BRIDLINGTON’S number one darts player Steve Rice makes history this weekend when he becomes the first amateur to compete at the two biggest venues in the sport.
Having already tasted success last year at the Lakeside Club, home of the BDO World Championships, he will step on to the stage at Alexandra Palace on Sunday, during the PDC’s premier tournament.
Rice finished in the top two of the first Redtooth Darts national pub competition in Leeds earlier this month.
He will now play Paul Amos from Catford, south London in the final in London, with the winner receiving an all-expenses-paid trip to the World Cup of Darts in Hamburg, Germany in February.
Having recently won the Bridlington premier Darts League title for the sixth consecutive year, the 46-year-old engineer heads to the capital in good form.
Rice said: “I was a nervous wreck at the BDO event last year, so hopefully I will be calmer this time around and see what happens. I don’t play in leagues and the John Smith’s event was the first tournament I entered into and I won it.
“I play a couple of nights a week and took part in the Redtooth Darts challenge for a bit of fun to see how far I could go.”
Rice who plays at The Albion pub on Hilderthorpe Road has been playing darts for more than 30 years.
The new Redtooth Darts events, saw world number one Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor set challenges to players in more than 270 pubs around the country.
The highest 64 scorers in the country went to the national finals in Leeds, and Bridlington supplied eight of the finalists.
He was joined by Barry Balaban, Dave Bartlam, Andy Agars, Gary Rowan, Mick Finney, Guy Russett and Steph Leeson.
“You could tell it was a high standard. There were players there from Australia and South Africa, ex professionals like Chris Mason and Lionel Sams and I beat a lad from Abu Dhabi.
“I won my first group and then beat the red-hot favourite 3-0 in the second group. Alexandra Palace will be a fantastic experience and I think I will be the first amateur to play on the two world stages.”
Rice and Amos, along with 14 others players from the Redtooth Darts competition, have also qualified for the PDC Qualifying School, which takes place in January in Wigan, and all 16 players from around the UK have already received a brief mentorship from 15-time World Champion Taylor.
Rice added: “It was good to meet Phil and have a chat about darts. He’s a legend in the sport, a one-off and we’ll never see anyone like him again in darts. Phil will be at the World Championships so hopefully we’ll get chance to talk to him again then.”
Qualifying School will see players compete across four days in a bid to secure a full-time place on the PDC ProTour.
More than 120 tour cards are available for the PDC, with the majority taken by players from the PDC Order of Merit, existing card holders and through invitations. The remaining few go on offer to the Qualifying School’s winners.
“It would be nice to be the only darts pro in Bridlington,” Rice added.