Snooker’s roots date back to the 19th century, and ever since its inception it’s been an enjoyable pastime, an addictive hobby and an exciting sport. The professional game has evolved over the decades into one of the most popular sports in the world, and has regularly provided some of the most gripping examples of sporting theatre that we’ve ever seen.
Canadian legend Cliff Thorburn has been involved in many of the truly memorable moments, including of course his unforgettable triumph at the World Championship in 1980. Known to fans all over the globe as The Grinder, an affectionate tribute to his patient determination to overcome opponents, Cliff has been wowing audiences and winning tournaments all over the globe for more than forty years.
His love of the game began in the back of a bowling alley in Canada, a love that led to him honing his skills and developing his talents in venues across North America. By then, with his reputation growing and his number of victories increasing, he set his sights on the UK, where the best of the best competed against one another for the sport’s most prestigious titles.
Chief among those titles was of course the World Championship. In 1977, the tournament moved to its new home at The Crucible in Sheffield, where it has been held ever since. This was the start of a new era in the game, one in which players became household names, known for their technical abilities, their magnetic personalities and, on a regular basis, some truly epic matches.
Cliff was in on this from the beginning. He played in his first World Championship in 1973, and by the time the move to The Crucible came around he was one of the most famous players on the planet. In 1977 and 1983, he fought his way to the final, eventually losing out to John Spencer and Steve Davis. Sandwiched between the two, however, was a breath-taking and unforgettable victory.
The Grinder became the first non-British World Champion in 1980, overcoming the legendary Alex Higgins in a final that was witnessed by millions on live TV. The Hurricane had a four-frame lead at one point, but Cliff fought his way back into the match and eventually won by 18 frames to 16. It had been a long and often tough journey, but he’d made it to the very top of the game.
A big name during the sport’s golden age
More competition wins across the globe would follow, and in 1983 Cliff made snooker history. The so-called ‘Perfect Game’, a maximum 147 break that had never been achieved in a World Championship match, was completed by Cliff in a second-round match against Terry Griffiths. For those who saw it, including famously the players on the other table who stopped mid-game to watch, it was perhaps the most famous snooker moment of the whole era.
Cliff Thorburn has gone on to record some 40 tournament wins, including an impressive 13 Canadian titles, establishing himself as one of the most successful, not to mention popular, players to ever grace the game. A Member of the Order of Canada and a WPSBA member for nearly 50 years, his imprint on this sport is there for all to see.
Cliff is married to his wife Barbara and has two sons, Jamie and Andrew. He’s still involved in the sport, making personal appearances and providing sought-after coaching services to both individuals and groups. And while just about all of the world’s greats from the golden era of snooker can say they played against The Grinder, many of them will tell you they struggled to beat him.