Cliff Thorburn

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Cliff Thorburn
Born (1948-01-16) January 16, 1948 (age 69)
Victoria, British Columbia
Sport country  Canada
Nickname The Grinder
Champagne Cliff
Professional 1972–1996
Highest ranking 1 (1981/82)
Career winnings £980,598[1]
Highest break 147 (2 times)
Century breaks 92[2]
Tournament wins
Ranking 2
Non-ranking 22
World Champion 1980

Clifford Charles Devlin "Cliff" Thorburn CM (born January 16, 1948) is a Canadian retired professional snooker player. He won the World Snooker Championship in 1980, the first player outside the United Kingdom to win the title in the sport's modern era. He was also ranked number one that year. In 1983, Thorburn became the first player to compile a maximum break at the World Championship. He is one of two snooker players inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, the other being George Chenier.[3] His slow, determined style of play earned him the nickname "The Grinder".


Early career

Thorburn first went to England to play snooker professionally in the early 70s. He had met John Spencer in Canada, who had advised him to go to the UK to improve his game. He was runner up in the world championship in 1977, and was soon considered a contender for tournaments.


Thorburn's finest moment came in the 1980 World Championship. He met Alex Higgins in the final, a personality that could hardly have been more different from his own. Thorburn won the match 18-16 to take the championship,[4] and rose to number two in the world rankings. The BBC's coverage of the final had been interrupted by the broadcast of live footage of the SAS storming the Iranian Embassy.

The following season Thorburn reached number one in the world rankings.

In 1983, Thorburn was made a Member of the Order of Canada. That same year, he became the first player to make a maximum break at the World Championships. He compiled the break in the fourth frame of his second round match against Terry Griffiths (a match he went on to win 13-12). Whilst completing the break, play stopped on the tournament's second table because Thorburn's friend and fellow Canadian Bill Werbeniuk wanted to watch him complete the break. He subsequently went on to reach the final, but lost to then world number 1 Steve Davis. His wife had a miscarriage during his semi-final and partly explains his eventual heavy defeat by Davis in the final. Thorburn himself refused to blame this for his loss, instead citing that he was fatigued after his three back-to-back final frame victories; 13-12 win over Terry Griffiths in the Second Round, 13-12 win over Kirk Stevens in the quarter finals and a gruelling 16-15 victory (from 13-15 behind) in his semi-final against Tony Knowles, which finished at 2:30am and left him physically exhausted before the final commenced later that same day; Thorburn stated that, following the early morning finish against Knowles, he simply had nothing left for the final less than thirteen hours later against the in-form Steve Davis, who eventually defeated Thorburn 18-6, with a session to spare.

Thorburn was three times the Benson and Hedges Masters Champion, the most prestigious non-ranking event on the snooker calendar for many years. The event was held at the Wembley Conference Centre near London, England, which is where Thorburn lifted the title on three occasions winning in 1983 beating Ray Reardon 9-7 in the final, 1985 beating Doug Mountjoy 9-6 and in 1986 beating Jimmy White 9-5. Thorburn was the first player to retain the Masters title.

During the 1984/85 season Thorburn enjoyed a resurgence in form. He made the final of the Rothmans Grand Prix losing to Dennis Taylor 10-2 in the Final. The highlight of the tournament was Thorburn's 9-7 victory over Steve Davis in the Semi-Final. Thorburn played outstanding snooker to overcome his great rival and the victory came unexpectedly because at that time Davis was in outstanding form.

In January 1985 Thorburn also made the final of the Mercantile Credit Classic and was again in outstanding form. On this occasion he met Willie Thorne in the final who was in equivalent good form and Thorne ran out the winner 13-8. Thorburn was again runner-up in the 1986 Mercantile Credit Classic final, this time losing to Jimmy White in the final frame 13-12.

Thorburn enjoyed success in the 1985 and 1986 Langs Scottish Masters, an invitational event which opened the snooker season. Thorburn defeated Willie Thorne 9-7 in 1985 final and Alex Higgins 9-8 the following year.

Thorburn won the opening ranking event in the 1985-1986 snooker calendar, the Goya Matchroom Trophy. Thorburn beat Jimmy White in the final 12-10 having trailed 0-7 and 4-8 and was runner-up in the same event the following two seasons.

Later years

He last qualified for the World Championship in 1994, where he faced Nigel Bond in the first round. Thorburn led by 9-2 but lost 10-9.

In 2001 Thorburn was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.[3] The same year he won the pro-am Canadian Open Championship; he had previously won the tournament in 1974, 1975, 1976, and 1977.[5][5]

During the 2006 World Championships, Thorburn flew to Sheffield to unveil a lifesize painting of his break, by the artist Michael Myers. It is on display at the Macdonald St. Paul's Hotel in Sheffield.[6] In 2010 Cliff Thorburn returned to the UK to compete on the Snooker Legends Tour where he faced Alex Higgins, Jimmy White and John Parrott.

Along with the highs there were a few lows. His manager Darryl McKerrow was killed in a hunting accident during the mid 80s and he was fined £10,000 and banned for two ranking tournaments in 1988 after failing a drug test.

He is the father of two boys, Jamie and Andrew. Thorburn won around C$2.5 million in prize money during his 25-year career but also received a considerable income from inter alia billiards equipment endorsements, exhibition games, a snooker instruction book and an autobiography, Playing for Keeps, published in 1987.[7]

Performance timeline

Tournament 1972/
UK Championship Tournament Not Held A A A A 3R A A SF 2R QF QF QF 1R WD 1R LQ LQ LQ LQ
World Championship 2R 1R QF 1R F QF 1R W SF 1R F QF QF SF 1R SF 1R QF LQ LQ LQ 1R LQ LQ
The Masters Not Held 1R 1R A F QF QF SF QF W 1R W W SF QF QF 1R LQ LQ LQ LQ LQ LQ
Performance Table Legend
LQ Failed to qualify #R Lost in the early rounds
QF Lost in the quarter-finals SF Lost in the semi-finals
F Lost in the final W Tournament winner
A Did not participate in the tournament NH Tournament was not held

Career finals

Ranking finals: 10 (2 titles, 8 runner-ups)

World Championship (1–2)
UK Championship (0–0)
Other (1–6)
Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Runner-up 1. 1977 World Snooker Championship England Spencer, JohnJohn Spencer 21–25
Winner 1. 1980 World Snooker Championship Northern Ireland Higgins, AlexAlex Higgins 18–16
Runner-up 2. 1983 World Snooker Championship (2) England Davis, SteveSteve Davis 6–18
Runner-up 3. 1983 International Open England Davis, SteveSteve Davis 4–9
Runner-up 4. 1984 Grand Prix Northern Ireland Taylor, DennisDennis Taylor 2–10
Runner-up 5. 1985 The Classic England Thorne, WillieWillie Thorne 13–8
Winner 2. 1985 Goya Matchroom Trophy England White, JimmyJimmy White 12–10
Runner-up 6. 1986 The Classic (2) England White, JimmyJimmy White 12–13
Runner-up 7. 1986 International Open (2) England Foulds, NealNeal Foulds 9–12
Runner-up 8. 1987 International Open (3) England Davis, SteveSteve Davis 5–12

Non-ranking finals: 27 (22 titles, 5 runner-ups)

Masters (3–1)
Other (19–4)
Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Winner 1. 1970 North American Snooker Championship N/A [8]
Winner 2. 1971 North American Snooker Championship (2) N/A [9]
Winner 3. 1972 North American Snooker Championship (3) N/A [10]
Winner 4. 1974 Canadian Open Northern Ireland Taylor, DennisDennis Taylor 8–6
Winner 5. 1974 Australia World Masters N/A [11]
Runner-up 1. 1978 The Masters Northern Ireland Higgins, AlexAlex Higgins 5–7
Winner 6. 1978 Canadian Open (2) England Meo, TonyTony Meo 17–15
Winner 7. 1979 Canadian Open (3) Wales Griffiths, TerryTerry Griffiths 17–16
Runner-up 2. 1980 Bombay International England Virgo, JohnJohn Virgo 7–13
Winner 8. 1980 Lada Snooker Championship Canada Wych, JimJim Wych 8–6
Winner 9. 1980 Canadian Open (4) Wales Griffiths, TerryTerry Griffiths 17–10
Winner 10. 1981 Pot Black Canada Wych, JimJim Wych 2–0
Runner-up 3. 1981 Tolly Cobbold Classic England Miles, GrahamGraham Miles 1–5
Runner-up 4. 1981 Scottish Masters England White, JimmyJimmy White 4–9
Winner 11. 1981 Canadian Professional Championship N/A [12]
Winner 12. 1982 Canadian Professional Championship (2) N/A [13]
Winner 13. 1983 The Masters Wales Reardon, RayRay Reardon 9–7
Winner 14. 1983 Australian Masters Canada Werbeniuk, BillBill Werbeniuk 7–3
Winner 15. 1984 Canadian Professional Championship (3) Canada Mario Morra 9–2
Winner 16. 1985 The Masters (2) Wales Mountjoy, DougDoug Mountjoy 9–6
Winner 17. 1985 Canadian Professional Championship (4) Canada Chaperon, BobBob Chaperon 6–4
Winner 18. 1985 Scottish Masters England Thorne, WillieWillie Thorne 9–7
Winner 19. 1986 The Masters (3) England White, JimmyJimmy White 9–5
Winner 20. 1986 Canadian Professional Championship (5) Canada Wych, JimJim Wych 6–2
Winner 21. 1986 Scottish Masters (2) Northern Ireland Higgins, AlexAlex Higgins 9–8
Winner 22. 1987 Canadian Professional Championship (6) Canada Jim Bear 8–4
Runner-up 5. 2000 World Seniors Masters England Willie Thorne 0–1

Team event finals: 6 (3 titles, 3 runner-ups)

Outcome No. Year Championship Team/partner Opponent(s) in the final Score
Runner-up 1. 1980 World Challenge Cup  Canada  Wales 5–8
Winner 1. 1981 World Mixed Doubles Championship Canada Natalie Stelmach [14]
Winner 2. 1982 World Team Classic  Canada  England 4–2
Runner-up 2. 1986 World Cup (2)  Canada Ireland 7–9
Runner-up 3. 1987 World Cup (3)  Canada Ireland 2–9
Winner 3. 1990 World Cup (2)  Canada  Northern Ireland 9–5

Amateur event finals: 7 (5 titles, 2 runner-ups)

Outcome No. Year Championship Opponent in the final Score
Winner 1. 1974 Canadian Amateur Championship Canada Julien St Dennis 13–11
Winner 2. 1975 Canadian Amateur Championship (2) Canada Bill Werbeniuk
Winner 3. 1976 Canadian Amateur Championship (3) Canada Bill Werbeniuk 11–1
Winner 4. 1977 Canadian Amateur Championship (4) Canada Robert Paquette 10–6
Winner 5. 2001 Canadian Amateur Championship (5) Canada Tom Finstad 4–3
Runner-up 1. 2002 Canadian Amateur Championship Canada Kirk Stevens 1–6
Runner-up 2. 2003 Canadian Amateur Championship (2) Canada Alain Robidoux 2–6


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  3. ^ a b "Cliff Thorburn". Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 20, 2015. 
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  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ Artist puts a perfect frame on the map
  7. ^ Retrieved 2015-04-30.
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External links

  • Official website
  • Cliff Thorburn at CueTracker: Snooker Results & Statistics Database
  • Profile on the Global Snooker Centre
  • Profile at World Snooker
First Maximum break-scorer
in World Championship

23 April 1983
Succeeded by
Jimmy White
Retrieved from ""
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