Snooker star Willie Thorne has been described as a “beautiful man” and “one of the game’s greatest” after it was announced he had died following a short illness.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, who two weeks ago sported a moustache at the Snooker Championship League in Thorne’s honour, tweeted: “Just want to say what a beautiful man, big heart great company. Had a week in Ireland with him I’ll never forget.”
Stephen Hendry described Thorne as “one of my favourite people in snooker”, adding: “I know he had faults and weaknesses (we all do) but he was one of the game’s greatest ever characters, I’ll miss him.”
Referencing his reputation as a prodigious compiler of maximum breaks, Jimmy White wrote simply: “Rest in peace Mr Maximum man x.”
Long-time friend Gary Lineker said he was “deeply, deeply saddened” by Thorne’s death at a hospital in Spain.
He described him as “one of life’s great characters”, adding in a tweet that Thorne was “a marvellous snooker player and a lovely man, who’s potted his final black much too soon”.
The 66-year-old, who revealed he had leukaemia in March, was taken to hospital last week with a low blood pressure.
He was placed into an induced coma over the weekend after suffering respiratory failure.
A message on Thorne’s GoFundMe page, which had raised more than £17,000 towards his care, read: “It is with a very heavy and broken heart that I have to officially announce that at 1.55am this morning Willie Thorne lost his battle and passed away.”
The message, written by carer Julie O’Neill, added: “I was with him all the way to his end and reading out messages to him from people.
“He passed away very peacefully and without pain listening to his children saying they love him – that gives me some comfort in this difficult time.”
Thorne reached two World Championship quarter-finals and won his only ranking title, the Mercantile Credit Classic, in 1982.
He missed out on his biggest title in 1985 when he blew a 13-8 lead over Steve Davis in the final of the UK Championship after missing a simple blue off its spot.
Thorne, who appeared as part of Barry Hearn’s Matchroom Mob on the chart hit Snooker Loopy, went on to become a commentator on the sport for the BBC, and appeared on the fifth series of Strictly Come Dancing.
World Snooker Tour chairman Hearn described him as “a larger than life personality and… a major part of the rebirth of snooker (in the 1980s)”.
— Sky news