SCOTT MacKenzie will role the dice one last time in his bid to reach the Crucible but, should he fail, he will hang up his cue for good.
The 28-year-old heads for the English Institute of Sport at the end of this month to try to qualify for the World Championships for the first time.
The Erskine potter takes on unheralded Englishman Wayne Cooper in his first qualifier and he faces three further hurdles if he’s to make his debut at the home of snooker.
However, MacKenzie has vowed to walk away from the sport for good if he comes up short in the Steel City, so disillusioned has he become with life as a jobbing tour player.
He admits he has already mentally resigned himself to life away from the green baize but that doesn’t mean the world number 65 won’t go out without a fight.
MacKenzie told Express Sports: “I’m looking forward to the tournament and I’ve got a reasonable draw but we’ll just need to wait and see what happens. I’ve never played at the Crucible and I’ve never even been to watch so this is my last chance as I’m definitely retiring at the end of the season unless I qualify.
“The only way I’ll keep playing is if I get there as I’m not going to keep trying to qualify for tournaments so this is all or nothing. It doesn’t put any extra pressure on me but I’ve come to the realisation that I can’t just keep doing what I’m doing.
“For a start it’s costing me too much money and this season alone I’ve probably spent five or six thousand pounds in expenses and it gets to the stage where you need to make money.
“At the end of the day it all comes down to money and I put too much time and effort into it not to make any so something’s got to give and unless I make it to the Crucible I’ll call it quits.
“Don’t get me wrong, I really want to get there but win or lose I’ve got to get some closure.”
MacKenzie came agonisingly close to reaching snooker’s promised land 12 months ago when he came through three qualifying rounds only to come unstuck against the ‘Sheriff of Pottingham’ Anthony Hamilton in the final furlong as he crashed to a 10-2 defeat.
But he hopes to have a secret weapon in his armoury for his latest quest in the shape of his dad Ronnie, who is accompanying him to Sheffield to provide moral support – and a kick up the backside if necessary.
MacKenzie added: “Against Anthony Hamilton last year I just never turned up on the day.
“I lost a bad first frame and never recovered but he played well, although I wasn’t at the races. But that won’t be in my thoughts this year.
“My dad’s coming down to give me some support as it’s my last tournament and when he’s there I seem to play better.
“I don’t know why that it is. Maybe I try harder or maybe I know I can’t throw the toys out the pram as I know I’ll get a clout round the ear but it’s always good to have someone there who believes in you.
“My dad still believes I can do it but I’ve kind of given up, although I was in the same position four years ago when I had to win four games to qualify for a tournament at the SECC and I beat James Wattana to get there but only time will tell if I can do it again.”
MacKenzie admits he will do his best to block out the emotion of the occasion when he takes to the table. However, he concedes that may prove easier said than done.
He added: “I’ll try not to think about it and I’ll approach it the way I would any normal tournament.
“But I imagine if I’m sitting in the chair one frame away from getting beat and knowing it is my last ever tournament, there will be a few things swirling around my head.”
If MacKenzie does call time on his career he believes he’ll be walking away from a sport that is in desperate need of life-saving surgery.
It has been common knowledge in recent years that snooker is on life support as sponsorship money shrivels resulting in less tournaments and shrinking prize funds.
And the Renfrewshire ace admits he doesn’t know what the game can do to pull itself back from the brink.
MacKenzie said: “It’s still the third most popular sport in Britain but there’s a lack of money at the top of the sport so you can imagine what it’s like for the rest of us.
“There are better players than me that are struggling to survive and I don’t know what they can do.
“I’m number 65 in the world yet I’m £5,000 in debt for the year, while if you were 65 in the world in tennis or golf, you would be a millionaire.
“Unfortunately, snooker’s just not on that level just now but even if you were able to earn 20 or 30 grand, you could justify it but when you’re losing money you can’t and that’s the bottom line.
“I think the long term future of the sport is in doubt with the way it’s getting run and, with the credit crunch, nobody is going to want to put money into snooker when they can put it into football or something like that, so these are worrying times.
“I don’t know what the future holds but you could end up with two tours with the top of the tree doing okay and the rest left to fend for themselves.”