HARRY WARD claimed his first PDC title at Players Championship 16 in Barnsley on Sunday, defeating Max Hopp 8-7 in a dramatic final.
21-year-old Ward, who won his PDC Tour Card at UK Qualifying School in January 2019, continued his remarkable rise with a first title within four months of playing full-time on the professional circuit on the second day of the ProTour weekend double-header.
The Derbyshire youngster was ranked 88th on the PDC Order of Merit at the start of play but produced a string of impressive displays to reach his third ranking quarter-final of the year.
Defeats of Vincent Kamphuis, Madars Razma, James Richardson meant that the Unicorn man would meet World Championship runner-up Michael Smith in the Last 16, where a 145 finish saw him come through a deciding leg.
Ward, part of the MDA stable of players, then overcame Nathan Aspinall 6-5, which he followed up with a 7-4 win over Jose de Sousa to reach the final where he held his nerve to defeat Hopp and claim the £10,000 star prize.
“This is unreal, I’m so, so happy to win this title,” said Ward.
“Max is a great player and it was a really tough final, and after I missed three darts for the match I began to doubt myself a bit.
“I rode my luck at times but that’s what you have to do sometimes and I’m really pleased that I made the most of it.
“I went to Q School without expecting to win a Tour Card so to achieve what I have done over the past few months is fantastic for me, and now I want to kick on further.”
The final between 21-year-old Ward and 22-year-old Hopp began with a stunning 133 checkout from Ward, who doubled his lead only for Hopp to fire back to restore parity.
Ward fired in his 20th 180 of the day before finding tops to break throw and 5-3 up, and followed it up with another 13-darter to take a commanding 6-3 lead.
Hopp once again fought back, taking out a magnificent 150 finish to make it three straight legs for the German number one, who was bidding for his third PDC title in just over a year.
At 7-6 up, Ward missed three match darts, allowing Hopp to his double ten with his last dart in hand to take a thrilling encounter to a last-leg shoot-out.
Hopp piled on the pressure with visits of 180 and 125, but Ward was unshaken as he took out 68 to seal a historic win in his short career.
It was also a significant day for Robert Thornton, who returned to form with a win over Michael van Gerwen in the Last 32, which he followed with the third nine-dart finish of his career in a 6-3 win over Krzyszytof Ratakski.
The former World Grand Prix champion then defeated Chris Dobey to reach his first PDC semi-final in almost two years, where he was eventually defeated by Hopp.
Back-to-back quarter-final appearances across the weekend for Dobey move him into the world’s top 32 for the first time, Challenge Tour high-flyer Scott Taylor reached his second ProTour quarter-final and Portgual’s Jose de Sousa reached his first PDC semi-final.
Peter Wright, Adrian Lewis and Corey Cadby all fell before the Last 16 stage, while Raymond van Barneveld and Players Championship 15 winner Glen Durrant both suffered first round defeats.
The next Players Championship events will be held from across the weekend June 22-23 at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan, with live action shown on video.pdc.tv
See full Players Championship 16 results at DartConnect.com
Players Championship 16 Sunday May 19, The Barnsley Metrodome
Robert Thornton 6-3 Krzysztof Ratajski
Chris Dobey 6-0 Jonny Clayton
Danny Noppert 6-2 Dave Chisnall
Max Hopp 6-2 Alan Tabern
Nathan Aspinall 6-2 Adrian Gray
Harry Ward 6-5 Michael Smith
Scott Taylor 6-3 John Henderson
Jose de Sousa 6-5 Vincent van der Voort
Quarter-FinalsRobert Thornton 6-3 Chris Dobey
Max Hopp 6-3 Danny Noppert
Harry Ward 6-5 Nathan Aspinall
Jose de Sousa 6-1 Scott Taylor
Max Hopp 7-6 Robert Thornton
Harry Ward 7-4 Jose de Sousa
Harry Ward 8-7 Max Hopp
Written by Josh Phillips