Since its creation in 1875, snooker has continually evolved as a sport, earning itself a position among the World’s premier sporting events. Like every sport, snooker has its list of celebrities; among the top names is Canadian world-champion snooker player, Cliff Thorburn.

Cliff—affectionately nicknamed “The Grinder” because of his patient and determined style of play—discovered snooker as a youth on a table in the back of a bowling alley. Immediately captivated by the game, Cliff returned to the alley night after night to develop his skills. Before long he had developed a keen appreciation of the sport and realized his ability to compete on the global stage; by age 22, Cliff was already a North American champion.

Setting his sights on the snooker capital of the world, Cliff traveled to the U.K. to compete in his first World Championship in 1973. In 1977, he played the final match in the World Professional Snooker Championship against the late John Spencer. In 1980, Cliff won the title, becoming the first-ever non-British champion.

In 1983, Cliff made snooker history when he completed the tournament’s first-ever maximum break (the ‘Perfect Game’) at the Embassy World Professional Championship. The feat was so great that it stopped play on the neighbouring table; fellow championship hopefuls paused their own game to witness the event.

With 13 Canadian titles and 27 professional championships worldwide, Cliff’s accomplishments speak volumes about his dedication to the sport. On December 19, 1983, Cliff was granted the prestigious designation, Member of the Order of Canada, recognizing a lifetime of distinguished service to his community and sport.

Today, Cliff is happily married to his wife, Barbara, and has two sons, Jamie and Andrew. He remains active and highly-respected in his field. Retaining his original nickname, “The Grinder” is often spoken about by snooker players around the world: many can say that they have played him at some point in their careers; few can say that the game went in their favour.