KENDAL’S star of the oche Tony Newell aims to make his mark at the sharp end of the darting world when he takes the stage at the Coral UK Open Finals.
After succeeding at PDC Qualifying School last month, the 31-year-old has attended a series of UK Open qualifiers in a bid to appear at the showpiece event on March 7-9.
Competing against a lofty opponent such as Gary Anderson and beating Andy Hamilton contributed to Newell – currently 116th in the PDC rankings – securing £1000 in prize money and making the grade.
He now enters the tournament at the second round stage, a sole victory away from the prize money stakes and one step removed from having his match screened live on television.
“To actually say I have qualified outright through the professional route and to have done well enough to jump straight into the second round means the world to me,” he said.
“I know a lot of people who have qualified through Q School and ended up getting beaten there all the time. Because I hadn’t done it before I was thinking can I do this?
“Andy Hamilton is currently ranked 10th and I played him three times in qualifying. The first time in all fairness I had my chances to beat him – missing the bull for a 170 finish when 5-3 up.
“At that stage I started thinking perhaps something could happen here. It was nice to secure qualification by beating him – one of the top players in the world.
“I’m chuffed though. There are a lot of good players who haven’t qualified – Colin Lloyd is a former world number one and he won’t be there, nor will Colin Osborne who previously made the final.”
Starting off playing in the Grange over Sands and Milnthorpe leagues, victory against Eric Bristow in an exhibition match preceded a move to the Lancashire Super League and county representation.
With a PDC Tour card now in his back pocket, Newell – who currently receives sponsorship from The Albion in Kendal – admits finances remain something he still requires a helping hand with.
“I’m only a caretaker so I’m not on a massive amount and ideally I could do with a few people contributing towards travel and entry fees this season,” he added.
“I can understand from a potential sponsors point of view they want to see how you get on first to see if it’s worth investing.
“But I would like to think my performances over the last six qualifiers prove I have earned my place at the UK Open and deserve to be there. And I believe I can compete at that level.
“If the financial backing was there for me to go to all tournaments I reckon I could regularly earn a place in the top 64 in the PDC rankings and keep my tour card automatically.
“Nothing I have seen this last six weeks makes me think I cannot break the top 64.”