Interview | Dave Bolton

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Dave Bolton has been a revelation to the World Disability Billiards & Snooker (WDBS) tour since making his debut in Northampton at the 2023 UK Disability Snooker Championship.

The 48-year-old Englishman, who has risen to the top of the Group 5 world ranking list, won his maiden event and has gone on to lift six consecutive WDBS titles culminating with victory at the prestigious 2024 Champion of Champions.

We recently caught up with Dave to find out more about his passion for snooker and his incredible first season on the tour.

WDBS Chairman Nigel Mawer QPM presents Dave Bolton with the Champion of Champions trophy

How did you first become interested in snooker and when did you begin playing?

I started playing snooker in 1981 when my Mum and Dad bought me a 6ft snooker table for my 6th birthday. My Nan and Grandad used to live in Tooting, just a few doors away from Jimmy White’s house, and he used to play at the Zans Snooker Hall so my Dad would take me there to see him practice along with Tony Meo. Jimmy and Tony both used to go to the same school as my Dad and Auntie!

How did you first discover the WDBS tour?

After recovering from multiple emergency operations that left me with my disability, I was told that many things would change for me and one of those was that I would never be able to play snooker again.

When I did pick up a snooker cue again after six months, I scored a 58 break and a close friend of mine (Tony Morgan) said I should see if I was eligible to play on the WDBS tour. Tony also introduced me to Daniel Blunn. I then undertook some research about the tour, contacted various people to to find out more information and then completed an application form.

Dave Bolton plays a shot during the 2024 Belgian Open

Can you describe your disability and how it affects your snooker?

I have had the majority of my intestines removed, leaving me with only 60cm remaining, as well as some of my bowel. I also have two stoma bags and a central line that is permanently inserted into my chest. Through the central line, I connect to Total Parental Nutrition (TPN) for up to 12 hours per night which is a liquid feed giving me all the nourishment, nutrients and electrolytes that my body needs to survive.

I am only allowed to drink 500ml of liquid per day and eat extremely small amounts of certain foods which is comfort eating for my mental health, as my brain and sense of smell still makes me want to eat, but my body does not get any goodness from food or drink.

As a result of my operations and disability, I am no longer able to play snooker like I did before. Due to my stoma bags and hernias, I cannot bend for a long period of time and can tire quickly. I used to play snooker on a regular basis, practicing five nights a week, but now I am only able to practice to two hours a week and work my snooker around my medication and rest.

Dave Bolton and Dalton Lawrence shake hands and show off their medals and certificates following the final of the 2023 UK Disability Snooker Championship

Your first WDBS event was at the 2023 UK Disability Championship in Northampton, which you won – what are your memories of that event?

I didn’t know what to expect. It was my first trip away from home since my operation and so I was excited and nervous. I had put a lot of pressure on myself as I had to adapt to a new way of playing snooker while coming to terms with my disability at the same time. I had also just lost my Mum and so I wanted to win the title for her.

The trip to Northampton took a large amount of planning due to the medical equipment and medication that I had to take with me, as well as having to travel down the day before and stay an extra day after due to feeling extremely tired.

The tour made me feel extremely welcome and I now class them as my ‘snooker family’. I received a lot of support from home and at the event which was overwhelming – even now I still cannot believe that I came away from my first WDBS event not only with new friends, but as the winner of the tournament.

Since your debut, you have now won six consecutive events. Have you been surprised by this immediate success and is there a particular event that stands out for you?

I would never have believed that I would even be playing again after I was told I wouldn’t be able to following my operation, so it is a dream come true to be playing at a good standard and to have won my first six events. Something good has come out of something so bad and long may it continue!

The German Open and Belgian Open’s both stand out for me. They both involved a lot of organisation so it was a real achievement just to get out there, let alone to win them.

Dave Bolton celebrates winning the bronze medal match at the World Abilitysport Games in Thailand

You competed in the World Abilitysport Games in Thailand at the end of 2023, how did you find that experience?

It brought tears to my eyes to be asked if I would like to represent Great Britain in Thailand. I never thought I would be able to achieve these great heights.

The location, the standard of tables and the work that went into getting the event up and running was just phenomenal. I still look at my medal now and think how lucky I was to be a part of this and I have to thank the people who made this possible.

You moved to the top of the Group 5 rankings after winning the 2024 Belgian Open – how did that feel?

I was beaming then and I am still beaming now! Now that I am settled on the tour, I want to win more and more. I am proud of myself because I never thought I would be able to feel happy again and so playing snooker with a smile on my face is the main priority, winning comes second.

Dave Bolton sits in the Crucible Theatre press conference area during the World Snooker Championship

Looking ahead to next season, the tour is going to be more global than ever with a new European Championship scheduled in Portugal in October. What are your thoughts on the tour becoming more global?

I am all for it! The more interest we can get globally, the better it will be for the future of the WDBS. We need to get the word out there for it to grow and help people with disabilities. Whether they have competed on the baize before or not, it can help a lot of people overcome any mental health problems that living with disabilities may cause.

What are your thoughts on the aim of the WDBS to restore snooker to the Paralympic Games?

If my experience of the World Abilitysport Games in Thailand is anything to go by, then representing your country in the Paralympic Games would be absolutely fantastic. Why shouldn’t we get that opportunity?

Dave Bolton smiles while chalking his cue during the 2024 Champion of Champions at Landywood Snooker Club

What advice would you offer to a new player who is thinking of joining the WDBS tour but hasn’t yet done so?

Do it – do it now! You will never look back.

The difference it can make to you is unbelievable. I have always been a confident person but I lost a lot of after I became disabled. Joining the WDBS has given me a new lease of life, a purpose and new friends as well as regaining the confident that I thought I had lost.