IT’S a good thing Rex Williams’ dad Bill didn’t like commuting – it might just have saved snooker’s World Championship.

It’s hard to believe that an event that is watched by millions might have just died, but in the late 1950s the event had disappeared.

Then a young snooker and billiards star, Rex Williams, held a meeting in his Stourbridge home with the great Fred Davis and a few others to try to get the tournament running again.

The rest is history.

Romsley-born Rex, now retired and living near Clent, has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s Honours list for his services to snooker and billiards.

Rex is very proud, but despite playing a key role in saving snooker’s premier event, he sees this as recognition for the lesser known game of billiards.

“It’s the first time billiards has been recognised, and that’s nice, because it’s the mother game.”

Rex was a world championship snooker heavyweight, twice reached the semi-finals, commentated on it for 20 years, and, as we’ve seen, played a key role in its development to the multi-million pound business it is today.

But it is billiards that started him on his long and illustrious career and which he was most successful at – being crowned world champion seven times.

And all because dad decided driving from Romsley to his Blackheath factory every day was too much.

The family moved in 1942 and suddenly Rex, at the age of ten, was living in a billiards hotbed, made his first 150 break within three months of taking up the game and was showing such promise his dad installed a full length table in the factory for him to practice.

He turned professional at 17 in 1951, the start of a 50-year career that took him all over the world.

His playing highlights, on top of his world titles, are making only the second ever maximum 147 break in snooker back in 1965 – ‘and that was with the old heavy balls. I think that and Joe’s were the only two with those ball.’

He remains the oldest player ever to reach the final of a major ranking tournament, at the age of 53.

His big regret is not winning the snooker world championship he played such a key part in saving, losing 31-30 to the mercurial Alex Higgins in 1961 in the ‘one that got away’.

He became the founder and first chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.

Rex retired at 61 and took to golf. Twenty years ago he and wife Loretta – Rita – moved to Hackman’s Gate and, now 87, he plays golf ‘almost every day.’

He has no regrets about possibly losing out on the years when the reforms he brought in helped to usher in a year of big money and big rewards for the top snooker players.

“The amateur game was fantastic. It was so wonderful when I first came into it. I would not have wanted to miss that period.”

He fondly remembers the greats of his era - his big friend Fred Davis and brother Joe, John Pulman, Ray Reardon, John Spencer.

Although Rex had a ‘wonderful’ full length table in his homes in Stourbridge and Bewdley for many years, his children, Tracy and Kim did not take it up, nor has granddaughter Georgia.

When not on the golf course he spends much time helping to raise money for charity as a trustee of Pedmore Sporting Club, which has donated more than £1,5m to worthy causes over the years.