Michael Holt relishing Snooker Shoot Out free hit on path back to pro ranks

Michael Holt is one of the names most synonymous with the Snooker Shoot Out and the former champion is delighted to get an unexpected shot at the chaotic event this week.

It was something of a shock to the snooker world to see the Hitman drop off the professional tour at the end of last season after an unbroken 24 year stint as a pro.

The 44-year-old’s snooker journey is not at an end as he is competing on the amateur circuit this season, while keeping very busy with coaching, and aims to return to the pro ranks later this year.

Holt gets a shot in a pro tournament this week in Leicester and it is an event he has proved to be as dangerous as anyone in over the years.

The one-frame Shoot Out is as unpredictable as anything in snooker but the Hitman reached back-to-back finals in 2019 and ’20, lifting the trophy on his second visit to the showpiece match.

He may only be back in the competition this year because of a number of professionals not taking part, but he warns his opponent Lei Peifan: ‘He’s had a nightmare because he’s drawn an amateur but he’s got the GOAT!’

Of course Holt had tongue firmly in cheek with that statement, but he is looking forward to getting out there in front of a crowd again in a tournament he enjoys and has conquered in the past.

‘At the start of the season I just wrote all the tournaments off because I’m way down the ranking list, so anything is a bonus, so it’s nice to get in,’ he told Metro.co.uk.

‘I need to get my cue out because I’ve forgot what end to use. I’ve tried to have a few games here and there to see how I go, we’ll see. It’s obviously a format I’m decent at, but you never know, you can always get dusted very quickly.

‘It’s a free hit but to be honest I feel like that most of the time at the Shoot Out because you’re always so close to losing. You don’t put much pressure on yourself to do well because you know it can be over so quickly. My mindset will be pretty similar to what it normally is, just be ready to pounce if you get the opportunity. Fingers crossed I’ll get a go.

‘I’m looking forward to it, I’ve got no pressure on me, we’ll see how we go. It’s a bit of fun, I enjoy it. I obviously keep in touch with people on the tour and get involved with the gossiping, but it’ll be nice to see a few people.’

Holt has been playing on the Q Tour this season, amateur competitions that provide a route back into the professional ranks, but results have proved difficult to come by for the former world number 20.

It has been a tricky time off the table for the Nottingham cueman and his family, and snooker has not been front and centre for him, but that will change when Q School roles around at the end of the season.

‘I don’t like excuses and it’s not an excuse, but we, as a family, have had a really horrible time over the last few months and snooker’s been the last thing on my mind, to be honest,’ he said.

‘I’ve not really been practicing and it’s just not been the top of my list. It’s not an excuse, I’m still surprised how badly I did, but they’re decent players on there, I never thought I was going to go and roll everyone over, I’m not daft enough to think that.

‘What can I say? It didn’t go very well. But we’ve sorted things out at home so I can play a bit more, I’ll give myself a much better chance at Q School, have time to practice and focus more on it.

‘I’ve got to provide for my family, it’s not like I’ve been lazy. Other things are more important in life than snooker at times, but I’ll be back, hopefully.’

It is not as though Holt’s focus has been entirely away from snooker, as his foray into coaching while he was on the tour has now become a full time gig.

Coaching out of his base in Nottingham, but also travelling to Romford, providing lessons online and tips on his YouTube channel, business is booming and Holt will keep it up even if he returns to the pro game.

‘I have been focussing on the coaching and that’s been going great. I’m absolutely chuffed with some of the feedback I’m getting.

‘If I get back on [tour] I’m still going to do it, I’ll have to do less because I’m full time doing it at the minute, it’s my job.

‘It’s more enjoyable than I thought it would be. I love the reviews, it’s really nice, it massages my very fragile ego. It’s better than losing matches and someone on Twitter telling me how rubbish I am.’

Holt takes on Lei live on Eurosport on Thursday 26 January at 2.40pm.

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