BEN Harrison made the long trip to the English Amateur Finals weekend in Leeds fully expecting to be unceremoniously sent packing after one of the most dispiriting periods of his career but by Sunday, he had lifted the oldest amateur trophy in snooker.

The 22-year-old, from Hawkeridge, missed out on a spot on the World Snooker tour after crashing out of May’s Q School before illness forced him to sit out the ESBA European Championships in Bulgaria last month, where he would have represented England.

Harrison says his confidence had hit rock-bottom – but he shocked himself last weekend by first beating London’s Michael Georgiou 8-6 to win the Southern title for the second successive year on Saturday before triumphing 10-6 over Middlesborough’s Anthony Parsons to become national champion at the Northern Snooker Centre.

“It’s still not sunk in at all because I’d been in a really bad place recently,” Harrison told the Wiltshire Times.

“I got a really tough draw in Q School and it didn’t go very well at all and then I got one of those nasty sickness bugs just before I was due to go to Bulgaria.

“I had to stay at home because I couldn’t get out of bed – it was the worst thing that could possibly happen.

“I was really down and I hadn’t really been practising at all.

“About three weeks before (finals weekend), I decided to have a few lessons with Duncan Ashman, who’s a World Snooker coach and, bless him, he came over to Westbury to help me out.

“I still probably only had four or five sessions and I was worried about going there and getting embarrassed.

“But I’ve got to say thanks to him and my girlfriend Charlotte, who told me that I should give it a go.’’ Such was Harrison’s pessimism about his pre-tournament chances, he revealed he had packed with an early return home in mind.

“I went up there with one shirt and one pair of boxer shorts because I was expecting to be coming home on the Saturday,’’ he admitted.

“But I couldn’t believe how well it went.

“I was 3-0 down to Georgiou but I came back to win the first session 4-3 and kept things going from there.

“Then in the national final, the other guy (Parsons) started like a train but somehow I ended up leading 5-4 at the break.

“I didn’t even think that I’d been playing well and I knew that if I stepped it up, I could win, which is exactly what happened.

“It’s the oldest trophy in snooker and the biggest thing that I’ve ever won. It’s still a big shock.”

Despite his show-stopping national victory, Harrison remains desperate for a sponsor to ensure that he can continue to chase his dream of breaking into the professional game.

He added: “I’ve still got no sponsor and without one, I’m going to have to calm things down until next year’s Q School.

“Winning last weekend does mean that I’ve qualified for World and European Amateur Championships next year, where the winners both get tour cards as well, so it has opened up more doors.

“But I’ve just got a new job at a recruitment company in Bristol and I’m going to have to work for a while to keep myself going.

“Lots of players and even a few pros do it but hopefully there’s someone out there that wants to sponsor me.”

For information about sponsoring Harrison, contact him on 07738 857599 or email benharrison