Rory McLeod admits his first ranking tournament victory was touched by sadness.
The 44-year-old from Wellingborough last weekend won the Ruhr Open but his number one fan didn’t see him lift the trophy in Germany and pick up the winner’s cheque for 25,000 Euros.
Last month, McLeod’s mother, Norma, died after suffering a fall in Jamaica.
McLeod had previously spent a year caring for her after she suffered a stroke and said: “I know mum would have been so happy to see me win in Germany.
“It’s such a shame she can’t share this moment with me.
“In the early days, I would ask mum if I could go to play snooker and she always said: ‘No.’
“So I sneaked off and played anyway. Later on when mum realised I had ability, she was very pleased for me and encouraging.”
McLeod admitted: “The stress and worry about mum’s health has affected me and my snooker over the last year or so.
“I have a clearer head now I’m not waiting for a phone call all the time.
“Losing mum has given me a new drive as well, a new reason to do well.”
McLeod has had good times in his snooker career – he’s twice qualified for the World Championships and was once ranked No 32 – but until last weekend, he had never gone beyond the last 16 of a ranking tournament.
Ranked 61st in the world before the Ruhr Open, McLeod reached the final with wins over Ben Wollaston (4-1), Mark Davis (4-3) and Mike Dunn (4-1), then beat Tian Pengfei 4-2 to win the third tournament on the Kreatin Dental Clinic European Tour.
“Some of the referees were saying I was awesome,” he said.
“But I don’t feel I was 100 per cent. I had some good breaks when I needed them, but I felt I had a lot more in the tank.
“That was me at 70 per cent.”
McLeod’s victory means the tournament has had back-to-back winners from Northamptonshire following former Irthlingborough man Shaun Murphy’s success 12 months ago.
McLeod said: “Shaun was sending me positive messages all the way through the tournament, encouraging me. We grew up playing snooker together.
“Shaun was only nine or 10 years old when I first met him at Rushden Snooker Centre and I think he would admit he learned a lot about the game from me.
“There was me, Shaun and Peter Ebdon at Rushden and you could see Shaun’s potential even then.”
Pengfei put out Murphy on the way to reaching the final in Germany on Sunday but McLeod was confident he would beat the Chinese potter ranked No 70 in the world.
“I felt a calmness I had not felt for a while,” said McLeod.
“I decided I was going to win the final, kept thinking that and kept calm.
“I tried not to look too far ahead and keep trying to make the right decisions.”
McLeod took a grip on the best-of-seven frames final, opening up a 3-1 lead before Pengfei put together a 106 break in the fifth that trimmed the lead to a single frame.
“I didn’t want a decider,” admitted McLeod, who was taken all the way to a seventh and deciding frame by Mark Davis in the quarter finals.
“I had to win that sixth frame and knew nobody was going to give it to me.”
From a difficult position, McLeod fashioned a match-winning break of 55.
“The balls were a mess,” he said.
“It wasn’t a straightforward break. I just had to keep bashing away to open up the reds and hold myself together.”