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The Independent Online
When the Benson and Hedges Masters was launched 20 years ago, the professional snooker circuit remained a relatively small and exclusive club, of which the leading member was undoubtedly the Welshman, Ray Reardon, world champion for three of the preceding five years. He reached the first three Masters finals, winning in 1976 and failing by just one frame in 1975 and 1977. Reardon secured three more world titles and headed the world rankings from their inception in 1976 until 1980, reclaiming top spot in 1983. A professional since 1967, he spent almost 25 years in full-time snooker and his retirement severed a major link with the game's pre-TV era.

"I made a clean break and it was possibly the best decision I ever took," Reardon said. "There were lots of reasons, I suppose. At my age, maybe your eyes aren't so good; and your nerves do take a battering in the pressure games. I saw the signs and I got out." Now 62, Reardon can still be seen in summertime at Butlins in Bognor and Minehead, where his popularity remains high. "I play every week from April to October to people who've known me for years. It's great fun."

A former miner - once buried for three hours by a roof fall at Florence Colliery, near Stoke-on-Trent - and later a policeman, Reardon has settled in Torquay, where he lives with his wife, Carole. "I play some golf but mainly my time is spent gardening, walking, wining and dining - a bit of quality of life."