Kiwi snooker great Dene O'Kane dies

New Zealand snooker legend Dene O'Kane has died in Auckland.

The 61-year-old became a household name as a quarterfinalist in the World Snooker Championships in 1987 and 1992 and was a three-time World Masters champion.

O'Kane was the board chairman of cue club Massé, based in Hamilton, and secretary Bernie Endres said O'Kane's death would be huge loss for cue sports in New Zealand.

Endres was told of the death via an email from O'Kane's brother.

"Probably the greatest cueist New Zealand has ever had," Endres said.

"Dene finished his professional career about 20 years ago but was still actively involved in the sport through our club and mentoring juniors and still in quite big demand overseas."

Before Covid-19, Endres had joined O'Kane in the United Kingdom where O'Kane was invited to play in an exhibition match with world champions Dennis Taylor, Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry the night before the World Snooker Championships at The Crucible in 2016.

"It shows you the regard he was held in within the game internationally and again in 2019 he was invited to play in the World Senior Snooker Championships, again at The Crucible before the World Championships started so that was probably fitting that that was his last competitive match was at The Crucible.

"We've always looked upon Dene as a legend here in New Zealand but being with him over in the UK was really quite eye-opening.

"I remember 2016 when we wandered down to The Crucible from our hotel and we went in the back stage-door entrance and there was a crowd there waiting to get his autograph and chat and in the day or two following when we were in Sheffield just wandering around town he was constantly stopped by people.

"Definitely the greatest we've had."