A little pestering from his daughter led Jim Whittaker on a path that would lead to Toronto and his crowning as the Canadian Senior Snooker champion.
For nearly 10 years, the 76 year old had left his pool cue on the rack as he cared for his wife, who was ill.
After she passed in April 2012, Whittaker’s daughter Judy suggested it was time for him to get involved in something again.
That something, he decided, would be snooker, a game he had taken up as a teen in rural Ontario and played often in his adult life at the local Legion.
He was no average tavern gamer, having played in national championships before, competing well but not being able to usurp the professional players entered.
It was not until 2001 that he would earn some national accolades for his shooting, when he won the senior snooker championship.
But after that he would barely play the game again until 2012, when he entered a series of provincial qualifiers in his new home of Alberta.
Whittaker moved from Lethbridge to Bentley in March. Aside from the qualifiers, he spent very little time playing snooker in advance of the Canadian championships in late June and early July.
But benefiting from a “nice little cheering section” of local family and others who made the trip out to Toronto, Whittaker would win six matches and lose only one, a loss to Ontarian Paul Flemming that put him temporarily on the ‘B’ side but that he would avenge in the championship final.
“I should have played in the Seniors more often,” said the soft-spoken Whittaker, “I’ve got five grandsons so now I’ve got a ring for two of them. I probably would have gotten more if I’d played in it when I was a bit younger.”
The seniors competition is for entrants aged 55-plus, and Whittaker said he plans to be back next year to defend his title.
But he does have one suggestion for the organizers.
“I jokingly told them afterwards that they’ll have to up the age limit. Those 55 year olds are getting scary,” he chuckled.
In the meantime, he said he will continue working on the massive vegetable garden at his new Bentley home, and will probably start playing regularly at a table in Rimbey at the seniors drop-in centre, the closest playing venue he has found so far.