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Our World of Sport: With professional pool player Jordan Church


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Jordan Church, 33, was playing pool for Kent under-18s at the age of just nine and has gone onto represent England from junior level to the seniors, having turned professional at 17. He recently had a few years out of the game but returned last season for the UK Open, which he won. There hasn’t been a major tournament since but that’s about to change...

Medway pool player Jordan Church won the UK Open in March 2020
Medway pool player Jordan Church won the UK Open in March 2020

THE BEGINNINGS

My parents used to run the Three Tuns pub in Lower Halstow and I went around harassing people asking them to play pool.

One of the guys who was in there spotted me and said I was quite good. I was only eight at the time, he knew the Kent Junior manager and got him down. It turned out that the manager’s son, Carl Morris, was a professional, so he came down to do an exhibition. His dad had a look at me and invited me to the Kent trials and I managed to get in. Carl ended up being my coach and went onto win the World Championships.

I progressed to number one ranked junior in the country for two years in a row, I won the World Championships two years in a row and I was the England junior captain. I had a lot of success as a junior and then at 18 I made the World Masters Final, which at the time was the biggest tournament in the world. I ended up losing to Mick Hill (six-time world champion) in the final.

It was weird because just before that I was considering quitting the game, my cue had broken a few weeks before the tournament, I thought, ‘well, I am going to quit anyway’ so I borrowed someone’s cue. I made the final and then thought, ‘maybe I’ll stick with it a bit longer!’ I don’t remember why I wanted to quit but it postponed the retirement for a few years.

A NEW VENUE

I used to work at the snooker club in Rainham, which was then a Rileys, just part-time. One morning the manager there called up and said we were being closed, we were shut down, the administrators had gone in and we were all out of a job.

I had always been involved in pool and my parents and myself had said that if we ever had the chance to own a club we would love to do it. It seemed perfect for us. We lived in Lower Halstow at the time and the only pool club was down in Chatham, which is where I went all the time.

We had a look around and ended up opening it back up as Jordans on a shoestring and only in the last lockdown have we managed to do a full refurb. There was stuff we had always wanted to do but it is so hard when you are open.

We’ve had our ceiling fixed - before it was a nice nicotine yellow, with years of smoking, but that is nice and white now. We have done the bar area and new bathrooms.

Kent snooker professionals Barry Hawkins and Gerrard Greene both play at Jordans in Rainham Picture: Andy Payton
Kent snooker professionals Barry Hawkins and Gerrard Greene both play at Jordans in Rainham Picture: Andy Payton

HOME OF THE STARS

We have a couple of snooker pros who play at the club, Gerrard Greene and Barry Hawkins. When you play them that is when you realise just how far behind you are.

It is good to see them both at the club, they bring a lot of professionals down with them. We’ve had Ronnie O’Sullivan down, Mark Davis and Jimmy Robertson come in quite a lot. Jimmy White, Stuart Bingham, they’ve both been down.

It is quite good to see them playing on the table next to the regulars, there will be two old-boys playing on the nextdoor table and Stuart Bingham will be waiting for them to play their shot. The regulars are used to it now.

STICKING WITH POOL

I have had a bit of a go at snooker, dipped my toe in the water, but it is such a different environment. Weirdly it is a slightly different technique, after playing pool for so long you have to get yourself out of those habits, you can play to a level, I can knock in centuries, which is fine, but as soon as you start playing someone who can hit centuries back at you and put you in tough positions you get found out really.

Pool remains popular, a lot of old school pubs don’t exist anymore and a lot are more about food and they get rid of their tables, but there is still quite a lot who play it. In the Medway League there is something like 60 or 70 teams. It is a popular sport, I did a podcast last year and they said to me it is one of the most participated sports, week in, week out, behind football and fishing.

You spend a lot of years getting beat. To get better you need to be playing better players. It is a game you have to practice a lot and get beat a lot!

I have met a lot of friends over the years playing pool, it is quite a sociable game, there is a nice mix. If you prefer your solo sports you can play tournaments on your own but if you prefer a team sport there is a lot of that too. You can pick and choose what you want to do, it is a mixture of team and individual sport. If you are not in the mood to go into an event on your own there is normally a team event around the corner that you can play in.

A career highlight for Jordan Church winning the UK Open last year
A career highlight for Jordan Church winning the UK Open last year

NEXT UP?

The Ultimate Pool Masters has just started and their wildcard this year is Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor, swapping darts for pool.

It has brought a lot of exposure to the game, Sky Sports has covered it, as has one of the big betting sites, we wouldn’t have got that exposure before so it was a good move really. He used to be pretty handy apparently so it will be interesting to see, he must be alright but I don’t expect him to do too well because he has quite a tough group.

I play a couple of weeks later and I don’t think I’ll end up playing him. He has no chance of getting out of the group, I can’t see it.

There are some big names in this tournament, players like Chris Melling (two-time world champion) and Mick Hill, Carl Morris (former World no.1) and Phil Harrison (former world champion). They must have 10-12 World Championships between them, some of the all-time greats, it will be good to play with those guys.

I have played Carl a few times, when I reached the World Masters final that time I beat him in the semis, that was quite nice. It must have been bitter-sweet for him, he was a big part of my game, and so although I beat him that day it was kind of a win for him, but I am not sure he thought that at the time!

Jordan Church is looking forward to getting back to competitive action Picture: Steve Crispe
Jordan Church is looking forward to getting back to competitive action Picture: Steve Crispe

GROWING PRIZE FUND

The prize fund is still miles behind darts and snooker, but it is growing.

For years the tour prize money was £2,500 to the winner, that has crept up to about £3,000 but these events now, it seems like £10,000 to the winner is becoming the norm, which is a good thing.

The last two Ultimate Pool events have both been £10k to the winner and I think they’ve got another four events this year. It is slowly creeping up but it is so hard for a sport like pool to break through now.

When darts and snooker made their mark, there were a lot less channels on TV, no internet. We have 900 channels or so and it is hard to get everyone to watch, but it is getting there. If it does take off then hopefully I will still be part of it!

It is getting a lot more exposure than it ever has in the past, with the TV and there is always stuff being streamed online. The IPA Pool Tour features on the BBC website. I won the first event of that last year. That was the last tournament on, at the start of March. There is a two-year ranking list but that was my first event back as a professional. Like every other sport, it is all up in the air at the moment.

The biggest achievement for me was that tournament before lockdown, the UK Open, had all the best players in one place and I managed to get through it. That was probably my biggest win.

The World Championships were so long ago I can’t really remember them to be honest! Some of those who compete are doing it full-time.

I’m due to play again on May 17 in the Pool Masters tournament, which is the same day we are due to reopen the club! My parents and my wife help run the club, we have a few members of staff too, so they can hold the fort while I am away.

Jordan wouldn’t be able to do what he does without the help of his sponsors, who he wanted to thank. They are insuremyhols.com - a holiday insurance company - Master Alarms, Onboard Sportswear and Kent Ceiling Solutions.

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