PLYMOUTH teenager Keelan Kay competed in four events on the PDC Unicorn Development Tour, at the Robin Park Tennis Centre, Wigan, and his performances were such that he moved five places up the Order of Merit to sit inside the top 30 at joint 28.
Keelan’s first opponent in the opening match of Development Tour Five was Josh Habgood and despite the Surrey thrower winning the opening leg with a checkout of 119, Kay moved into the next round when taking four on the bounce in 22, 19, 18 and 20.
Keelan won the opening leg against Jason Goff in 17 only for the Norwich marksman to level in 18 when checking out from 136.
The Lord of the Board then portrayed his own finishing prowess when checking out at the first time of asking from 157 for a win in 15 but despite Goff levelling in 20, two more legs in 17 and 18 from Keelan was enough to see him progress with a 4-2 victory.
That win took Keelan into the board final and despite losing the opening leg he took three on the bounce in 21, 13 and 14 to go just one leg away from victory.
And that winning leg was won in style when he stepped up to the oche and threw 115-125-140 before checking out from 121 for a 12-darter, his best leg of the weekend and his top average of 93.70.
His opponent in the round of 32 was Jeffrey De Zwaan.
The same player that has held a PDC Tour Card since 2015 and as recently as March 28 was playing in the Premier League of Darts against Rob Cross in Rotterdam!
Keelan took a leg in 13 and hit two maximums but the Dutchman emerged a 4-1 winner in 13, 16, 14 and 15, finishing with an average of 102.9
De Zwaan went on to win the tournament and in his eight matches, seven of them were won with an average greater than 100.00, his best coming in the semi-final when he peaked at 112.20.
Development Tour Six was contested on Saturday afternoon and Keelan was very unlucky to bow out at the first hurdle.
He won the opening leg against Maikel Verberk but the Dutch thrower edged in front with two 16-darters.
Kay had his chances to level at 2-2, with match darts in his hands on two visits but his 20-year-old opponent took it in 22.
Keelan responded well by taking the next two in 17 and 16 and in a nail-biting seventh and deciding leg, the Plymouth marksman left 61 after 15 only for Verberk, with the darts, to checkout from 96.
Players lined up on Sunday morning to contest Development Tour 7 and Keelan again began well with a 4-3 win over Benjamin Smith.
He then ousted Matthew Holbrook 4-1 which gave Keelan the opportunity to contest the board final against Liam Waddingham and he won it with ease, dropping just the one leg.
Now into the last 32, Keelan was pitted against another PDC Tour Card holder in Luke Humphries who turned 24 in February.
The winner of five events on this tour in 2017, enabled the Newbury marksman to top the order of merit and win a tour card for the 2018-19 campaign.
Keelan was simply outplayed and went out 4-0 to legs won in 17, 16, 19 and 15.
He put that disappointment behind him on Sunday afternoon and opened Development Tour 8 with a 4-0 win over William Borland, claiming the fourth leg in 14.
Keelan then found himself 2-0 down against Billy Warriner but took three on the bounce in 14, 20 and 18 to edge in front for the first time.
Good scoring in the sixth gave Kay the impetus and he had his chance to win in 14 but several missed opportunities later it went to Warriner in 25.
But not for the first time, Keelan didn’t dwell on what might have been and secured the match when winning the seventh leg in 19.
He went on to win the board final 4-0 against Bradley Halls and moved into the last 16 when edging out Callum Matthews 4-3.
The further you go, the harder your opponent and standing in Keelan’s way of a place in the last eight was Callan Rydz.
Despite another maximum, Keelan was never in with a chance and the Newcastle marksman emerged a 4-0 winner in 17, 13, 15 and 17 for a 97.00 average.
Rydz went on to win the tournament, coming from 2-0 down against Luke Humphries (93.9) to claim the next five legs in 15, 12, 15, 12 and 13 for a three-dart average of 106.60.
The PDC Development Tour, rightly or wrongly, allows players aged 16-23 the chance to compete in a series of 20 tournaments throughout the year which, from my personal viewpoint is too big an age gap by far.
Reduce the upper age from 23 to 21 and omit all PDC Tour Card holders from the event would provide a more even playing field for emerging players.
But despite being just 17-years of age, Plymouth’s Keelan Kay did very well against some top opposition and should be very proud of his weekend’s achievements.