IT IS often said that life begins at 40. However, in the case of Norman Dagley that wasn't strictly accurate. The Leicestershire-born billiards exponent, a former storeman and manager of a snooker club in Earl Shilton, only began to get major recognition when he turned professional at the age of 54.
Even at this advanced stage in his career Dagley was able to tread in the footsteps of some of the most illustrious names in cue sports history by becoming world champion twice over. It followed on from his world amateur championship victories in 1971 and 1975 plus a record 15 English amateur titles between 1965 and 1984, including seven times in a row (1978-84).
Dagley joined the paid ranks in readiness for the 1986-87 season and made an immediate impact. The world championship, first won in 1870 by William Cook and later held by the likes of Joe Davis, Walter Lindrum and Tom Newman, went to Dagley in 1987.
His 3-1 win came at the expense of the defending champion Robby Foldvari from Australia. The first prize of pounds 9,500 was the largest ever offered in billiards and helped Dagley end the campaign with nearly pounds 20,000 from a total prize fund of almost pounds 50,000 .
In addition to the world crown, Dagley captured the UK and European Championships defeating Ray Edmonds and Foldvari respectively. Naturally, he finished No 1 in the rankings but never quite dominated the game to such an extent again.
In 1988, the world championship attracted a record 24 entries and Dagley retained his trophy with a 7-4 success over another Australian, Eddie Charlton. His run to the final included a 4-0 triumph over Mike Russell - soon to become the youngest ever winner of a professional billiards event. At the age of 18, he defeated Dagley in the European Open final and in the coming seasons was to oust his senior rival from the head of the rankings.
"These youngsters are the future of our game," Dagley said prophetically at the time. The duo met again the following season by which time the pendulum of power had swung Russell's way.
Russell accounted for Dagley in the semi-finals of the UK Championship, Professional Players' tournament, the World Matchplay and most crucially of all, the World Championship.
The emergence of Russell and Peter Gilchrist plus health problems contributed to Dagley going over a year without a title. But in 1991, at the age of 61, he picked up the British Open trophy at the Barbican Centre in London as part of the festivities to mark the bicentenary of the death of the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was a keen billiards player.
After this Norman Dagley's successes became fewer and far between, but he still competed full-time on the circuit and completed a full complement of tournaments last year. His last public appearance - though not in a playing capacity - was as recently as 23 December 1998 when he attended the annual general meeting of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.
Norman Dagley, billiards player: born 1930; English Amateur billiards champion 1965-1984; World Amateur champion 1971 and 1975; World Matchplay Champion 1987; UK Champion 1987; European Champion 1987; World Professional Billiards Champion 1987 and 1988; British Open Champion 1991; married; died 15 January 1999.
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