Ricky Evans is hoping his qualification for the Coral UK Open will be the catalyst for a big return to form this year.
Having burst on to the PDC Pro Tour scene in 2013, a year which culminated with an appearance at the World Championships, the Kettering darts player conceded 2014 felt like a case of “second-year syndrome”.
But the new year seems to have brought a change in fortune as Evans booked his place at the major competition in Minehead thanks to an excellent showing at three qualifying events in Wigan last weekend.
The pick saw him reach the quarter-finals on Saturday after victories over Steve Grubb (6-3), Mike De Decker (6-3), Matthew Edgar (6-5), Paul Nicholson (6-2), Dean Winstanley (6-4) and Nathan Derry (6-4) before he was eventually beaten 6-3 by Vincent van der Voort.
Evans was beaten 6-5 by Kevin Bambrick in the first round on Friday but was at it again in the final event when he was only beaten 6-5 in the third round by Premier League star Dave Chisnall.
His impressive efforts earned Evans £1,750 in prize money and a guaranteed place in the televised even at Minehead, which takes place over the weekend of March 6.
But, with three more qualifying events to come next weekend, Evans is aiming to earn a place as a seed, which will mean he doesn’t enter the ‘FA Cup of Darts’ until the third round.
“It’s a great start to the year,” the Kettering player said.
“I really felt like I had a case of second-year syndrome in 2014. Unlike the year before, everyone knew me and I didn’t get a great deal of luck.
“I was losing the 6-5s but last weekend I won most of them and that is the difference when the standard is as high as it is.
“I really want to try to qualify for Minehead as a seed but I am playing well and it was good to get some words of encouragement from Chizzy (Chisnall) after our game.
“When someone like him speaks like that after a game you have to take it on board and I will.”
It proved to be a tougher weekend for Rushden’s James Richardson as he suffered first-round exits on each day.