It’s that time of year again folks, the first televised PDC major of 2012 is almost upon us. The F.A. Cup of Darts aka The Speedy Hire UK Open starts in Bolton Thursday June 7th and will feature all the unique aspects of this fantastic event. Who will cause the shocks, which qualifiers will take the pro’s by surprise and who will burst through to the later stages and announce their pedigree for a future high level career!

The LPKOD team will have strong representation at this event, so of course will many other groups, area’s or even teams. For our purposes here we shall look at the preparations and chances of another two rising PDC stars. The deadly duo of Ian “Diamond” White & Mark “Mile High” Hylton.

Both are making their second professional appearance at Bolton although Mark had visited before as a amateur qualifier in 2007. The chances of an LPKOD clash increase with every success and it would be a tragedy for these two close friends who have helped each other so much to have to battle it out on the main stage at Bolton, but that’s professional darts!

The “Diamond”

Ian White is one of the PDC form horses, starting from late 2011. Ian is part of the famous class of 2010 although he began his PDC career a few months later than some. Following a strong start, and a very narrow miss for the world champs that year, Ian started 2011 with a bang a reached a Pro Tour final. However he then hit a wall and the many strains of Pro Darts began to tell, during a tough summer Ian joined the Let’s Play Knockout Darts (LPKOD) team, the alliance seemed to work well and the chance to travel and work with practice partner and friend Mark Hylton paid dividends for both players.

Ian had suffered from very tough draws, whilst playing very well, eventually however the wheel turned and Ian took full advantage. A highly professional performance in the Grand slam wildcard qualifier saw Ian claim the 3rd place playoff and upon the withdrawal of Simon Whitlock gain the expected place. The same weekend saw Ian reach a tour Qtr final and virtually secure his World Championship place for 2012. TV appearances were mixed but showed Ian’s talent, with a win over Barney, and gave him a taste of what he wanted.

2012 Season

The confidence and relaxation gained from a great end to 2011 saw Ian hit the ground running in 2012, he has reached 2 tour finals and 1 additional semi final on the tour and also gained more stage experience on The European Tour. Currently Ian is looking in position to be the big mover in 2012, he is in a qualifying position for every applicable major event and is sure to shoot up the main rankings over the next few months. Ian is a genuine straight forward chap and is well though of by all. It should not be forgotten that his experience of reaching a major final (1997 News of The World) means he has a great deal of experience and is now beginning to make it count!

The Open

Ian has a superb record in Pro Tour Open Qualifying events having competed in only two and a half series and reaching a final in both. However this is yet to be repeated in Bolton. Ian’s first attempt was hampered by joining the PDC late and only competing in three events but 2011 was a huge improvement as Diamond qualified in the top section and awaited the draw.

However it could not have been much worse, not only did Ian draw Gary Anderson, who at the time appeared unstoppable, but the game was not played on the main stage but on board 2. A poor start saw Ian defeated 9-5 despite a good rally late on. So a last 64 place on debut for Diamond, not too shabby £1000 in the bank and some highly valuable PDC major experience.

This year promises to be even better, again Ian has qualified in the top section and will await the draw, but this time with anticipation. He is a better player and has learned a huge amount over the last 12 months. His floor form would place him in the top 10 at the current time and he fears no one, whereas many of the other top pro’s do not enjoy playing the remorseless Diamond!

“Mile High”

Mark has been one of the success stories of PDC professional darts. In only 2 years he gained an automatic Tour card, climbed into the worlds top 40, qualified for The Big 5 Premier events, reached the last 16 of The World Championships on debut in 2010 and in 2011 reached the Quarter finals of two major events. This remarkable run of success is the more so due to Marks complete lack of Top Level experience.

Unlike other prominent players, he had no BDO major background or other international experience. In summary Mark has gone from playing in pubs and clubs to being on the edge of the sports elite in two years. Simply unprecedented.

2012

It has been a mixed season from Mark so far, Quarter finals on the Pro Tour being the highlight. However he has always been a slow starter and May/June is his time of year. He thinks its because of the sun! He is however beginning to return to his usual self after a few early set backs. A steady collection of rankings rather than high profile wins seems to have been the way. He is inching closer to the qualification places and has one or two events where he may at last qualify by right!

As all who have met him know Mark is a straight forward nice guy, who takes good and bad the same (at least in public) and the Team behind him are a strong knit bunch who do much the same. So expect to see more of Mile High on your screens this year as he continues his epic, fairytale journey!

The Open

The UK Open is a very special event for Mark, his 2007 qualification as an amateur Marks the point at which his life began to change. He was selected to play on the main stage, partly due to his day job of Cabin manager for an airline providing a good story (see Marks 2007 appearance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yI6HVOoMoGo) for the TV.

However unlike most in those day Mark won his stage game against Ray Carver and provided an even better tale. Unfortunately that was the end of the line that year , but he would be back.

Mark joined the PDC in 2010 but took a little time to settle in; the worst example of this was The UK Open. The desire to get back to Bolton and prove himself as a Pro Player worked against Mark and the added pressure ensured that he did not qualify. However those close to him believe this was the reason for his upturn in performance and determination to succeed, the months following this, gave an indication of the grit of Mile High.

In 2011 Mark returned to Bolton in some style – despite qualifying in the second group and having to play from Rd 1 on the opening night, he won again on the main stage defeating former Lakeside semi finalist Brian ‘Pecker’ Woods and triumphed on the smaller stage 3 to be the 1st player through to the last 64. A 9-0 win over former PDC semi finalist Andy Jenkins and 9-2 over the dangerous qualifier Andrew Gilding revealed to all that Mark was the real deal, he returned to the small stage to defeat Peter Wright in the last 16, in a sensational match.

The main stage called again for the Quarter Final against Denis Ovens. A Major Quarter for a 2nd year pro does not come round often. However it was to be the conclusion of the fairytale for 2011. A slow start after a small delay, not easy for a newcomer, and superb darts from Denis saw “Mile High” 0-5 down. Discounting a ruined leg (audience disruption) Mark then averaged over 115 for a seven leg spell that had “The Heat” reeling. It was a bridge too far and the wily Denis closed out the game 9-6.

The omens for 2012 are looking good for “Mile High”, a solid return to form during May, a qualification in the second group, drawn on the main stage, for his opening game, and of course his enjoyment and great memories of the event that has truly put Mark on the map and almost in the clouds!

Bring on Bolton!

Both guys will be working hard in the coming week to ensure they are at their best for Thursday / Friday.  Joint practice will be interspersed with open competition and quality work with other players to prepare for the differing formats and styles that can be expected at this unique event. Plenty of rest and relaxation also, as it can be a demanding few days , we hope it is and that The UK Open continues to improve and provide great tales for both.

It only remains for us to wish the Deadly Duo and all players, the very best of luck and success!

Callum Harris

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