‘Antrim Ferrari’ Jordan Brown always had the drive to make it to the top, one of his former colleagues at a local filling station has revealed.
The 33-year-old was working at Islandbawn filling station in Antrim up until three years ago when he decided to give full-time snooker one last go after years of struggling to make his mark at the highest level.
And one of Brown’s former colleagues at the filling station, Adam Gray, spoke of the emotion he felt when watching his 9-8 victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan in a thrilling Welsh Open final on Sunday.
“Jordan always had that belief that he could on and do something so he deserves it,” said Adam. “He was here for over 10 years, working on the tills, coming in at 5.30am.”
Northern Ireland snooker legend Joe Swail also thought Brown had the determination to succeed — but had left it too late to make the big breakthrough.
Belfast cueman Swail was delighted to be proved wrong when the world number 81 — a whopping 750-1 to win the title — turned the formbook on its head by beating six-time World Champion O’Sullivan in the final at Celtic Manor near Newport, collecting the £70,000 top prize and the Ray Reardon Trophy.
“I was glued to the television all day and shed a few tears when Jordan got the win,” said Swail, who himself reached the final of the Welsh Open back in 2009 only to be edged out by Ali Carter.
“I have practised with Jordan many times so I was well aware what a great player he is. But it’s almost unheard of for someone to make their big breakthrough in their 30s. It usually happens in late teens or early 20s,” added the two-time World Championship semi-finalist.
Swail, who feels Brown could be spurred on to even greater heights when crowds are allowed back into venues, is certain the snooker hotbed of Antrim has played a major part in his success.
Brown and his great pal Mark Allen, the world number 10 and 2018 Masters champion, are based at Antrim Sports Club, which has cultivated a reputation as a producer of snooker talent.
“Jordan is practising with Mark Allen all the time which can only be good for his game.
“There are plenty of other good players at the club too, some of the best amateurs in the country.
“The club is a real hothouse of snooker talent. They are all bouncing off each other and Jordan has really kicked on. I’m delighted for him.
“I’ve had a few good nights out with him in the past and I’m sure we’ll get another when things start getting back to normal.
“He did the business against the best player in the world and it was lovely to hear Ronnie congratulate him afterwards.
“That’s no surprise — Ronnie is one of the game’s good guys.
“Jordan is now in a great position to go on and establish himself in the world’s elite top 16.”
Allen was overjoyed to see his good friend finally crack the big time — particularly as the pair have both admitted to enduring some “dark days” during their careers.
Allen said: “I have been alongside him for a lot of those dark times and he did have problems.
“It shows the strength of character he has and how good a family circle he has around him to help him through those dark times.”
Brown is just the fourth player from Northern Ireland to win a ranking title, joining Allen and former World Champions Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor.
Brown, back in action tomorrow at the Players Championship in Milton Keynes, said: “I’m very proud to come from Northern Ireland. To follow in the footsteps of some of those great names is a very proud moment for me and something I will cherish forever.
“I have watched YouTube videos of what Dennis and Alex have done over the years and it’s incredible to be part of that history.”
Reflecting on his victory, he added: “It’s incredible, I can’t quite believe it. I’m just an ordinary lad who plays snooker and happens to do it for a living.
“I’m not sure how I managed to hold myself together towards the end but I just took one ball at a time and didn’t rush, kept my composure... did what I had been doing all week, really.”