Swiss EuroTour Winner
1 November 2006
Photo by Mark Mills
The Second UK Player to Win a EuroTour in 2006 Speaks to Pro9.co.uk!
Only two EuroTours have been won by British players... Ever! Both this year. The Italian EuroTour in April was won by Imran Majid, then hot on the heels of that success, the Swiss EuroTour was won by relative newcomer Jonni Fulcher.
Pro9 are pleased to print an exclusive interview with Jonni, about how he started in pool, his EuroTour win, and life in Switzerland.
"Read More..." for the details.
Dave: What's your full name?
Jonni: My real name is Jonathan Fulcher, but prefer to be known as Jonni.
Dave: When did you first pick up a cue?
Jonni: I think I was eight when I first played. We lived in Scotland when I was a kid and then we moved to Devon and I think I was about eight when we moved down, or something like that. We used to go to a local youth-club and they had a small 6x3 table and I picked up one of the club cues and knocked a few balls, and I remember one guy who used to run the club saying, "you're pretty talented, I think you should have a go at that game!". So I played a bit and then we moved house and my Dad got a new job and in the college where he was working there was a full size snooker table and I was about 9 or 10 at that time and I started to go down there to play snooker. So I was basically playing snooker as often as I could, maybe once or twice a week, as a teenager for about six years until I was about sixteen. Sometimes I had to break in through the window 'cause the doors were locked up, but I usually found a way in, I was that keen. I'd just play on the table there with the students who were a lot older than me at the time, they were all sort of seventeen eighteen year olds. That's how I learnt to play the game. I taught myself more or less everything by basically copying what I saw on television.
I never really played tournaments, though I did play a few small junior tournaments in Pontins and did OK, but then I went to do my A-Levels and I think when I as about 16 I stopped playing snooker for a couple of years. Then I went to university at Imperial College in London, and that's when I started playing again more seriously. In fact rather than study I played snooker with two really good friends of mine, one of whom you probably know, Paul Kellett, and Spike Milligan, no that's not a joke, he really is called that! Paul used to play some BPPPA, and now plays Eurotour. We played snooker together in the Imperial College club for 3 or 4 years, while I was studying there and then after he left I carried on playing there and I used to play the BUSA events. I never played any serious tournaments cause I was too busy studying, I just played the university events and I won the individual BUSA snooker champs in 1999, and then I was captain for England for a few years for the Home Nations Champs. So although I was doing quite well with snooker in the university scene, I guess no-one would have heard of me, 'cause no-one follows the university scene. Then I only really started playing any big tournaments after I finished my PhD. In fact it was even later than that.
I went to Spain for 6 months after my PhD, just for a break, and I didn't play much apart from a local UK 8-ball team tour for fun. And then when I got back to London finally in about 2001-2002, I started playing American pool and later the BPPPA, and I played a few events and had a good laugh and I was using a snooker cue at the time and I had a few good results and qualified for the last 32 a few times. Then in 2003 I moved over to Switzerland and that's really the first time I started to play a serious tour and sticking with it, playing all the tournaments and getting a realistic ranking. I started practising more often and really started to improve my game.
Photo by Mark Mills
Dave: And where do you play pool now, Jonni?
Jonni: I play in Geneva in Switzerland where I've been for about three years now.
Dave: And what are you doing out there?
Jonni: I work at the CERN, which is a large particle physics institute and I've been working there since I moved to Geneva, doing physics research.
Dave: So you're a physicist?
Jonni: That's right yeah. Crazy! He he he...
Dave: And you've been playing on the Swiss tour?
Jonni: Yeah, I've been playing the Swiss tour since I got there, I started with the snooker tour and I did really well in the first year, I won the Swiss Masters in 2004, so I was the Swiss Champ in 2004 and finally made it to number one in the rankings. I started playing the pool tour only last year and I've done OK after one season, I think I should make the top sixteen by the end of the season, so I'm fairly happy with the way things are going and I'm loving the Swiss tour, it's just a great bunch of people and a great tour.
Dave: It's obviously all good practise for you, what do you do to practise?
Jonni: I've got a table at home, I did have a snooker table at home for a while and it was taking up quite a bit of room, and then my girlfriend suggested that we put a pool table in instead so... I ended up playing a tournament called the Grand Prix in Bienne, Where Sandor Tot Won, but I got to the last 16 and I played Sandor in the last 16, where he obviously beat me, but they were using these tables that were made by a Swiss guy, who's company is called Sport64, website is www.sport64.ch of course, he hand makes his tables, and they're fantastic. So I bought one of the ones from that tournament, so it's an ex-tournament table, and I stuck it in our lounge and I've been playing on that. I do have a club that I go to and a few small club tournaments which I play in and around Geneva just to keep the eye in and have a bit of a social life, you know, you don't wanna be cooped up at home all the time.
Dave: Well, you just had a bit of success on the Eurotour, what on earth happened there? I mean, you just won a Eurotour, congratulations! What do you think made the difference?
Jonni: That's a pretty easy question to answer really. I know I've got the ability, I think my results in the snooker around Europe have proved that, but with 9-Ball it's a bit different and for the last 3 years I've been using a snooker cue on the 9-ball table. In fact, it wasn't a real snooker cue, it was sort of a hybrid John Parris cue that had a plastic ferrule and had a 10.5mm tip, which, to be fair, was OK to convert from snooker to start off with and I was getting some reasonable results, but it's not quite exactly what you need for 9-ball. So I played with that for nearly three years. I played a few events on the BPPPA over here and back in Switzerland just for fun. But basically, after the Austria Eurotour, so three tournaments ago, I changed to a pool cue. In fact I bought it in Austria, I was using my snooker cue in Austria and I bought this cue off Kevin Brown over there. So I guess I have him to thank for that too! Then there was a nice gap between Austria and Holland and I changed immediately when I got home and started to use this Predator P2 with a Z-Shaft for the whole two months or so that I was at home. And then I went to Weert and the difference was phenomenal. I beat Engert on the TV table and I played great. I had a bit of a rough day in the last thirty two, I didn't go to bed early enough and I think I was a bit tired in the morning for that, but I learnt that lesson and in Switzerland I had an early night on Thursday and I went for a run in the morning at seven O'clock, got up early, and then I played Ralph Souquet at nine, and I was really sharp for that match and played well to beat Souquet. So I think there's your answer. The cue change and extra sleep made a massive difference.
Dave: Probably one of the toughest finalists you could ask for, to be honest. Tell us about playing Drago?
Jonni: It's always an honour to play Tony Drago, he's such a talent. I mean, for me he's probably one of the most talented players to ever pick up a cue in both snooker and pool. It's an honour, and he's such a gentleman too, around the table, he has his moments, but he's generally a great guy, a funny guy, a nice guy and he's a great guy to play against. At the end, you know, he said to me, I think I was eight seven down, and Tony had just finished his break innings and it was my turn to break and he sat down in his chair and as I was getting up to break he said to me "don't run the match out now!", and I said "I'll do my best", you know, jokingly. Then I did run the three racks and at the end he stood up and had this huge smile on his face and shook my hand and looked generally happy for me. What a great guy.
Photos by Mark Mills
Dave: You looked really relaxed while you were playing, you were chatting with Tony and with people in the audience and Tony was doing the same, were you really that relaxed?
Jonni: Yeah, I was really chilled out. I think really in the Eurotour the hardest bit is qualifying and once you've got into the last thirty two, you've done the hard work, you've got your money back and you're chilled out and you've got some good ranking points and you're feeling pretty good. It doesn't really matter what happens from then on, so you're pretty relaxed at that point. I was talking to Craig Osborne about it and he said he felt the same thing, so once you get in there there's no pressure any more to perform, you can just enjoy it, you go out there and enjoy it and if the balls roll for you, they roll for you. And this time they did, I mean, I can't complain about the running I had, I should have been out a couple of times. I should have lost to Souquet, it was nine each and he had the break, then I should have lost to Ruthemann I think in the last thirty two, he was nine six up and only had to pot the eight and nine and he scratched the white off the eight. You know, so, thank you very much. So you need a bit of luck in a big tournament like that, and I think if you look back at the other Eurotour winners and look back at the little bits of luck they've had that have put them in good stead for the tournament, you'll see it.
Dave: Thanks, it's quite a commitment of time isn't it, to play on the Eurotour, they start mid week and weekends and it's quite long and there's a lot of travel, what do you do and how do you get the time off?
Jonni: Well, time off is always a tricky one, especially since there are seven events in the year, and if you add it all up, it sort of mounts up, doesn't it, and with work, since I have to work full time for a living. I'm quite lucky in that I'm a scientist, and generally the working hours are pretty relaxed, so to speak. I'm able to take time off, simply because I'm really my own boss. In academia it's a bit like that, as long as you get the work done they don't really mind if you take the odd day off here and there. So I'm quite fortunate that I don't work in a company where you have to be there the whole time and if you want to take a couple of days off you've got to book it in advance and get it approved with the boss etc. So from that aspect I'm quite lucky.
Dave: Any advice for other people that would fancy following in your footsteps?
Jonni: Just get in there. You've got to be in it to win it.
Dave: Where next, are you looking for sponsors, have you got a sponsor?
Jonni: I don't really have a big sponsor at the moment, I've had a couple of small sponsors who are friendly companies who's badges I wear, www.pcplants.co.uk is my Dad's company, and www.regent-estates-group.com is a friend's website, but I don't really get any money from them, that's more of a sort of favour thing. So I'm looking for proper sponsors now, I'd appreciate to get some financial help, cause as you know it takes a lot out of your pocket, travelling around, hotels, flights, everyone knows that it's tough out there.
Dave: And where next, are you planning on going to the world championships?
Jonni: I would love to go to the world championships, but again it's a problem with getting time off work and mainly sponsors to pay for flights and hotel.
I think if I could get a sponsor to pay for the flights and the hotel, then I'd go. I'd have to clear it with work and obviously my better half, maybe she'd come with me, you never know!
Dave: She was there with you at Frauenfeld, does she always go with you to events?
Jonni: She comes when she can, she's quite busy, she works in a full time job as well in the city in Geneva, but it's hard for her to get the time off as well, but when she can, she does cause she likes to support me. Some weekends she can't come cause she's playing pool, she's actually a pool player on the Swiss tour herself, so she plays in the lady's tour and some of the men's events and she's doing quite well. She's enjoying playing too.
If she has an event and I'm not playing then I'll go and support her and if I have an event and she's not playing then she comes to support me if she can.
Dave: Jonni, thanks ever so much for your time and good luck for the future.
Jonni: Thanks very much Dave, it's been a pleasure. Also I'd like to especially thank Paul Kellett for all the practise time we spent together back in the 90s, my Swiss playing partner and probably the best coach in Switzerland, Robert Derendinger for the same reason over in Geneva since 2003. He's an extremely underrated player and fantastic coach. Also huge thanks and much love to my Girlfriend Nghia, who has supported my playing since the start, and of course thanks to my family who allowed me to pursue what I loved in the first place.
Jonni Fulcher: 2006 Swiss Open 9-Ball Eurotour Champion
Jonni Fulcher, born 1974 First started playing snooker at the age of 10. He moved to London age 18 to study Physics at Imperial College London University where he continued to play snooker thanks to the Imperial College Snooker Club that had 4 full size snooker tables. He competed in the BUSA National tournaments and won the BUSA individual tournament in 1997 following which he captained the England University snooker team to 3 wins in the Home Nations team championships. However, due to his physics career he didn’t play any first class tournaments until recently. He finally decided to take billiards more seriously when he moved to Switzerland in August 2003 where he has proved himself at the highest level in European Snooker and Pool by winning numerous tournaments in the Swiss and European tours. He is the 2003 Swiss Snooker Champion and has been no 1 in the rankings on two occasions. He’s played only 9 events on the 9-Ball Eurotour and finally secured victory in Frauenfeld, Switzerland, beating famous names along the way such as Ralph Souquet, Roman Hybler and Tony Drago in the final. In Europe he is currently ranked number 11 and in Switzerland: no 1 for snooker and in the top 16 for pool having just recently won the 2006 14-1 triple open in Bumpliz and the Double Open in Sion. He also recently secured the Swiss 2006 team championship title in Bern with his team-mates from the Carouge Billiard Club in Geneva. He has made countless competitive century breaks in snooker tournaments and scalped many of the top European snooker and pool players along the way, most notably Thomas Engert, Ralph Souquet, Tony Drago, Stefan Cohen, Dimitri Jungo, Jasmin Ouchan, Sascha Speccia, Douglas Hogan and many more. He lost narrowly to top snooker players: 4-3 Ian Mc Culloch in 2003 Swiss Open Quarter Final, 3-1 Neil Robertson 2005 Swiss Open last 32 (having made 76 break in the first frame and a 107 clearance in the second frame). He also recently reached the last 16 of the 2006 Bienne Grand Prix International 9-Ball Championship in Switzerland losing to Sandor Tott who went on to win the tournament.
Snooker Highest Break: 147
9-ball Break Runs: 6
8-ball Break Runs: 5
14-1 Series: 114
National and International tournament victories since the year 2003: 23
04.03.2006 Finale Leman Cup Morges
24.02.2006 Aargauer Master Cup RT-4 Zofingen (Medela Sports)
14.01.2006 QT Morges
12.01.2006 Leman Cup Morges
22.12.2005 Leman Cup Morges
05.11.2005 Elite-QT Baden
26.10.2005 Jackpot Zofingen Zofingen
08.10.2005 QT Biel
19.02.2005 QT-Elite Baden
13.11.2004 Elite-QT Baden
30.10.2004 National Open Baden
19.04.2004 Swiss Championship
03.04.2004 QT Zofingen
13.03.2004 QT Zofingen
21.02.2004 QT Brugg
31.01.2004 QT Morges
10.01.2004 7. Int. Dreikönigsturnier Adliswil
25.10.2003 QT Zofingen
1997 British universities nationals
07.10.2006 Poolcomp.com Eurotour Swiss Open Champion
30.09.2006 Qualfied for IPT Tour Card Play off in Lampertheim Germany
10.09.2006 Double Open Champion, Sion
20.08.2006 Triple Open 14/1 Champion, overall 2nd place in Bumpliz, Bern.
28.02.2006; 2. QT - Runde, 14/1 endlos
22.09.2006 17th in Eurotour Holland – beat Thomas Engert to get to last 32 on TV table
10.09.2006 2. Rang, Leso Trophy Bremgarten, Code 7
20.08.2006 2. Rang, 21st. Triple Open, Bümpliz (Gesamt), Code 7
09.06.2006 Eurotour Austria 17th place beating Jasmin Ouchan, Joern Kaplan, Michael Schmidt
14.04.2006 Eurotour Italy 33rd place beating Craig Osborne
05.02.2006 4. Rang, Drei Königsturnier 2006 Zusatztableau, Code 7
28.01.2006 2. Rang, 8er Ball, 2. QT-Runde 05/06, Sion, QT-Liga B
23.09.2005 2. Rang 16. Seeländercup 2005, Code 8
28.08.2005 2. Rang Leso Trophy Bremgarten, Code 7
20.08.2005 5. Rang Triple Open Bümpliz 2005, 14/1, Code 7
Top Players He’s Beaten:
Tony Drago, Thomas Engert, Ralph Souquet, Philip Stojanovic, Michael Schmidt, Stefan Cohen, Vittorio De Falco, Philip Ruthemann, Huidji See, Roman Hybler, Dejan Dabovic, Jasmin Ouchan, Dimitri Jungo, Joern Kaplan, Kevin Becker, Paul Williams, Craige Osborne, Urs Furrer, Sascha Speccia, Eric Marendaz, Imran Majid, Giorgio Margola, Paulo Grassa, Vincent Ortiz, Ronnie Regli, Douglas Hogan, Steve Higton, Hans Blankheart.