Cliff Thorburn is the most successful professional snooker player to come out of Canada. He has dominated the sport nationally and internationally, winning 27 professional tournaments worldwide. His victories include thirteen Canadian and three Benson & Hedges Masters championships. He has also won the world mixed doubles and many invitational and open events. Thorburn has represented Canada in World Cup Team play since 1979. In 1980, he became the first Canadian and only non-British player to win the world snooker championships.

Thorburn began playing snooker when he was 16 in his hometown of Victoria. In 1971, at the age of 23, he won the North American snooker championships. He spent the next few years honing his skills on billiards tables across Canada and the United States. In 1973, he compiled a maximum break of 147—a perfect game—three times in eight days! The next year he won his first of thirteen Canadian titles.

Snooker is an extremely popular sport in England, with twenty million people watching the televised world championships each year. In 1977, Thorburn astounded the snooker world by reaching the final. His most dramatic victory came in 1980, when he won the world snooker championships, becoming the only non-British player to capture that prestigious title.

During the 1980s, Thorburn was consistently ranked in the top-three in the world. He has represented Canada in World Cup Team play since 1979, winning the competition in 1982 and 1992. In 1981, Cliff took the world mixed doubles title. He won the Benson & Hedges Masters Tournament, contested by the top-sixteen in the world in 1983, 1985 and 1986, becoming the first three-time winner of that event.

In 1983, Thorburn again reached the finals in the world snooker championships, becoming the first man in the 56-year history of the world tournament to record a perfect game—compiling a 147 break in the fourth frame of the first session.

Cliff Thorburn was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1983 in recognition of his sports achievements.