Ricky Evans will head to Minehead with an extra spring in his step this weekend.
The Kettering darts star enjoyed a superb few days at the Barnsley Metrodome as he landed a nine-dart leg and went on to reach his first-ever PDC ProTour Players Championship final.
Evans hit the perfect leg for the first time in a competition during a 6-4 victory over Justin Pipe before he went on to secure a place in the German Darts Championship.
The UK Qualifiers for the first two European Tour events of the season were followed by the fifth and sixth Players Championship competitions of the campaign and ‘Rapid’ took an encouraging start to the year to a new level.
On Saturday, he claimed wins over Vincent van der Voort (6-3), Ritchie Edhouse (6-2) and Kirk Shepherd (6-5) to reach the last 16 before he was beaten 6-3 by James Wade.
But, just 24 hours later, Evans saw off the likes of Adrian Gray (6-1), Scott Baker (6-2), Premier League player Daryl Gurney (6-5) and Krzysztof Ratajski (6-1) to make it through to the quarter-finals.
He then beat Kyle Anderson 6-4 and then defeated Danny Noppert 7-4 to reach his first ProTour final.
However, he ran into an in-form Gerwyn Price who made it back-to-back Players Championship wins with an 8-4 victory.
But Evans was delighted with a fine performance over the whole weekend and is now looking forward to the first major event of the year as the players head to Butlin’s Minehead Resort for the Ladbrokes UK Open.
Evans will play either Jose Justicia, Kevin Thoburn or Matthew Dennant on the main stage when he enters the competition in the third round tomorrow (Friday) and there will then be open draws for each round after that in the event that is known as ‘The FA Cup of Darts’.
“I am really happy at the moment,” Evans said.
“I am playing with virtually a whole new set-up this year and it’s been nice to get a few wins under my belt with the new darts I am using.
“I wouldn’t say I played amazingly over the weekend but I did play well and reaching the final has really given me a boost in confidence.
“I haven’t hit a lot of nine-darters in practice and that was the first one for me in a competition so it was a nice moment but I couldn’t really take it in until later on because I had another game to play after it happened.
“It was a good weekend and I am really looking forward to Minehead now.
“It’s one of the best events of the year because if you get on a good run then you never know who you will get in the draw at the end of each round.
“I know people have tipped me to do well this year and I just want to do the best I can and show that I am not just a weirdo who throws darts really quickly! I want to show that I can play.”
Rushden’s James Richardson takes on Steve Lennon in his third-round match at the UK Open after decent showing in Barnsley.
In Players Championship 5, ‘Ruthless’ had 6-2 wins over Michael Barnard and Steve Lennon before losing to Max Hopp by the same scoreline in the last 32 but then suffered a first-round exit in a 6-1 loss to Eddie Dootson on Sunday.
Kettering-based David Pallett starts his UK Open campaign in the first round against Mark McGeeney.
Pallett had a 6-3 success over Mark Dudbridge in the first round of Players Championship 5 last weekend but then lost 6-2 to Dave Chisnall.
However, he had a better time of it on Sunday as he enjoyed wins over Steve West (6-3), Barrie Bates (6-3) and Conan Whitehead (6-4) before bowing out 6-3 to Price.