Tag Archives: Mark Hylton

Game Of The Day – Middle For Diddle?

Hopefully those of you who have been socially isolated are managing to keep up with routines and things to keep yourself busy. Here is another ‘daily drill’ to add to your list:

Middle for Diddle:

A drill that focuses on the bullseye, first dart, to ensure you need less recalculation needed during match play. Recommended to be played after your warm up and between other drills/games that are more scoring focused.

Game Overview:

There are a number of finishing points, in a leg, where the bullseye (inner or outer), is the best/only option with your first dart. If you become familiar, and automated, when you see these numbers, your success rate will go up and you will react smoothly to any variation (or cock-up!)

Take one turn (3 darts) at these five outshots using the bull:

61, 65, 82, 125 & 132

Award yourself points on the following basis:

  • 61,65 & 82
  • 2 Dart Checkout –10 Points
  • 3 Dart Checkout – 5 Points
  • Left a Double – 1 Point
  • for 125 & 132
  • Checkout – 10 Points
  • Double Left – 3 Points
  • Single – Double Finish left (not single bull!) – 1 Point

Example:

  • Turn 1 – Bull, s3, d4 – 5 Points
  • Turn 2 – 25, Tops! – 10 Points
  • Turn 3 – 25, s17, 0 – 1 Point
  • Turn 4 – 25, t20, Tops – 10 Points
  • Turn 5 – 25, 19, t20 – (28 Left) – 3 Points
  • Total Score = 29

N.B. A single point is scored when going for the 100+ finishes by leaving the double e.g. for 132 – Bull, 25, s17 would leave tops and score a consolation 1 point. The same applies if you miss the double after setting it up with darts 1 & 2.

Variations:

There are shots that can be swapped in and out depending on your personal preferences and in order to ensure that you cover the possibilities that can crop up in a game situation.

63 and 135 are the most likely where you may use the middle ring as an option in certain circumstances or even as your default.

Levels:

In this drill it’s more overall aims than levels. The first order of business is to get shots at doubles. So a good aim is to get shots at all three lower numbers. Then set up the bigger ones.

  • An amateur or pub player type should aim to get shots at the lower finishes, and hit one. Score guide – (circa) 10
  • league player should be looking to take one of the lower ones in two darts & scoring points on the bigger shots. Score guide – 15+
  • higher level player should be looking to take two of the lower ones in two/three darts and gaining points on the others. Score guide – 25+
  • Elite level players should be regularly hitting 33 or more. (Importantly this should be spread across all 5 finishes and be repeatable if the numbers are swapped)

Records:

Frankie Dean profile
Play M4D between more 20’s type drills. Pic: Lawrence Lustig / PDC

This is a tough drill at the higher end. It sucks the mind into being too deliberate so dont play it two many times. Use it as a break drill between others and do no more than two goes in a row.

The record for this drill was set a few years ago, a duel code World Championship player hit 61 in 2, 65 in 2 and 82 in three then left 40, after three, going for 125 and checked out 132 – totalling 38.

Middle for Diddle is a harder drill that requires a switch in focus and then another half way through. It puts the Bull at the heart of your efforts for a section of every practice.

Enjoy and lets us know if you can beat 38 or if it helps improve your ‘Bulling’!


Originally published (with variations) at dartsworld.com

Pics: PDC / L Lustig

A.I.M:

Purple Patches – When Darters Get ‘In The Zone’.

2019’s German Darts Open produced several superb performances, Nathan Aspinall improved his onstage average personal best by over three and a half points. RVB went back to basics with his darts and recaptured some stage form, whilst Steve Beaton, with as smooth a 9 darter as you will ever see, reminded everyone that his remarkable career was far from over.

Much of the social media and commentary chatter centred around the latest set of unreal statistics from MVG. Official PDC statistician and DartsWorld contributor Christopher Kemph (@ochepedia) summed it up simply:

“23 consecutive wins in Euro Tour last-leg deciders, 24 consecutive wins in Pro Tour finals and 26 consecutive wins in Pro Tour best-of-13 and best-of 15 matches. It just goes on and on…”

In all professional sports, the greatest players seem to hit purple patches. This can be due to their own standards increasing, the opposition becoming intimidated or a little of both. Think Rafa Nadal at the French Open, Ed Moses over the 400m hurdles or Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’. We tried to recall some other tremendous winning streaks witnessed in darts?

In PDC ranking events both MVG & Phil Taylor have recorded 8 consecutive tournament wins. In 2016 Micheal claimed The World Matchplay, 3 Euro Tour events and then 4 Pro Tours, hitting two 9 darters along the way! During a phenomenal run in 2009, ‘The Power’ also claimed 8 back-to-back ranking titles. After winning that years’ World Championship Taylor won 6 Pro Tour events in a row, during that run he added the Players Championship Finals. Incredibly this winning streak came in the middle of a run of 20 consecutive appearances in ranking finals!

Richard Ashdown dropped us a reminder of the efforts of John Walton. John’s 2001 run to the BDO World Title included defeats of Merv King in the last 16 and Mark Puso. The final two legs of the former and the first 14 vs Pusa ensured a consecutive run of 16 legs in-a-row, surely difficult to improve on given the formats available.

‘Mile High’ Produced a superb effort of 21 consecutive legs during 2011.

On the floor, or non-televised, the best AIM: can recall is a run of 21 consecutive legs over 4 matches. Mark Hylton came from 0-2 down to defeat Dylan Duo 6-2 before defeating MVG and Ronnie Baxter 6-0. In his fourth match, he took a 3-0 lead vs Dennis Ovens before ‘The Heat’ got his name on the scoreboard.

Hylton went on to reach the semi-final that day but also produced a similar performance at the UK Open of 2011. In his last 96 tie Mark lost the first leg to Geoff Whitworth before dealing off the next 4 to move into the L64. Owing to an unusual mix of circumstances he managed to produce a whitewash victory over Andy Jenkins 9-0 and in his last 32 match his was 6-0 ahead before Andy Gilding prevented another bagel from being presented. Thus Mile High recorded a total of 19 consecutive legs without reply during the later stages of a PDC major!

I am sure must be many examples of such runs being put together, but they fail to get noticed. A Midlands / Staffs league player reported that one player had gone almost two complete seasons unbeaten, only being, finally, defeated by hospitalisation!

Drop us a line if you have any notable examples of outstanding runs of performance.


A version of the above article appeared at Darts World during 2019. (http://dartsworld.com)

A.I.M: Contribute to New World Championship Guide

It’s always nice to be asked to contribute to a new publishing project to promote the game of darts. Some of the people we at A.I.M: like best have produced 62 pages of news, views, player profiles, product reviews and articles that is yours in a couple clicks:

Dartconnect.com are distributing the guide, as well as RedDragon darts, Grab a copy here: 

Download Your Copy – https://appsolutely.dev/darts/

All 96 players that took part are individually profiled and there are sections for Fallon Sherrock & Mikuru Suzuki as well as feature articles on Barney, Gerwyn Price and those who have hit an Ally Pally 9 Darter.

Mile High Leaves a Vapour Trail tells the tale of how a relative unknown made a big impact, at the 2010/11 World Championship, blazing a trail for others to follow.

The Super 8’s looks at vital stats and other information that can sort out those with a chance of the title from those likely to fall short.

There is even a betting section. You Betcha! Gives a few ideas of what is available these days in the gambing sector.

All in all it is a great guide and unbeatable for free!

Mile High Leaves a Vapour Trail an interesting article in The Ultimate Guide
Lustig. PDC

‘Mile High’ Leaves A Vapour Trail.

In February, 2010, Mark “Mile High” Hylton began what was to be a shortish, but highly significant, test flight in the world of PDC darts. A superb take off was followed by a turbulent spell ‘cruising at altitude’ before a steep decent took him away from our view. 

All the elements seemed in place, for an outstanding career at the top level. Yet something was missing?

Mark Hylton had been around amateur darts for quite some time, including a notable appearance at the the, 2007 UK Open, before he was approached to turn professional. His first few months on tour proved a steep learning curve. It seemed that ‘Mile High’, as he was known due to a previous career on the airlines, would take a while to adjust to the professional game. 

However, Mark was playing superbly behind the scenes while cleaning up in non-professional events all over the country. His management/coaching team funded trips to Australia, and Canada, that summer to see if their hunch was right. Take off was managed by Hylton as he soared to the final of that years PDC Australian Open. The prize money, £3000, ensured he would qualify for the World Championships. 

Success followed success, with Mark then qualifying for the Grand Slam of Darts and gaining more consistent results on the Pro Tour. Despite not progressing from the group stage, the Grand Slam provided stage darts and ensured he, and his team, were confident of success at Ally Pally. 

First major of a professional career. The 2010 Grand Slam saw Hylton make his entrance.
Pic – L Lustig/PDC

Team Hylton prepared meticulously. Mark played in all conditions and, as often as possible, on borrowed stages with friends acting as officials. When it was known who, the legendary Steve Beaton, would be his first-round opponent, similar style and pace players were found and they played the event format time and time again. They also calculated the next two likely opponents. 

The venue was scouted, the weather anticipated, which was extreme, and complications allowed for. Despite all the usual beginner’s nerves, and the skills of his opponent, Mark ran out the winner in the deciding set. 

During the days between matches similar preparations were made for tackling Colin Lloyd. Again, despite all the advantages, and a few tactics, were with Jaws’. Hylton, was less nervous before and had been instructed “you are the best kept secret in world darts”, “now go and show these people why” and he did. Colin threw everything at him and never made a dent. By the end of the game Lloyd was shaking his head in disbelief, as Hylton averaged over 115 for spells and became the event’s leading 180 hitter.  

Sadly, events beyond anticipation and a superb performance from, his opponent, Mark Webster halted Hylton’s run at the last 16 stage.  

The two big wins at the palace, gave lift off to Mark’s career. He was awarded the PDC’s New Player of the Year award, a lucrative dart sponsorship and went on to great success in more major events. Reaching two Qtr finals during 2011, rising to number 32 in the world and frightening the life out of Phil Taylor in Blackpool. 

Mile High In Action – L Lustig/PDC

Although Mark has slipped from view, since those halcyon days, his efforts should not be forgotten. To debut aged 44, with no top flight experience, and to hit the heights he did, was remarkable. Indeed, the vapour-trail Hylton left guided many. You don’t need to be a big name to win big! 

Just ask Rob Cross! 


A version of this article was first published in The Ulitimate Guide to The PDC World Championships 2020. Grab a free copy here: https://appsolutely.dev/darts/

Text – CJ Harris Hulme

Pics: L Lustig & PDC.

The Pro Tour Revolution Continues.

In 2018 AIM suggested that the removal of entry fees, for the Pro Tour level of professional darts, together with the increases in early stage prize money, would revolutionise the game. It appears we were right!

Nathan Aspinall

Nathan Aspinall – Claimed his first Pro Tour Title in 2018

A quick glance at the results from this week’s first Pro Tour events might suggest to you that all is normal and nothing much changes. MVG wins one event & Dave Chisnall the second. So far so much the same. Yet you don’t have to look much further to see significant change. Day 1 featured Scott Baker reaching the semifinals at the first attempt. Well, there are often good one-off performances you might say. Agreed, but, Harry Ward another brand new tour card holder, also reached the quarterfinals. At least six of the last sixteen are outside the top 32. Many other new or lesser ranked players won multiple games and got off to solid starts Gavin Carlin being another example. Although Day 2 looked a little more conventional in terms of name recognition many, such as Robert Thornton are currently out of the top echelon. Change is upon the Pro Tour and folks had better adjust.

MVG Gurn Away

The Green Machine. MVG claimed another Pro Tour title.

The reasons for this are three-fold and relatively obvious. First is the shear proven talent level in the field. With a cursory glance through the field 45 or more players have reached at least the final of a Pro Tour or have done so at a televised major event! More than one in three of the starting field. These are without a doubt the strongest, in-depth, fields to play professional darts. Therefore it is no surprise that on any given day any player can find their “A Game” and record results that might be beyond recent expectations. The number of games where history, personality and psychology are highly relevant has also increased. Many supposed shocks are not really such, they are more complex than “current form” suggests.

Secondly, new Tour Card holders, & top up players, totally different from those of only a few years ago. They do not have to spend a fortune to play and so are not as weighed down by the financial burdens as previously. In addition, they have had seen plenty of unsung players break through and achieve major success. It does not seem like a closed shop anymore. Players like Mark Hylton & James Richardson showed you don’t have to have been major BDO successes to break through. Gerwen Price has demonstrated how far and how quickly people from outside the “usual routes” can go. Ryan Searle, Luke Humphries, Nathan Aspinall and Mickey Mansell have given examples of different types of success. Whether it’s proving that the PDC system suites some players that did not flourish in the BDO (Searle) or that you can shrug off a few non-descript years and your day may still come (Mansell) it’s still an example to anyone with the grit and talent to persist.

DARTS

Mark Hylton – Showed that a record of BDO type success was not needed.

Thirdly, the field variation is growing. Few years or so ago almost all the top players would play almost every Pro Tour event. This was required by both financial needs, less money was in the game, and ranking/qualification requirements. This is far less so in 2019. With Gary Anderson injured and the Premier League about now underway, there will be more and more variations in the field. Over a period of time. with effects on individual events, and the seedings for later ones, and players confidence and ranking positions, these variations have very large effects overall.

Could it be that the PDC have noticed this and attempted to offset some of this in order to protect its biggest stars? The sudden and unexpected changing of the format in the later stages may not only bring the Pro Tour into line with the Euro Tour. It may also serve to assist those used to playing slightly longer format darts. Premier League players and those used to later stages of the Euro Tour are definitely at an advantage for a least a few months, perhaps longer. It will be interesting to see how many of the “Outsider” players triumph in Semi and Finals?

In the meantime, those on the tour should learn that defeat at any stage, and to any player, is purely an occupational hazard whilst not allowing it to have any effect on their confidence to turn the tables in the very next event. In addition, they should practise over the best of fifteen and be able to perform at the end of long sessions. Resilience and stamina could prove the qualities in most demand.

cropped-ian-white-2011.jpg

Ian White: The Template of Pro Tour Resilience & Stamina?

The Pro Tour Revolution is gaining momentum!

Pro Darts – Class of 2010 Return to Earth with a Bang!

We left the “Class of 2010” at the end of the 2011/12 season after   two full seasons in the PDC. Six newcomers had taken to the professional game like lads to lager, but would they be able to withstand the pressures sure to come? Living up to expectations, earning their livings, coping with being known to all the other players and then defending their rankings and positions over the next few seasons.

Could they forge lasting careers in and places in the record books of modern professional darts?

High and Whitey 2012 smoke

It is now five full seasons since the boys of 2010 entered the PDC, during the first two years it was fair to say they had made superb starts and were in a position to make a genuine, and lasting, impact on the fast expanding and financially rewarding PDC Pro Circuit.

It is safe to say that the next three seasons have seen mixed results to say the very least.

Nigel “The Undertaker” Hayden:

Ranking after 2011/12 World Championships – 43

Current Ranking – 76

Nigel Heydon 2012

(Technically unranked as new Tour Card will be zeroed)

As noted in the original article Nigel had the fastest start of any of the new boys in 2010. He caught most of the established order napping, reaching a quarter-final in his first PDC weekend and a last 16 place in his first professional major appearance. During his second year strong floor form and appearances at The Grand Slam and The World Professional Championships ensured his star continued to rise.

During this time however Nigel was unfortunate enough to suffer from sponsorship issues which led to important events being missed. These may have resulted in more major qualifications and an even higher ranking. It is safe to say that the two years that followed were not of the same standard he had produced in his first two seasons.

His ranking began to slump and the upward momentum, that appeared to be with him, soon disappeared, to be replaced by a downward cycle. After failing to defend  his ranking points / pounds in 2012 and 2013 Nigel was forced to return to the beginning in 2014 and take Q school route to retain his tour card. Brilliantly he did so on the final day and chose to keep his current points total and have a single year card. This was a tactical mistake. Nigel then had a mixed year, showing some flashes of his true self but struggling overall. His runs to the last 32 of the UK open and a Pro Tour Semi underlined the talent he possesses.

This has been underlined once more in Q School 2015 where, despite having to return once again, Nigel qualified automatically for a tour card on day 1!

Future Prospects –

Nigel’s talent is clear to any who watch him regularly. The difficulty with combustible early sponsorship and the need to work full-time have placed limits on the extent to which this potential has been realised. It will take a sustained spell of focus and his very best performances to regain the momentum had in 2011/12. Without such a run, the yo-yo of Tour Card and Q School may continue.

Steve Farmer

Ranking after 2011/12 World Championships – 36

Steve Farmer 2011

Current ranking – Unranked

Even the stats given above do not give the true picture of the dramatic rise and fall of “The Train”. Within twelve months of joining the PDC Steve had won a Pro Tour event, finished runner-up in another, qualified for and played in three majors and The World Championships. For good measure he had reached the Semi-Finals of one of those majors! During the second year he had gone for the approach of not playing all events and coming on strong in the ones he did enter. This seemed to suit his game and the run to the last 16 of the 2011/12 worlds appeared to cement his place in the higher bracket.

All seemed to start well in 2012, with Steve correcting the previous error by qualifying for the UK Open. It should be mentioned that he did this is style with a competitive  9 dart leg in round 3. From there on however things completely reversed. Steve crashed out of that event early, qualified for no more majors that year and repeated the pattern in 2013. Over these two terrible years Steve’s ranking slipped to 49 and then outside the top 150. Following his failure to qualify, for the 2013/14 World Championships, Steve did not renew his membership of the PDPA and has not played events for over a year.

This unmatched decline seems to have involved a number of factors, the difficulty of earning a reliable living playing darts, whilst having to keep additional work to ensure family income, may have played a role. In addition Steve is not a keen long distance traveller and the growth in numbers and importance of European Tour events has worked to his disadvantage.

Future Prospects – 

In the case of Steve this is very difficult to project. He is a superb natural talent and is capable of defeating any individual or putting a tournament winning run together. Whether he ever wishes to make the attempt again may prove the deciding factor. To have achieved those heights so quickly and yet completely disappear from the rankings within another two years is an incredible but unwanted record.

Antonio “El Dartador” Alcinas

Ranking after 2011/12 World Championships – 50

Alcinas soft tip

Current Ranking – 120 (Officially unranked as no tour card)

Antonio’s defeat to Andy “The Hammer” Hamilton in the world championship seemed to be a high water mark for the Spaniard. His previous floor event form deserted him and despite qualifying for the European Championships and The UK Open on a number of occasions it seems a sustained run to a higher plateau is not within him.

Some of Antonio’s erratic form could be as the result of his other area of excellence. It should be remembered that he is only member of the class of 2010 to be a World Champion. His victory in the 2010 World Soft Tip event has led to him playing regularly on the soft tip tour and achieving very good results. This results in a huge a mount of travelling and possibly the distraction of being committed to more than one goal. Alcinas seems to thrive on success and momentum thus even in the darker times he can have runs in either format to earn good prize money and keep himself in contention.

Future Prospects

It is possible that “El Dartador” will become one of the first complete multi format darters. Due to his European nationality it is still easier for him to qualify for many PDC events than it is for the UK players and he seems to still do this with regularity. These events together with the World Cup of Darts, which will see him with a new partner in the form of Christo Reyes, seem to inspire him. For him to achieve much more he will have to concentrate on one tour and commit 100%. He appears to not need or want to do this and so will  probably continue to be a minor player in the PDC and still achieve spasmodic high notes both there and in the soft tip arena.

Scott Rand 

Ranking after 2011/12 World Championships – 41

Scott Rand

Current Ranking – 83 (Unranked due to no tour card).

After the huge success of 2011, with Scott reaching the Semi Finals of The Players Championships and the last 32 of the World Championships, the decision to become a full-time dart player was made. With a new management deal and a sponsorship from Target darts things seemed to be in place for a long and successful professional career for the former lorry driver. 2012 was a solid year on the Pro Tour but not strong enough for Scott to feature in additional majors. A decent UK Open and another last 32 place at the World Champs meant a consolidating year but not the upward curve that would have been anticipated. 2013 was much the same, with scattered highlights of good floor form , including quarter and semi finals, but no increase in major qualifications or impact.

Scott’s problems compounded in 2014, a very poor start to the year and failure to qualify for the UK Open seem to indicate more troubles for “Cool Hand”. His participation in the tour halted in July  2014 and he did not participate in either the qualification play-offs for events or the Q School for 2015.

Future Prospects – 

Scott’s ability and determination are not in doubt, his form and competitiveness never disappeared in the way of some other players. It appears that external matters, as well as the pressures of earning a living at the game, have combined to make things doubly tough for the midlander.

Rand has shown before that he can return from a period away and be successful. It may however be harder to manage such a comeback in the new PDC. It will be interesting to see if , when and where this superbly talented thrower will resurface.

Mark “Mile High” Hylton

Ranking after 2012 Worlds – 33

mh uk open 2012 v jabba action shot dart in air

Current Ranking – (Unranked due to no Tour Card).

The return to earth of “Mile High” is, perhaps, the most shocking of all the bumpy rides to befall the class of 2010. An perfect storm of events conspired to cause the Rugeley leftie to fall from the verges of the Premier League towards the end of 2011 to twice failing to secure a tour cards at the q schools of 2014 & 2015.

It is often said that it is more difficult to deal with and maintain success than it is to achieve it. Hylton struggled to maintain a stellar spell which saw two major qtr finals, an epic battle with Taylor at The Matchplay and a hat full of Pro Tour Qtr & Semi’ finals. Sadly the tail off was nearly as dramatic.  Personal circumstances produced a major blow for Mark following The Grand Prix and successive European Pro Tour events. Together with a slip in focus and difficulties coping with expectation, caused by the early success, this resulted in two successive first round major exits. Although both were close and well contested, the “Mile High” of a few months before would have won both with ease. The decline that had begun after the Benidorm  Pro Tour event in 2011 did not come to a stop.

As well as these extraneous matters the darting gods turned against Mark at this crucial time. Chizzy defeated Phil Taylor at the 2011/12 worlds, this ensured that Mark would not finish in the top 32 that year. The new European Tour was announced with the top 32 qualifying automatically. Thus Hylton was left having to struggle to qualify for events that due to some early gliches were handing players £1000’s for a couple of soft ish games. As a direct result Mark was unable to take advantage and lost ground in the early part of the year. When he finally played his way into the top 32 and qualification for Euro Tour events, he was then injured in a fall and unable to play!

Few highlights in the first half of 2012 included a pair of Pro Tour qtr finals, one of which was the hardest working I have seen, and a rally to the last 32 at the UK Open. That remains the last we have seen of “Mile High” on our screens or indeed at the later stages of any major. Following a parting of the ways with his management team his Pro Tour form deteriorated further and after falling out of the top 64, having not gained a tour card from Q School, he chose to pursue the PDC’s  Challenge Tour in an effort to regain some focus and confidence. It would appear that Mark will adopt the same strategy again in 2015 after failing to secure a tour card again.

Future Prospects – 

Mark starts 2015 with strong hopes of a return to where his ability should take him. A new sponsorship and management deal, and some life changes, together with some renewed application and focus, seem to have given a little momentum. Early signs are promising if not yet earth shattering. Needs to re discover the self belief he had installed into him previously.

 

Ian “Diamond” White

Ranking after 2011/12 Worlds – 54

Ian White  Diamond Shirt

Current Ranking – 16

Ian ranking was the lowest of our class at the 2 year point. However he had started a little later than most and had come on strong toward the end of his second season. A place in the grand slam and his first world championship had ensured that Whitey would start 2012 in a far better position than had been the case twelve months previously.

Within 3 months of the season re start Ian had picked up two semi finals and several other good Pro Tour placings. I addition his 9 dart finish during the Benidorm event had added both cash and confidence. Over the next 6 months he accumulated ranking points like sweets and got over the first round TV hurdle in The Matchplay. he added a European Tour final and another 9 darter for good measure, all before the end of September. Another two Pro Tour finals were added as were last sixteen places in the European Championships and the World Grand Prix along with the Champions League of Darts in October. Diamond completed the year by adding The Players Championship Finals to the list of majors and another solid appearance at the 2012/3 Worlds.

If anything Ian next twelve months were even stronger, proving to be the only member of the 2010 intake who could sustain a top end challenge and not struggle under the expectation. His superb end to 2012 on the floor meant that a consistent showing in Pro Tour & Euro Tour events was enough gain Ian qualification for The Matchplay & World Grand Prix again to consolidate a superb 12 months. A huge hurdle was crossed in September when after a few finals, and other near misses, Ian claimed a Pro Tour event in Barnsley. This long-awaited win opened the floodgates and led to Ian winning another floor event, before the end of the season, and claimed a quarter-final place in The Players Championships in early December. This superb run has seen “Diamond White” climb from the verges of the top 32 into the top twenty players in the world within a year. There was more to come yet! Strong victories over Kyle anderson, Kim Huybrechts and Richie Burnett ( especially sweet) mean that Diamond had reached the Quarter-Finals of The World Championships. A dramatic final set defeat at the hands of Simon Whitlock ended the campaign for that year with Ian scheduled as a top 16 player!

2014 can be seen as either a continuation of what had been started the previous year or a consolidation year. Progress was made at the UK Open with his quarter-final appearance making it 3 major quarters in a row. Two more Pro Tour wins and an immensely consistent Pro & Euro Tour effort ensured that Whitey stayed firmly in the top 16 in the order of merit. His World Championships were ended in the last 32 by a resurgent Kim Huybrechts who, despite being 4 places lower in the rankings has been awarded a Premier League spot.

Future Prospects – 

Whitey’s performance and his recent Masters Series debut has ensured that the class of 2010 have been represented at all PDC events except the Premier League. He is currently ranked 13 in the world and, with the prize money and event increases, has the chance to achieve even more. He has shown a great ability to learn and improve, both his game and his strategy / event management. If this pattern continues there is no reason for Ian not to go higher. He has a stated ambition of being a World Champion and, as we have seen on the floor, once he starts winning events then he can be unstoppable. Three years ago, I mentioned to Ian that, due to his metronomic style and ability to learn and process, he could get to the very top of world darts. I added that it would be a methodical rise and an eventual outcome rather than a sudden burst. So far that prediction is looking eerily accurate.

What next for the “Class of 2010”?

The class of 2010 blazed a trail for unheralded but talented players to take a full tilt at the highest level of professional darts. Six guys with very little or no top flight experience took the plunge and the results have been played out before us. Between them they have reached every major event (even the Premier League may not be beyond them!) One or more have reached the top 16, top 32 or top 48 over the five-year period. The semi’s of TV events have been reached twice and the quarters on multiple occasions.

They have also illustrated the importance of solid and stable personal lives, genuine and financially stable management or sponsorships and the importance of timing decisions or thoughts such as giving up employment or believing you have made it.

For Ian White it may well be onward and upward, if he can adjust as well to this last step up as he has to all the others on the way.

For the others it seems that time out or a new approach are needed, perhaps slower burning beginnings and steadier climbs up the rankings, in the manner of Q  School graduate 2012 Q School graduate Andy Gilding may well be more realistic in the new PDC system. Messers Heydon, Hylton, Rand,  Farmer and Alcinas have all shown that they have the talent and ability to compete with the very best. Sadly they have also shown that more than that is required for a lasting career at the top of elite darts. Ian “Diamond” White has shown what can be achieved if all the elements are present.

Could it be that Ian’s experience of reaching the 1997 News of the World final, and the difficult times that followed, ensured that he would not miss a second shot at the top?

(Photo Credit : Lawrence Lustig, Tip Top Pics & PDC)

 

 

Darts – Rise of The Class of 2010.

I wrote the article below as a reflection of what had happened since I had become involved with professional darts in 2010. The Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) were about to introduce a tour card system and Qualifying School in a similar style to golf. The 2010 intake would be the last that could simply pay entrance fees and compete, alongside the elite, in an effort to make a career and living from the game:

vs Peter Wright UK Open

It is now many years since this story began and the six players highlighted within it have experienced a great deal more of what a professional sports career can be like. The original article appeared in four parts at Dartsmad.com.


(January 2012)

For some time now it has seemed to me that the 2010 intake of new PDPA members was something rather special. I can be accused of bias, due to one of that intake being, Mark ‘Mile High’ Hylton, but a look at the tale behind the scenes will confirm that this was a special moment for professional darts.

As we come to the end of their second season it seems an appropriate time to review the story of `The Class of 2010’.

In the Birmingham area in late 2009 a remarkable coincidence took place; in an area of the city a new darting venture under the banner `This is Darts’ was looking for players to support its effort to create a new darts brand.

The players selected were chosen by one of their number, Ian McFarlane, and included the strongest and most consistent local performers in what was a hotbed of quality amateur competition.

Recommended were Nigel Heydon, Tony Randell, Trevor Frost, Mark Hylton, and, a little later, Scott Rand. All except Mark Hylton were given the opportunity to play PDC darts that year by the `This is Darts’ initiative.

Nigel heydon this is darts poster 2010

On the other side of the city an amateur player/enthusiast had been watching Mark Hylton for a year whilst also studying what it would take to succeed in the PDC. Following an initial discussion it was decided he would become Hylton’s manager rather than supporter.

And so, the Midlands branch of the 2010 intake was formed, consisting of players based in Staffordshire and Leamington Spa as well as the second city itself.

A mere forty miles away another player was deciding to make the leap from rising BDO star to PDC newcomer. Telford’s Steve Farmer made the tough decision to leave his comfort zone and cross into what some describe as the shark pool of PDC organised tour events.

Despite being well known as a quality thrower Steve had not won a significant BDO event nor had consistent business end results. However showing great courage in backing himself Steve joined the class of 2010 with many people quietly thinking that he could do well.

Meanwhile in Stoke-on-Trent a forgotten man was weighing up a big move from BDO to PDC. Despite a couple of outstanding seasons in the BDO, with several tournament wins, as well as pairs triumphs, the frustration of an early exit from the Lakeside Championship had seen him start 2010 still a BDO player.

Later, with three months of the season already gone, our final member of the Class of 2010 would be playing catch up from the beginning. With the support of a number of illustrious PDC names, and a determination to make darts his living, Ian ‘Diamond’ White finally made the decision to join the PDC and attempt to become one of a select few to play both World Championships in a calendar year.

As the UK contingent of the class of 2010 prepared for their debut event, in Gibraltar, another equally remarkable assault was being planned on the holiday isle of Mallorca. 32 year old Antonio Alcinas, a relatively unknown Spaniard who’s best result was reaching the last 64 of the 2005 Winmau World Masters, was preparing for his entry into the fray.

In 2009 ‘El Dartador’ had discovered a renewed passion for the game and the belief that he could make an impact on the big stage. The vagaries of the PDC system meant that his European passport gave him the irresistible opportunity of success and winning the Spanish National title had filled Alcinas with confidence.

This confidence was borne out later, with a run to the semi finals of the PDC World Cup that included a victory over Gary Anderson inspired Scotland and only ended at the hands of eventual winners, Holland. Antonio Alcinas had arrived.

So there we have it, the new intake that would play with intent over that year: Heydon, Hylton, Farmer, Rand and White, with Alcinas representing Europe. How would they fare?

Part 2 – The Debut Year

The new boys announced their arrival with Nigel Heydon reaching a semi final during his first weekend of competitions and taking out a range of famous names along the way.

Alcinas reached a quarter final, steadily picking up valuable prize money for the European Order of Merit and the European Championships later in the year.

The rest began in mixed fashion – Farmer plodded steadily toward the UK Open but did not trouble the Pro Tour events.

Hylton struggled to come to terms with playing players who had inspired him, players he had only watched on TV. He failed to qualify for the first major of the year, the UK Open.

Farmer departed at the last 96 stage so it was left to Nigel Heydon to fly the flag for the newcomers. And  fly it he did with a fine run to the last 16. The run included a victory over 2005 World Championship finalist, Mark Dudbridge. It was a decent start for the trailblazers but they were yet to set the world on fire.

It wasn’t long before we saw signs of the newcomers really starting to settle into the challenge. Scott Rand & Ian White were now on board while Farmer and Hylton were beginning to show signs of what they could do. A sprinkling of impressive victories over name players such as Colin Osborne, Andy Hamilton, Kevin Painter and Jamie Caven backed this up.

The annual jaunt to Las Vegas proved a turning point for Hylton who secured some important victories earning him valuable prize money to get his campaign going.

Nigel Heydon twice battled gamely against Phil Taylor knowing victory would secure a dream place at the World Matchplay in Blackpool. Although The Undertaker was not successful, Taylor was given a scare and notice had been served.

Scott Rand was now beginning to make an impact, already earning over £2000 on the Pro Tour. Ian White had also got into his stride and had already reached the last 16 of a Pro Tour event. Despite no representative at the 2010 World Matchplay, the newcomers were represented by Antonio Alcinas at the European Championships, having qualified via the European Order of Merit.

Mark Hylton was the only traveller to Australia for that year’s Players Championship event. Mile High sensationally reached the final, despite being 1-4 down in the first round, where he was defeated by, former World Champion, Dennis Priestley. Things were looking good for the boys of 2010.

The following month saw the Class of 2010 move up a gear. Steve Farmer reached a Pro Tour final and then superbly won an event several weeks later while Ian White reached a semi final shortly after.

Steve farmer Floor final

His event victory secured Farmer a place at The World Grand Prix in Dublin where a scrappy first round loss to Steve Brown would be an important milestone on Farmer’s steep learning curve.

Heydon had evened out but was steadily progressing whilst Ian White was homing in on an Ally Pally World Championship place.

In November it was Mark Hylton’s turn to come to the TV party. He won through to the Grand Slam of Darts, via the wildcard qualifier, where, in the final match, he reversed his previous defeat by Priestley.

mh gsod 2010 great wide stage shot

In a Group of Death that included Gary Anderson, Mark Webster and Wayne Jones, Hylton bowed out at the group stage but his valiant performances had left their mark and given a glimpse of better to come from the former airline cabin manager.

By the end of the 2010 season Heydon, Farmer, Alcinas & Hylton had qualified for the World Championships, while Ian White had missed his chance of entering the record books by a single place. Scott Rand’s late start to the season meant that he would have to wait until the end of 2011 for his chance of Ally Pally glory.

All of the newcomers automatically retained their tour cards for the 2011/12 season so, with playing rights for the next year safely in the bag, who would impress on the biggest stage of all?

Steve Farmer was the first to make his appearance on the Ally Pally stage and despite a late rally he went down tamely to The Asset, Paul Nicholson.

Nigel Heydon got off to a bad start and despite his best effort was shaded in round one by Robert Thornton.

Antonio Alcinas had drawn the short straw and despite some great legs succumbed 3-0 to James Wade.

Having got off to the slowest start in 2010 it was Mark Hylton who was finishing the season the strongest and he continued this in London by defeating Steve Beaton in round one and Colin Lloyd in round two.

Mark Worlds1

By the time he went into his last 16 clash with Mark Webster, Hylton had hit the most 180’s in the tournament but couldn’t get past the Welshman who went on to beat Phil Taylor in the next round and reach the semi finals.

So the class of 2010 had started well – one Pro Tour win, one runner up, 3 semi finals and a smattering of quarter finals was a decent haul for year one. Mark Hylton & Nigel Heydon had reached the last 16 of two major tournaments while Steve Farmer still had one major to go at having qualified for the Player’s Championship Finals.

Three of the guys were deservedly on the short list for the PDC’s 2010 Newcomer of the Year award and Mark Hylton’s World Championship performance ensured he claimed the trophy to join the exclusive best newcomer’s club.

2010 Summary

PDC Ranking Position: Farmer 50 | Hylton 54 | Heydon 55 | Alcinas 71 | White 89 | Rand 97

Pro Tour Results: Wins – 1 | Runner Up – 2 | Semi Final – 3 | Quarter Final – 5 | Last 16 – 16

Majors:

UK Open – 3 Qualified (1 x L16)
World Matchplay – 0

European Championship 1 (1 x L32)

World Grand Prix – 1 (1 x L32)

Grand Slam – 1 (1 x L32)

World Championships – 4 (3 x L64 + 1 x L16)

Part 3

2011 The Difficult Second Year?

Just like that difficult second album, or the second season in football’s Premier League, year two would see the honeymoon over, and new pressures arriving, but all the Class of 2010 started steadily in the Pro Tour events.

The first major of 2011 was the Players Championship Finals and following his first round exit from the World Championships Steve Farmer had said to me “enough of this first round s**t, that’s the last of them!”

And he was not wrong. A superb run saw the 2010 debutant reach the semi finals in fine style with wins over Mark Walsh, Colin Osborne and Colin Lloyd. An in-form Gary Anderson proved too strong in the semi final with a 10-7 victory but Farmer had shown what he was capable of and was hungry for more.

Back on the Pro Tour Scott Rand was making his presence felt with two quarter finals, a semi final and three last 16 appearances in the first couple of months. Some huge scalps had been taken along the way and `Cool Hand’ was showing just how good a player he was and was well positioned for the upcoming majors.

Ian White also had a great start to 2011, qualifying for the UK Open and reaching a Pro Tour final along the way. However due to sponsor and external issues, it was a tough start to the year for the “Diamond”.

Antonio Alcinas had started with an even bigger bang getting to a Pro Tour final on the first weekend, in Germany, thus also being right in the mix for major tournament qualification.

Antonio Alcinas

Following his sterling efforts at the World Championships, Mark Hylton had begun 2011 in steady fashion and had himself qualified for the UK Open. Then one May weekend in Austria Hylton exploded into form, reaching a quarter final and a semi final on consecutive days, moving him into a high position in the Players Championship Order of Merit.

Steve Farmer’s form had dipped during the first part of 2011 and he slipped up, as Hylton had in 2010, by failing to qualify for the UK Open in Bolton.

As for the Open itself, Scott Rand had qualified and made a decent debut but was nudged out early on the back of some superb finishing from Steve Beaton.

Ian White was the highest qualifier of the bunch but a tough draw saw him blown out by Gary Anderson in the last 64.

Meanwhile Mark Hylton was on something of a roll. Wins over Brian Woods, Geoff Whitworth, Andy Jenkins, and the dangerous Andrew Gilding preceded a superb last 16 defeat of Peter Wright and brought a quarter final against Denis Ovens. Despite a disappointing 10-6 loss, it was another leap in the right direction for the man who was now top of the Class of 2010.

Immediately following the UK Open were more critical qualifiers and another big effort from Hylton brought another semi final. During this wonderful run Hylton produced some top class darts. Over the course of four matches against the highest quality opposition,  including Micheal van Gerwen, he won over twenty legs without reply and was, at times, unplayable.

Scott Rand was also maintaining his own run of form and, despite a few minor wobbles as the deadline approached, both he and Hylton made it to the Winter Gardens for the World Matchplay in July. Such was Hylton’s form he only narrowly missed out on the toughest major to qualify for – The European Championships.

Scott Rand

In Blackpool both men received difficult first round draws and failed to clear the first hurdle, Rand gaining more vital experience against the wily Wayne Jones and Hylton earning plaudits for averaging nearly 100 and running Phil Taylor close. The pair took away many positives from their experience of the matchplay format against the big guns of darts.

DARTS

Following the World Matchplay the summer break would prove tough for some of the players as Scott Rand and Nigel Heydon found themselves desperately disappointed at not being able to attend the Pro Tour events in Canada due to sponsorship issues.

Meanwhile after a slow start on the Pro Tour Ian White was working closely with Mile High and his management, results were soon coming in as morale and determination were boosted. Steve Farmer, meanwhile, seemed content to dip in and out of the tour with what must have been another plan to come strong at the end of the year.

The hard work put in at the start of the season ensured that once again the Class of 2010 would be represented at the World Grand Prix in Dublin. Now a force to be reckoned with, Mark Hylton blazed a trail to the quarter finals, defeating Mark Walsh and, impressively, Simon Whitlock before bowing out to a resurgent Richie Burnett.

The Class of 2010 were improving at every stage and they would have had greater Grand Prix representation had Scott Rand not been cruelly denied qualification at the last gasp by the aforementioned Burnett.

Elsewhere, Antonio Alcinas had been quietly strengthening his European Order of Merit position to ensure qualification for the World Championship. Ian White had produced some incredible consistency in the face of some terrible draws and Nigel Heydon was returning to his early form and looking a serious danger again.

So it proved.

Mark Hylton hit another purple patch in the floor tournaments, reaching more quarter finals and semi finals in the weeks after his Dublin success. Ian White and Nigel Heydon smashed their way into the Grand Slam of Darts through the wildcard route that bore fruit for Hylton in 2010.

Ian White 2011

White also ensured that it would be a full house at the 2012 World Championships with a superb end of season run that included quarter final and last 16 places. Heydon had been in superb form on the Pro Tour reaching quarter finals with assured regularity.

As in 2010, the Grand Slam of Darts should have been a warning to everybody that the Class of 2010 were not to be underestimated. Heydon and White kicked off superbly, defeating Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld respectively. More importantly they gained three matches of invaluable experience on the pressurised TV stage – good preparation for the imminent World Championships.

A shuffling of the PDC calendar saw the Players Championships finals moved to December 2011 giving an extra opportunity for the Class of 2010 to attack the majors.

Mark Hylton bowed out early to Mark Walsh but the baton was brilliantly carried by Scott Rand, who defeated Jamie Caven, James Wade and Raymond van Barneveld in a stunning run to the semi final, only to be thwarted at the penultimate hurdle by an inspired Kevin painter, whose name seemed to be on the trophy. Once more at a major the Class of 2010 had yielded two qualifiers and a semi final spot. Only the World professional Championships remained to conclude a superb second year.

Part 4

2012 World Championship and End of Term Report

Impressively, all six of the 2010 alumni qualified for the 2012 World Championships. Each player had so far stated their case both in ranking events and televised majors and shown evidence that they could make an impact on the PDC rankings.

Nigel Heydon led the defending World Champion, Adrian Lewis, two sets to nil and was only pipped in a last leg decider.

Ian White pushed Rob Thornton all the way but went down 3-1 to ‘The Thorn’ who has made a habit of removing the 2010 boys from their debut World Championship!

Mark Hylton featured in one of the best games of the first round against the rapid fire Dutch Destroyer, losing to Vincent van de Voort in a last set decider.

Antonio Alcinas lost another thriller to The Hammer, Andy Hamilton, to leave just two of the Class of 2010 standing at the Ally Pally. Hamilton went on to reach the final, losing to Adrian Lewis.

Scott Rand enjoyed a cool debut as he whitewashed The Pieman, Andy Smith. A second round tussle with Colin Lloyd saw Cool Hand start favourite against the former world number one; further evidence of the progress that Class of 2010 have made. However, it was not to be this year as Jaws ruined Rand’s first match as a professional, dumping him out of the tournament.

Steve Farmer’s master plan of laying low and coming on strong at the end of the season appeared to have worked to a tee. Farmer defeated Ronnie Baxter in round one and qualifier Kevin Munch in round two to reach a last 16 dust up with James Wade. Again the this round proved a bridge too far for the 2010 guys, Farmer losing out to The Machine.

Thus Steve Farmer was the most successful of the bunch at Ally Pally 2012, a tournament that saw all players put up a good fight and Scott Rand make the decision to give up the lorry driving and become a full time darts pro.

2011 Summary

PDC Ranking Position: Hylton 33 (up 21 places from 2010) | Farmer 36 (14) | Rand 41 (58) | Heydon 43 (12) | Alcinas 51 (20) | White 54 (35)
Pro Tour Results: Wins – 0 | Runner Up – 2 | Semi Final – 6 | Quarter Final – 14 | Last 16 – 22
Majors:

Player Championship Finals (2010) – 1 Qualified (1 x Semi)

UK Open – 5 Qualified (1 x Qtr, 1 x L64, 1 x L96, 2 x L160)

World Matchplay – 2 Qualified (2 x L32)

European Championship – 1 Qualified (1 x L32)
World Grand Prix – 1 Qualified (1 x Qtr)
Players Championship Finals (2011) – 2 Qualified (1 x Semi, 1 x L32)
World Championships – 6 Qualified (1 xL16, 1 x L32, 4 x L64)

Part 5 – End of Term Report

So here we are after almost two full seasons. The progress of the Class of 2010 is there for all to see. All six players are in, or around, the top fifty in the PDC Order of Merit. Mark Hylton is one place outside the top 32 and three others are within striking distance; all are going in the right direction, some quite quickly.

One member of the class has won a floor event and three more have been to Pro Tour finals. In majors two have been to a semi final and one has made a brace of quarter final appearances at the PDC’s premier events.

The entire class have performed admirably against the best of their peers, both on TV and away from the cameras. Between them they have represented the class of 2010 at every PDC event in the last two years (with the exception of the Premier League & Championship League of Darts).

It is an impressive litany of success and to do it within the first two years of joining the PDC is remarkable. Somewhat surprisingly they have stayed under the radar for most part due to the arrival in 2011 of some more famous faces – Dave Chisnall and John Henderson for example.

Dave Chisnall

There is another reason why the Class of 2010 deserve huge credit for the impression they have made on the PDC. I have been told separately, and by the players themselves, that a number of other players from unheralded backgrounds (players such as Mick Todd, Matt Edgar & youngsters like Adam Smith-Neale) took huge inspiration to enter the PDC based on the exploits of the Class of 2010.

Todd, Edgar, and the like played with and against players such as Rand and Heydon in the amateur arena and took the plunge at the PDC Qualifying School at the start of 2011 others were spurred on by the thought “if bloody Mark Hylton can get that far, I could do even better!”

Players such as John Henderson, Dave Chisnall and Brian Woods all followed Ian White after seeking Diamond’s advice, inspired by his success.

If more evidence were needed of the inspiration provided by the Class of 2010, look no further than the year James Richardson has had. After following a near identical route to “Mile High” It has been a year almost identical to the one Mark Hylton enjoyed in 2010 and a year that bubbled to the surface with his spectacular trouncing of Raymond van Barneveld at the 2012 World Championship.

Due to a number of changes that have taken place with the qualifying criteria (with more in the pipeline) it will be difficult for new players to make such an impact in future years. I believe that the Class of 2010 will go from strength to strength and will come to be regarded as a unique group.

Six guys with little or no top level experience who had only twelve months to secure tour cards and only another year to break into the Order of Merit top 64. All six achieved both targets and have shaken up the comfortable world of professional darts, inspiring others to do the same along the way.

What will they future bring? Will any other intake compare to the Class of 2010?


Article originally appeared at Dartsmad.com

(Four Parts during 2012)