Dene O’Kane, snooker player

New Zealand’s best cue man, snooker star Dene O’Kane, made his way to success in a cut-throat professional sport, successfully pitting his skills against the best in the world. Christchurch-born O’Kane won the New Zealand Amateur Snooker Championships in 1980, going on to represent the country at the world champs, winning six of his nine group matches. Encouraged, he turned professional and in his debut season performed well in the British Open and the World Snooker Championships. While O’Kane never did win a world ranking event, as a regular in or about the lower end of the world top 20 he was always a respected opponent. He was a quarterfinalist in the World Snooker Championships in 1987 and 1992, and made the last 32 or better six times. O’Kane retired from professional play in 2007 and became a real estate agent, but occasionally accepted invitations to play on the seniors circuit. O’Kane died on May 14, aged 61, after a fall at home. — Agencies.