Seven Plymouth darts players qualify for national comp

FOLLOWING play-offs across the city throughout July, seven Plymouth darts players have won through to the final stages of the Worthington / Red Dragon Champion of Champions, which will be contested at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, on August 25.

The popular tourney, which mirrors the iconic News of the World “best of three legs” format, carries a prize-fund of £20,000 with £5,000 going to the eventual winner and prizemoney being paid down to the last 64.

The 43-year-old Welshman Jonny Clayton, who plays on the PDC circuit was the champion in 2016 but was denied a winning double, when he was defeated in the 2017 final by Paul Hogan, a 54-year-old BDO player from Dudley, who hit a 9-dart leg whilst playing for England in the 2017 Home Internationals.

MARK SHEARS was the first Plymouth player to qualify when he won through from a strong field at the Brookside.

The 58-year-old, who has been playing darts for 40 years, only took the game seriously four years ago and his dedication has certainly paid dividends.

Shears is a Devon Super League player for Porters and in the 2016-17 campaign earned his first call-up to compete for Devon in the British Inter County Championships.

He was an ever-present for the county in the 2017-18 campaign with his best performance coming against West Midlands when he won 4-0 with a 30.78 average.

Only last December he won through to the final of the prestigious Plymouth Champion of Champions tournament before finishing runner-up to five times winner and PDC professional Simon Stevenson.

JOHN MANN qualified from The Bluebird and his claim to fame was becoming the first city player to achieve the “perfect game”.

No Plymouth darts player had ever hit a nine-dart game in a competitive match, but on Tuesday, July 12, 2016, whilst playing for The Fawn in the Porters Function Room 501 Top 20 League, Mann hit two consecutive 180s and followed it up with a checkout of 141 for the perfect “nine-darter”.

Fifteen months after achieving the feat, Mann came close to achieving a second nine-darter, but in the end had to settle for a win in 10.

Playing for Porters A in the Monday Premier League, Mann hit eight perfect darts before wiring double 12.

After numerous attempts at winning the prestigious Plymouth Champion of Champions crown, Mann lifted the title for the first time in December of 2015 and won the Plymouth Open in 2017.

After a short spell playing for Devon in the British Inter County Championships, the Plymothian returned to the Cornwall ranks losing just one match throughout 2016.

In January of this year, Mann had his first taste of PDC Q School but missed out on a much-coveted Tour Card by just two points, despite achieving some excellent victories over the four days.

LEE HELLINGS, who qualified from the Brewery Tap, is a relative newcomer to the Plymouth darts scene but has been playing competitively for the last two years.

He played for Octagon Social Club in the Plymouth City Super League and was their top player throughout the 2017-18 campaign.

Hellings was part of the successful Maritime side that finished as premier division champions of the Devon Super League and was his team’s representative in the county play-offs for the BDO Gold Cup.

He has represented The Fawn in the Porters Function Room 501 Top 20 League, posting a top average of 34.00 and also a season's high checkout of 130.

NEIL WHITE was the winner at Porters and although he has been playing darts for a long time, has arguably shown his best form in the last couple of years.

He played in all but one of Devon’s fixtures in last season’s county matches, his best win coming with an average of 30.23.

In June he won the Liskeard Open and scooped the £500 top prize when defeating seasoned PDC campaigner Justin Pipe in the final.

White currently plays for Steam Packet B in the Monday Premier League and Maritime in the Plymouth City Super League.

White was also a valuable member of the Maritime team that finished as champions of the Devon Super League and he was the highest placed Maritime player in the end-of-season averages.

KEELAN KAY proved to be the best player on the day at the St Johnstone Social Club play-off and has already achieved a lot in the game, despite being just 16-years of age.

He first came to prominence during his half term break, in June 2016, when he won two titles at the finals of the Plymouth Open League, just six months after having had his first taste of competitive league darts.

The Plymouth student made the finals of the league’s doubles competition, partnered with team mate Gary Phillips, before going on to win the individual title at the tender age of just 14.

In March 2017, Kay had the distinction of being picked to represent his country and he took the chance of his young life with aplomb to win the accolade of Player of the Tournament when he made his England International debut in the British Championships, remaining undefeated throughout.

Later in the year he emerged as the new England Youth Open champion when he won the final 5-0 with three 15-darters and an outstanding average of 30.93 and has represented his country at two Youth Europe Cups, both in Sweden and Turkey where England finished second and third respectively.

Last September, Keelan Kay became one of only a handful of youth players around the world to be signed up on an exclusive sponsorship deal by darts events and management company Modus and in the latest England rankings, he is the number one youth player in the country.

DAN SCOTT was the qualifier from the Cherry Tree and although he lives in Bideford, plays for the Maritime in the Monday Premier League and the Porters Function Room 501 Top 20 League on a Tuesday.

Due to work commitments, he resides in the city during the week, before returning to North Devon on a Friday.

Only a couple of weeks ago, Scott set a new mark for the season’s top checkout in the Monday Premier League when he finished at the first time of asking from the highest possible outshot of 170.

A league player for seven years, he plays Devon Super League for the Royal Anglers, based in his home town of Bideford and they were crowned league champions at the end of the 2016-17 campaign.

LEE RODMELL was the last Plymouth player to qualify for the prestigious tournament and he emerged the winner of the Maritime play-off.

He began playing darts aged just 11 and was playing in the Torpoint Darts League at 13.

Rodmell played for Cornwall Youth between the ages of 13 and 16, qualifying for the British Teenage Youth finals at Kettering in 1999.

Shift work curtailed his time in the game and he gave the sport up for 10 years before returning to play in the Plymouth City Super League for Archer Inn.

This will be the second time that the Cornishman has played in the Worthington Champion of Champions having also qualified last year.

The draw did not favour him in 2017 when he was drawn against Terry Temple, who plays on the PDC circuit, but took the 2014 North Ormesby Open winner to a deciding leg before being edged out.

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