is sky high.
Lawler grew up watching snooker in its UK heyday during the boom years of the 1980s. He started late by today’s standards, at 13. He looked up to Jimmy White but his own style has always been more methodical.
So what? It takes all sorts. What he proved in this PTC is how adept he is at playing the percentages. He likes to attack but, if he runs out of position, he doesn’t push the boat out but plays a good safety and tries to force a mistake and thus another opening.
Lawler said his previous best moment was beating Stephen Hendry live on TV at the 1996 International Open, after which he went on to reach the final, losing to John Higgins. He also defeated John Parrott at the Crucible in 1995.
But nothing beats winning a trophy and, after 22 years as a professional, that is what he has now done.
Lawler has some good practice partners with which he plays regularly: Dave Harold, Andrew Higginson and Ricky Walden.
He like them is the sort of dedicated professional who keeps his head down, works hard and treats the game with respect.
He has spent most of his professional career in the wings as one of the game's supporting cast. He thoroughly deserves his moment in the spotlight.
It’s been a long time coming for Rod but he has finally done it and in the process authored one of the most unlikely but heart warming stories of recent snooker times.