February has changed beyond all recognition since I began my top flight darts career. In 2005 there were only a handful of PDC affiliated events and only one that I can recall being able to play. It was, however, the start of ‘The Wizard’s journey. I reached the Q-Final, of the Southwest UK Open Qualifier (PDC), and qualified for the TV event, on day one!
Being a ‘new boy’ on the tour, although you could barely call it a tour back then, can have its advantages. Catching an unsuspecting Peter Manley by surprise in round one and defeating hi 5-1 set me on my way.
In reaching the Qtr I squeezed past Kevin Painter and Ronnie Baxter 5-4 before being defeated in a good tussle by Andy Jenkins. Never one to doubt my own capability it seemed quite natural to perform as well, but to defeat three such world class players must have added to my confidence for future events.
It seems that this was where my connection with the UK Open was formed and the event has played an important role ever since. I love the format and the intensity of it all. Bolton felt very comfortable to me and I expected to do well.
Right from that first qualification everything seemed to fall into place. The main event was held in June, which had given me even more time to settle in, and I was determined to make an impression.
Entering, as a pro qualifier, after a couple of rounds was a bonus. I was fresh and used to the atmosphere. I kicked off by defeating the resilient Andy Boulton and then a solid Belgian player, Yves Cottenge, to reach the last 32 and an encounter with Mick Manning. Mick was a fine, under-recognised, player who had won World Soft-Tip titles and reached the later stages of the World Championship. I learned a huge amount about Matchplay and pipped him 11-10. ‘The Wizard’ had begun to develop a knack of winning deciding legs!
The last sixteen pitched me against Lionel Sams. ‘The Lion’ has achieved many things in darts including a 9 dart finish and many event wins. However, the previous rounds experience served me well and a 10-6 win secured my place in the Qtr-Final, on debut.
The Qtr finals of a TV major is where the event changes, especially for a newcomer, procedures, TV briefings, and interviews etc. all become part of the package. It is impossibly to know how much effect this has or whether other factors such as fatigue or a sense of ‘already done well’ kicks in. Many outsiders fall at this hurdle, especially at the UK Open, after superb runs up to that point. It was no different for me as Roland Scholton waved me off with a comfortable 11-4 win.
Good luck to all those, Amateur or Professional, who are attempting to qualify for this years event. These days its the first ranking major of the season so it will be upon us within weeks. I will be working hard to join you!
The 2005 UK Open was a superb experience and gave me an appetite for big events and everything that came with them. I felt relaxed on stage and believed that this would be just the start. The 2007 & 2009 events would cement that feeling, almost, completely………
Colin Osborne – is a former UK Open finalist and multiple Pro Tour winner. He also won the Championship League of Darts in 2009. He is known as ‘The Wizard’.
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