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OTD in Snooker: James Wattana Makes 147 on Day Father is Murdered

On this day in snooker, James Wattana compiled a maximum break on the same day he learned his father was murdered back in Thailand.

These days there’s often a nonchalant sense of enthusiasm when a player makes a 147, such is the modern-day regularity in which it’s achieved.

But back in 1992 the perfect frame was still very much a rare occurrence, and there was significantly more hoopla surrounding its happening.

Indeed, when Wattana constructed the magnificent break in the last 16 of the 1992 British Open against Tony Drago, it represented only the fourth time in history that it had been done on television.

It should have been a joyous occasion, yet soon after completing his 5-1 victory Wattana learned that his father had died from a gunshot wound.

Amazingly, the popular player known as Thai-Phoon didn’t withdraw from the tournament and proceeded to reach the final, where he was ultimately denied an emotional triumph by Jimmy White.

There is footage from the final and its aftermath on YouTube, with Wattana uncomfortably being forced to sit in the studio alongside White in the immediate aftermath of his defeat.

A week later, the then 22 year-old demonstrated even greater mental fortitude by emerging with a maiden ranking title at the Strachan Open in Bristol.

At the time, there had been speculation that Wattana’s father had gotten himself embroiled in gambling, and that his murder was carried out by a crime syndicate in relation to debts accrued.

Seven years later in Bangkok, Wattana was subsequently issued a death threat of his own when participating in the 1999 Thailand Masters.

The three-time ranking event winner was told to lose his round of 16 encounter with Ken Doherty or suffer grave consequences.

Wattana’s mother, understandably concerned, wanted her son to withdraw but the former world number three played on, losing 5-2 to the Irishman who had no idea of the frightening episode until after the encounter took place.

The 1988 world amateur champion’s form plummeted by the turn of the century, but his overall legacy in the game remains a strong one.

Wattana, who also reached a Masters final and the last four of the World Championship in 1993 and 1997, was the first player from Asia to make a notable breakthrough.

One of the standout performers from the 1990s, he helped Thailand become a regular destination on the calendar – success that perhaps paved the way for snooker’s future boom in China too.

But despite all of his feats, Wattana will arguably be most remembered for that fateful February 25th in 1992, when one of the strangest stories connected to the sport transpired.

Featured photo credit: WST

3 Comments

  1. Jamie Brannon

    I think he was also told prior to the match that he’d been shot but was still alive at that point. It’s a remarkable tale.

    I’ve never heard about the death threat he received in the late 90s. I found his rapid decline from this point somewhat mystifying as he was playing to a level in the 1990s that should’ve remained far more competitive into the 2000s. Your revelation makes me wonder if this was a significant factor in his descent.

  2. Karen Kinloch

    I am very sorry to hear this James Wattana, but I do hope you can carry on with your snooker regardless of his death.

  3. Jamie Brannon

    Karen, Wattana carried on until finally retiring in 2020. I hope we see him play again on the World Seniors Tour.

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