After nearly 30 qualifying competitions, the 32 Rileys Qualifiers are confirmed and set to do battle with the Pros this weekend at the UK Open – the FA Cup of Darts. It is arguably the strongest batch of players ever to come through the Rileys qualifying system.
Here is who to look out for this Friday and throughout the competition.
The BDO Big Guns
The UK Open is the only other tournament other than the Grand Slam which offers darts fans a chance to witness cross code action between the BDO and PDC.
BDO fans will be pleased to see a number of the upper echelon coming through the Qualifiers. Highly touted Dean Reynolds is the highest ranked of the recognisable names currently lying in fifth in the BDO standings. Last year’s PDC development tour order of merit winner turned down a tour card in January to work on his game, and will be looking to put behind him a disappointing Lakeside and Scottish Open. He won through at the final competition at Twickenham.
Three time Lakeside attendee Brian Dawson was victorious at Sheffield to secure his UK Open debut. Currently ranked 16th, Dawson certainly has the pedigree for a good run, having reached the last eight of Lakeside and the Zeiderfein Masters in 2015. He won the BDO Gold Cup in the same year.
He may only be ranked 77th, but that doesn’t tell the whole story with ever dangerous Paul Hogan. The Hampshire based darter has been a regular at UK Opens in the past having reached the 4th round in 2015 losing out to Michael van Gerwen on the main stage. He famously had darts to topple Glenn Durrant at Lakeside in January.
Just won the uk open qualifier at south benfleet
— Paul Hogan (@paulhogan0180) 29 January 2017
Surrey’s Dave Parletti lines up for his third straight UK Open appearance, after coming through 132 players at London Victoria. Ranked 42nd in the BDO system, Parletti made his debut for England last year and reached the last four of the Scottish and Welsh Opens in 2016.
— Dave Parletti (@Parletti180) 5 February 2017
Dave Prins mainly plays on the BDO circuit and has five Lakeside appearances to his name, reaching the last 16 in 2014.
There are now only six players who have played in all fifteen UK Opens and Alex Roy is among them. He qualified through the Rileys route for the 2nd year in a row at Harlow. His best run in this tournament is two last eight appearances in 2005 and 2006 respectively. He also made the third round last year with wins over Dennis Smith on the stage and Jeffrey de Zwaan.
Steve Maish will compete in his thirteenth UK Open and has reached the last 32 on three previous occasions. Similarly Johnny Haines, who has just dropped off the main PDC Tour, will be in his tenth UK Open.
John Ferrell has played in both the BDO and PDC World Championships in the past, and has a last eight appearance to his name in the latter back in 1999. This is fourth UK Open and played at the very first one back in 2003.
The Dark Horses
Twelve months ago Lee Evans and Andrew Davidson both reached the third round and won £1500 for their efforts. Evans overcame Rowby John Rodriguex on the main stage, while PDC Development Tour player Davidson upset Jan Dekker and Cristo Reyes to reach the last 64. Nottingham qualifier Brett Claydon will almost certainly be one to watch having played 12 PDC Pro Tour events last year. He will be hoping to find his first UK Open win when squares off against another Rileys Qualifier Paul Barham. Essex based Barham is a former PDC Tour card holder and played in the 2012 PDC World Championship.
A dozen of the Rileys Qualifiers will be making their UK Open debut this weekend.
Apart from Barham and Dawson mentioned above, arguably Dan Read and Kevin Bambrick stand out in terms of previous experience on the various Tours.
Kevin “Bam Bam” Bambrick, has been a regular on the Challenge Tour in recent years with his best outing in 2016 a run to the last 32 in event 14.
Uk open week,can’t wait to get started!!!!!
— Kevin bambrick (@Kevinbambrick1) 27 February 2017
Thatcham based Read has been similarly prolific competitor, competing in the vast majority of Development and Challenge Tour events last year. His best result came in event ten reaching the last eight, and has scalps of Ryan de Vreede, James Hubbard and Roxy James Rodriguez.
The other debutantes are:
Neil Smith, Wolverhampton
Wayne Morris, Greenock
James Carroll, Liverpool
Nicky Bell, Nottingham,
Jimmy McKirdy, Chester
— Jimmy Mckirdy (@JimmyMcKirdy) 4 February 2017
Martin Briggs, Coventry
Damien Smith, Liverpool
Darryl Pilgrim, London Victoria
Still can’t believe I have qualified for the uk open
— Darryl CPFC Pilgrim (@7t20t19d12) 6 February 2017
A Game of Patience
Some of the Rileys Qualifiers have had a long time to wait for their next opportunity at the UK Open.
Brandon Walsh qualified for the 2011 tournament as a spritely teenager but has had to wait six years for another crack at this competition. Most recently he reached the last 32 of the second Development Tour event in February.
Final day at work tomorrow, then we are off to Minehead!! Bring on the UK Open!! 😁👌👍
— Brandon Walsh (@Brandonwalsh180) 28 February 2017
Also in that 2011 UK Open was Paul Cartwright who has also, like Walsh had to wait six years to return. That time round he lost out to Kirk Sheppard.
Neither have had to wait as long as Gary Eastwood however who was last in this competition in 2010. In that year he was also on the Pro Tour beating the likes of Adrian Lewis, Mervyn King and Wayne Mardle.
Best of the Rest
The remaining six Rileys Qualifiers have all competed previously at the UK Open and have 19 appearances between them.
Kevin Edwards lines up for his third outing with recent wins at the Benfleet Open and the Essex Pentathlon. Such form will be encouraging for him as he seeks his first victory at the UK Open.
So happy and pleased to get through to the U.K. open again for the 3rd time! 🎯🎯🎯
— Kevin Edwards (@keved180) 28 January 2017
Welshmen Gareth “Pass Master” Pass is in for his third UK Open and has beaten Justin Pipe in this competition before back in 2013.
Andy Roberts will be on the oche for the fourth time and will remember fondly his run to the last 32 back in 2009 where he defeated Steve Beaton along the way.
Gloucestershire’s Ben Green is back for a second year in a row. He competed in the majority of the Challenge Tour in 2016 where he reached the last eight in Event 11.
— Ben Green (@BenGreen180) 28 January 2017
Mark Layton has enjoyed outings at the World Masters in three of the past four years and arrives in the Butlins Minehead for his fourth outing. In October he reached the last eight of the Turkish Classic and has beaten highly touted Dirk van Duijvenbode at this competition before.
Scott Robertson of Grampian, Scotland is back for his 3rd appearance his first since 2013. He won three matches in 2012 to make the money rounds before bowing out to Justin Pipe.