Alex ' The Hurricane' Higgins
Town / Country: Belfast, N. Ireland
DoB: 18 March 1949
High Break: 147
Ranking: 2 (1976/77, 1982/3)
Alex Higgins, who hit the snooker world like the hurricane which became his nickname, was to become the biggest box-office draw the game has ever known.
Completely unorthodox, always controversial he was never out of the news, on or off the table. No one had seen anyone like him when he played in the 1972 world championship. He would virtually throw his whole body at the cue ball but could pull off the most amazing shots anyone had seen at that time and people flocked to see him in their thousands whenever he played. Even Jimmy White probably never had quite the drawing power of Alex at his peak.
Born in Belfast, Alex started playing snooker at the age of eleven at a local club, The Jampot, but at 14 and only seven and a half stones, he left for England and a career as a jockey. However he put on a lot of weight and was released from his apprenticeship without ever having ridden in public.
He returned to Belfast and the Jampot and by 1965, age 16 he had compiled his first maximum. In 1968 he won both the All-Ireland and Northern Ireland amateur championships. He wanted to make some real money out of the game and moved to Manchester in 1971 and turned professional.
He entered the 1972 world championships and set the snooker world alight by beating John Spencer 37-32 to become champion at his first attempt. He was just what the game needed. The people loved him and the sponsors rushed to put more money into the game. He only managed to reach the semi-finals the following year and the quarters in 1974. Another semi-final in 1975 was followed by reaching the 1976 final where he lost to Ray Reardon. The following two years saw him go out in the first round but in 1979 he only lost his quarter-final in the deciding frame to the eventual champion, Terry Griffiths, and the next year he made it to his third final, a narrow 16-18 defeat by Cliff Thorburn. An early exit in 1981 was followed by unforgettable scenes in 1982 as he beat Ray Reardon to become champion again. this was after a wonderful semi-final encounter with Jimmy White, arguably the best match ever seen at the Crucible.
In the meantime Alex had reached four successive Benson & Hedges Masters finals from 1978 to 1981, winning the first and last of them as well as the 1980 British Gold Cup and three Irish Professional titles. He added a fourth in 1983 and ended that year with a dramatic win in the Coral UK Championship. he was 0-7 down to Steve Davis but won the match 16-15.
He had a drinking problem and was consistently in trouble with the authorities receiving numerous bans and he was finding it harder to compete on the table. He was, however, a member of Ireland’s winning World Cup team for three consecutive years, 1985-87 and in 1989 won the Irish Masters as well as a fifth Irish Professional title.
Further lengthy bans caused him to slip down the rankings and he now had to play through several qualifying rounds to reach the money earning stages of the big tournaments. This he consistently failed to do and to add to his problems, he developed cancer. He has still not officially retired but was last heard of playing for £10 or £20 a time at a small club in Manchester.
No one can doubt that he has been the bad boy of snooker for most of his career and has brought most of his problems on himself but equally it can be said that, without him, the big snooker revival of the seventies would never have happened.
World Professional Snooker Champion - 1972, 1982
World Championship runner-up - 1976, 1980
Benson & Hedges Masters Champion - 1978, 1981
Benson & Hedges Irish Masters Champion - 1989
World Doubles champion - 1984 (with Jimmy White)
Coral UK Champion - 1983
British Gold Cup Champion - 1980
Irish Professional Champion - 1972, 1978, 1979, 1983, 1989
World Cup Winning Team - 1985, 1986, 1987
Northern Ireland Amateur Champion - 1968
All-Ireland Amateur Champion - 1968