FIREWORKS FROM THE ROCKET: Night my pal Hirst made 111m in a dingy snooker hall

By Ronnie O'sullivan

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Before I met Damien Hirst I didn’t have a clue about his pickled sharks and horses and butterflies and what not. I didn’t know he was the most successful artist in Britain.

I was with him the night he did his auction at Sotheby’s in 2008 and made a fortune.

The funny thing is we weren’t actually at the auction. We were in a dingy snooker hall in London’s King’s Cross.

Artists: O'Sullivan (left) and Damien Hirst in 2010

Artists: O'Sullivan (left) and Damien Hirst in 2010

A SMALL FORTUNE... AT AGE 12!

I had a snooker room built for me at the end of the garden when I was 11 and I’d spend 10 to 11 hours a day in there just hitting balls.

By the age of 10, I was making centuries. At 12, I won my first pro-am tournament and when I was 15, I made my first maximum.

At 12, I was making 20 grand a year. Unbelievable, really.

The reason I was making so much money was because I was winning proper amateur events.

A lot of these kids would win the odd junior event so they’d make  300-400. But on the amateur circuit, where the prize money was 1,000, 1,500 or even two-and-a-half grand,  I was regularly winning.

Damien decided to flog an entire show called ‘Beautiful Inside My Head Forever’ and he gave me a ring before the auction and told me about it, then said he wasn’t going to be there for it.

‘Normally when an auction’s going on I just go down the Groucho Club and hit a few balls,’ he said. ‘It’s too much for me to be around it and I just love playing snooker.’

‘Right!’ I said. ‘I’ll bring the balls and the cues and meet you there.’

And he was like: ‘Yeah, lovely, come down.’

So we got there for around 6pm, hit a few balls and the auction was kicking off at 7pm. Sylvia, Damien’s PA, was taking the phone calls.

‘Five million,’ she said. It was meant to go for about 3million.

After an hour-and-a-half he finished with 111m. My head was gone. To be fair, so was his.
Damien did a painting for me of the 147 I made in record time in the 1997 World Championship (five minutes and 20 seconds, seeing as you’re asking).

Wingman: O'Sullivan says Hirst is one of the few people he wants around him when he's playing

Wingman: O'Sullivan says Hirst is one of the few people he wants around him when he's playing

ON MONDAY

The drink, the drugs... and trying to keep up with Ronnie Wood!

I can’t keep it at home because I’ve not got a wall big enough for it. It’s the same size as a snooker table — 12 by six. I don’t know what it’s worth, but it must be a fortune.

Damien is perhaps the most generous and kind-hearted person I’ve ever met. He’s been my wingman during three championships, of which I won two.

He’s one of the few people I want around when I’m playing. He’s invested so much time and energy in helping me through those difficult times and I don’t want to let him down.

 

Extracted from RUNNING by Ronnie O’Sullivan, published by Orion at 18.99.  Ronnie O’Sullivan 2013. To order a copy at 16.99 (p&p free), call 0844 472 4157.

 


The comments below have been moderated in advance.

Good story, cheers Ronnie. As for Hendry, matty, Glasgow, talented yes, but methodical and lacking much excitement. You know entertainment is important too, it is what brings the audience. Ronnie is entertainment with a stick.

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Stephen Hendry was untouchable at his best, the greatest ever. - matty, Glasgow - Scotland , 12/10/2013 07:56 Stephen Hendry is to snooker what Vettel is to formula 1. I'd take the genius and ENTERTAINING play of Ronnie any day !

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For those watching in black and white the green is behind the blue! My best memory of all time about watching snooker. Good ol' BBC!

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What a totally bizarre combination of characters! Snooker appeals to so many diverse people [the Queen Mum used to love it too!]

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Dint no they were muckers

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One word LEGEND!!!

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matty, Glasgow Hendry was definitely the most sour faced, dullest and most boring...O'Sullivan is a genius, a showman and has real character. I bet Hendry's book was a riveting read! NOT.

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Stephen Hendry was untouchable at his best, the greatest ever.

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Hendry as all the charisma of a face drawn on to the back of frying pan.

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