Snooker sensation Jordan Brown on meeting Hendry and breakfast with Ronnie.. and why he’s known as the Antrim Ferrari


A whirlwind week in the life of the Antrim Ferrari.

Eight days ago, Jordan Brown beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Welsh Open final to win, at 33, his first ever professional snooker event, with the praise of the Rocket ringing in his ears.

He lifted the trophy after claiming the final frame in five of his seven matches.

On Monday he did the media rounds before swapping Celtic Manor for Milton Keynes to prepare for a first round Players Championship clash with John Higgins. While there, he bumped into childhood hero Stephen Hendry in a hotel corridor.

“It’s the first time I ever spoke to him,” Brown told MirrorSport later as he still revelled in the encounter.

“He recognised how much of an achievement it was for me. Stephen said, ‘I’m so pleased for you, you played a great deciding frame’.

Stephen Hendry

“I went back to the hotel room doing cartwheels because he was one of my heroes growing up. I was watching him on the TV since I was five.”

O’Sullivan had joined him for breakfast earlier the same day,

“He was just so genuinely happy for me and just wanted to get to know me. We had a good conversation,” Browne recalled.

“I got that vibe from him during Sunday’s match that he liked the way I played and liked me as a person. Ronnie’s not like that around everyone, as we all know. He’s hot and cold with people.

“But it’s very, very flattering and so pleasing, coming from him. I couldn’t quite believe that he was saying those words about me, but you know you’re doing something right if he is.

Jordan Brown wins the Welsh Open LINK:

“I’m soaking it all in, trust me, but it’s just going to take a while.

“They were my heroes growing up and suddenly these guys are talking to me. Even Mark Williams was chatting away in the practice room.

“Everyone’s been brilliant, recognising I’ve done something quite special here.”

This was life in the fast lane at last. And then after the spectacular rise came a swift fall.

Higgins, the veteran former world champion, dispatched him 6-0 in the first round on Wednesday evening.

“It was a combination of things,” Brown explained the following day. “He seemed to want to put me on the back foot early, and as the scoreline worsened it piled on more pressure.

“I didn’t show up, really. I was tired from being on such a high and busy with press, etc, and it was a proper comedown.

“I’ve spoken to other players and it’s very common, especially for first time winners. It takes a while to be brought back down to earth, let the dust settle and get back to normality.”

It is by now well documented, his journey from full-time petrol station worker to a return to the pro game he first participated in 11 years ago.

Jordan Brown with Welsh Open trophy

“So, this is just so surreal,” admitted Brown. “I’ve had so many calls and messages. The support has been amazing back home.

“The turning point was five years ago, when I was at rock bottom but I thought, ‘at least I’m good at something, I’ve got a talent here but I might waste it by not putting the effort in’.

“So I put the effort in.”

He grafted his back into the pro ranks through Q school, then reached the World Championship for the first time last year. Last month, in the German Open, he made his first quarter-final.

It has all happened at the right time. He admits that before his win, he was having doubts about whether to continue, having worked so hard to get back there. His love of snooker had not lessened but life on tour in Covid times was proving relentless, and no fun.

“I know it sounds silly because I’m doing what I always wanted to do for a living but at the same time, it just shows how important mental health is,” Brown explained.

“You’re in a hotel room and don’t have the freedom to go out, you have someone telling you not do it and it’s scary, really, being stuck there and not much fun.

“It’s important to have that social outlet to keep yourself sane and we can’t go for a meal with other players, or for a beer.”

The events of Welsh Open week reminded him what he’s in it for and of the three people, above all, who helped him to make it happen.

His coach, Marty Brantwood, is a former player who Brown has known since their Fountain Centre club days together, when Brantwood worked there and offered to help Brown with his game.

Since he really knuckled down in 2015, Brantwood has been committed to his cause.

Then there’s his dad, John, who has travelled the world with him and gave him the financial backing he needed before BMW Ballymena came on board.

“It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be playing if it wasn’t for my dad,” Brown admitted.

And there’s his girlfriend Catherine, who he asked out in November 2019 after a chance meeting in her brother’s restaurant, where he was working as a waitress.

“I was going to China the next day,” he laughed. “Most other girls would have said, ‘Nah, he’s not taking me seriously’, but we started dating when I returned and we got on so well.

“When I first met her, she asked what I did for a living. I said I play snooker, and she goes, ‘well, what do you actually do?’.

“She didn’t know what it was about but obviously now understands. Shes my absolute rock. No matter what, she’s in my corner.

“She makes me have a happy life off the table and that’s important, it shows on the table.”

He’s had a taste of the big time and wants more.

“I’ve got the confidence now,” Brown stated. “No matter what happens I’ll always have in the back of my mind, that I went the distance before.

“Just never give up, when you’re down and out there’s always a way out. I’ve proved that, and hopefully that can inspire others in these difficult times.”

******

Padraig Harrington.

After Padraig Harrington’s two British Open triumphs and US PGA title victory in 2007 and 2008 came a deluge of Irish triumphs on golf’s world stage.

If Harrington, who they practised with and played against could do it, why couldn’t we, was the attitude adopted by Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry.

As Brown watched Hill beat world champ Ronnie O’Sullivan in the European Masters last September, he felt he could do the same if and when the opportunity arose.

“I honestly think there’s a very big future for him,” said Brown of the Cork teenager.

“I’ve been following him since he was about 14, 15 years old. I heard a lot of hype of him about him on the scene in Ireland and I thought, ‘I’m going to have to have a look at this guy’ and as soon as I played him I was just, ‘what a player’.

“And I wasn’t surprised at all when he beat Ronnie O’Sullivan because he just showed what he was capable of. He just burst onto the scene, with nothing to lose and put Ronnie to the sword.

“I was so impressed with him that day and it definitely was inspiring. It definitely made me think that, ‘Well, if Aaron can beat Ronnie, then I can’.

“I’m sure a lot of other players were thinking the same. Aaron’s at such a young age and has the world at his feet.”

*********

Mark Allen

For those wondering where the Antrim Ferrari nickname came from, Brown can shed some light.

“A friend of mine from Coventry, Robbie Watson, has come over to Mark Allen’s Charity Pro-Am for the last three years, he has been behind Mark’s sponsorship deals,” he explained.

“But he gave the nickname to me, maybe because my hair is red, but also maybe it’s because of how I play – when I was playing well he’d say, ‘you’re not even out of second gear yet’.”

Brown isn’t a Formula One fan although, when in Bahrain in 2009 for the World Under-21 Snooker Championship, he was “mesmerised” when permitted a look behind the scenes before a F1 race.

“But cars in general I am a fan of,” he laughed.

“And I had even thought of getting a new car before the Welsh Open, my old car has a lot of mileage on it, and I was going to treat myself.

“So that’s lovely timing, eh?”





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