Seventy-eight-year-old Louis Knowleshas made history by becoming the oldest person ever to win the East of Scotland Billiards Championship – more than half a century after he notched up his last major tournament win.
It might have been his snooker skills that last made him a champion back in 1962 but this time the talented OAP has triumphed in billiards – the arcane cousin of snooker – and a game more easily affiliated with the officers’ mess.
Louis – who admits age is catching up with him – defeated two-times champion Jamie Jenkins, 36, to lift the title at the Bert Demarco Matchroom at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange.
He is now among only a handful of people to have lifted both the billiards and snooker titles.
His mastery of the game has been a labour of love since he first picked up a cue in 1950 at the age of 14 when he was introduced to the game of billiards.
He said: “I started playing at a place in Grove House which had a few tables. They didn’t have snooker balls, so for the first few years it was only billiards. I just loved the game and played whenever I got the chance. After that I didn’t really play much billiards and I focused on the snooker.”
It proved to be a good decision. By the time he was 26, Louis had won the East of Scotland Snooker Championship, a year after reaching the final where he lost to his great friend Bert Demarco.
“I did well to get my hands on at least one snooker title back then,” he said thinking back to his heyday. But Louis would have to wait another 50 years – and a switch back to billiards – before he picked up another trophy.
He abandoned the green baize for a while in favour of playing golf. “I gave it up for 12 or 13 years,” he said. “But then I had problems with my hips and my back and I decided I couldn’t play golf any more, so I went back to billiards.”
But the march of time has taken its toll in other ways – with Louis admitting he sometimes gets a sore back from leaning in for the best shots. He also has to take his glasses off to play.
“Some of the long shots are a bit blurred – so I just play them from memory,” he adds.
But his skills are clearly unimpaired. Two years ago he came within one point of taking the billiards title. This year he won by 89 points against the same opponent.
He said: “I thought my days were finished, but I can still show the younger guys a thing or two. To be nearly 80 and still able to compete and beat guys less than half of my age is just fantastic.
“And you just never know, I might still have a few more titles still in me yet.”