Hawke's Bay billiards king Paul Stocker has uttered the retirement word.
"Travelling away to all the tournaments is getting too much for me. This weekend's Hawke's Bay Open will be my last one," Stocker said referring to the 10-player Havelock North Club-hosted open which will be played on Saturday and Sunday.
"I'll be 80 in December ... so this is a good time to bow out."
Bay View's Stocker, who came to New Zealand from England in 1956, took up billiards in 1984 after playing snooker earlier in the 1980s. Among the significant entries on his CV are three world championship appearances, the 1996 national title, three New Zealand Open titles, nine North Island titles and 11 Hawke's Bay Open titles.
"There have been so many highlights. But beating Peter De Groot of Christchurch to win the 1996 national title in Rotorua was the best. Peter was at the table and just a few points behind me when the bell went ... to be standing there knowing I was the national champion was pretty special," Stocker recalled.
A retired taxi driver and former staffing officer for the Hawke's Bay Education Board, Stocker played in world championships in Christchurch, Malta and Melbourne. During the 2001 world champs in Christchurch he was the only New Zealander to qualify for post-section play.
He was eliminated in the last 16 by then world champion Geet Sethi of India who went on to retain his title.
"It was a convincing loss. Geet was far too good," Stocker said.
Six years later Waipukurau's international billiards and snooker referee Lloyd Lawrence described Sethi as the best player he had seen in both codes when announcing his retirement after 23 years of national and international travel.
Like Lawrence, Stocker went beyond the call of duty to promote cue sports.
While Sethi is the toughest player he has taken on in the international scene, Stocker ranked retired 15-time national champion Dave Meredith of Canterbury as his most daunting Kiwi opponent.
"Dave was such a wonderful player," Stocker recalled.
His highest break, 196, was scored during the quarter-finals of the 2009 New Zealand champs in Hamilton. He went on to reach the final where he pushed current New Zealand champion Gary Oliver of Wellington close.
Stocker agreed the billiards scene in Hawke's Bay isn't as popular as it used to be.
"Kids seem to latch on to snooker more these days."
Regular snooker player Dave Judd will be the only other Hawke's Bay cueist playing in this weekend's open. Oliver will be the top seed and last year's winner, Adesh Shekatkar of Rotorua, will be the second seed.
Stocker, who is the tournament organiser, has seeded himself sixth.
"I would be happy with a semifinal finish. Back in July I reached the semifinals of my last nationals up in Auckland and I was more than happy with that."
Last year Shekatkar beat Stocker 498-336 in the final of the Hawke's Bay Open. Stocker last won the title in 2015 and he first won the open in 1989.
Described by Shekatkar as "an old fox who doesn't give up that easy", Stocker has the experience and necessary stamina to achieve his goal of a semifinal this weekend. Beating the likes of Oliver and Shekatkar will be a tough ask.
In his retirement Stocker intends to play more bowls at the Bay View club and more tennis at his Hawke's Bay Lawn club.