Column #CM108 Meet the players – Wales

Friday, December 31, 2021
Column CM108
Meet the players – Wales

For the PDC World Championship 2021/22 five players from Wales qualified: Jim Williams, Lewy Williams, Nick Kenny, Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton. Price is the reigning champion, Clayton the most successful player throughout 2021. The two are connected by friednship and rivalry on stage. In the PDC World Cup they are a team – they won the event in 2020.

We saw a very similar constellation in the inaugural BDO World Championship. There also were two high class Welsh players who were the best of friends and big rivals and who played together – winning in winning the very first WDF World Cup: Alan Evans and Leighton Rees. Rees defeated Evans in the quarterfinals and won the tournament. At the 1979 BDO World Championship Rees again defeated Evans, this time in the semi-finals – but lost himself in the final against John Lowe.

Rees and Evans both took part several more times in the World Championship, Rees for the last time in 1990. Evans took part for the last time in 1988 (and in 1987 once again reached the semi-finals).

In this year’s World Championship Price and Clayton could have met in the quarterfinals as well.  Last year, Clayton lost in the third round to Joe Cullen – he could have met Price only in the final. This year, Clayton lost in the fourth round against a great playing Michael Smith.

But there were of course many more Welsh players who took part in both World Championships and there were a few more Welsh World Champions – though Price, so far, is the only one in the PDC.  But a few Welsh players appeared in the later rounds of the PDC World Championship – Jamie Lewis reached the semi-finals in 2018 and in 2002 and 2003 Richie Burnett stood in the quarterfinals.

In the BDO World Championship the Welsh fared better. After Leighton Rees we had with Richie Burnett in 1995 the next Wesh World Champion (he defeated Raymond van Barneveld in the final) and in both 1996 and in 1998 stood in the semi-finals. In 2008, Mark Webster followed – his opponent in the final was Simon Whitlock.

And in the last BDO World Championship played in 2020 we had an all Welsh final in which Wayne Warren defeated Jim Williams. Warren had his first appearance in the 2005 BDO World Championship where he lost third round to Mervyn King.

There was the sort of forgotten Welshman Ritchie Davies who in 2003 reached the final of the tournament – and lost to Raymond van Barneveld. Davies had qualified the first time for the 1997 World Championship and took part in it every year until 2004 when he stood in the quarterfinals.

Several more Welsh players can be found among the participants over the years – players like Sean Palfrey, Ceri Morgan, Peter Locke, James Marshall and Eric Burden were regulars in the 1980s until the mid 1990s.

In 1992, Martin Phillips for the first time took part and reached the quarterfinals. He returned in 1993 and 1994 and then took a break. In 2003 he was back and after 2007 he took part every year.  In 2010 and 2011 he stood in the semi-finals. All in all the number of participants in the BDO World Championship dropped over the years.

In the first years of the PDC World Championship between 1994 and 2000 no Welsh player took part. That finally changed when Richie Burnett switched to the PDC and from 2001 for some years qualified for the event.

In 2003 and 2007 Wayne Atwood qualified. In 2005, Alan Reynolds was the Welsh qualifier.  In 2006 we find Steve Alker – who was in 2001 among the participants in the BDO World Championship.  From 2007 to 2010 Barrie Bates represented Wales in the PDC tournament. He was joined in 2010 by Mark Webster, who had switched over from the BDO, and by Steve Evans who only qualified this year.  Burnett returned in 2012 and joined Webster for three more years.

In 2013 for the first time Jamie Lewis qualified by the Development Tour Order of Merit.

In 2015, Gerwyn Price appeared for the first time at Ally Pally (this year and the next one he qualified by the Pro Tour Order of Merit).  Two years later in 2017 Jonny Clayton made his debut.  In 2018 Mark Webster took a break and joined the commentating team of Sky Sports.  Price and Clayton stayed and were joined by various other Welsh players.

In 2021 Nick Kenny made his debut, in 2022 it was Jim Williams and Lewy Williams. Both Price and Clayton were at the start of the World Championship 2021/2022 among the favourites to win the title.

The best-known dart players from Wales are: 

Leighton Rees: Rees was born on January 17, 1940 and passed away on June 8, 2003.  Since 1976 he was a darts professional after he had – like Evans – become well-known as participant in the televised Indoor League.  In 1976, Rees reached the final of the News of the World and he won one year later, together with Evans and Rocky Jones, the inaugural WDF World Cup.  In 1978, Rees won the inaugural BDO World Championship. Although he didn’t win much more he remained for many years a popular player. From 1990 he often appeared toegther with his friend Alan Evans on the exhibition circuit.

Alan Evans: Evans was born June 14, 1949 and reached the final of the 1972 News of the World, the first ever televised tournament, and won the 1975 British Open – the first event to be televised by the BBC. In the same year he won the World Masters as well.  In 1977, he was member of the winning Welsh World Cup Team of the very first WDF World Cup. In the BDO World Championship he twice reached the semi-finals. Evans passed away at the age of 49 in 1999 after several years with health problems. Named after him is the 150 finish with three bullseyes.

Ceri Morgan: Morgan was born on December 22, 1947 and passed away on 29.  He took part in the BDO World Championship from 1979 to 1987 and in 1980, 1981 and 1984 stood in the quarterfinals.

Peter Locke: Locke had his BDO World Championship debut in 1983. He reached the quarterfinals in 1984 and 1986 – and in 1986 he defeated along the way, among other, Paul Lim.  In 2006, Locke reappeared in the UK Open but lost his first match.

Martin Phillips: Phillips was on April 30, 1960 and played from 1988 until 2019 on the BDO Circuit.  In 2010 and 2011 he reached the semi-finals of the BDO World Championship.  Over the years he won several tournaments and played his best year in 2014 when he won his only major event, the World Masters. At his World Championship debut 1991 he lost to Phil Taylor. With different partners – Eric Burden and Sean Palfrey – he won the WDF Europe Cup Pairs a number of times. In 2019, he took part for the last time in the BDO World Championship but lost first round.

Richie Burnett:  Burnett was born in 1967 and started his career after the split in 1994 were he won several BDO tournaments. He entered the BDO World Championship 1995 – his debut, as the number 2 seed – and won the title. On his way to the final he defeated Peter Wright in the first round. After he lost in the first round of the 199 BDO World Championship, he switched to the PDC (but took part until 2001 in the World Masters). Burnett was far less successful in the PDC than he had been in the BDO but in 2001 stood in the final of the World Matchplay where he lost to Phil Taylor. After that he lost his form, suffered from dartitis and had some financial problems.  In 2012, he returned and played together with Mark Webster as Team Wales until 2015 in the PDC Worlds. He then was tested positive for drugs and was banned from playing in the PDC.  In 2017, he won back his Tour Card but soon lost it again.

Wayne Warren: Warren was born on June 12, 1962 and in 2003 began to compete on the BDO Circuit.  In 2013, he won the BDO International Open – his first tournament win.  In 2005, he qualified for the first time for the BDO World Championship. In 2018, he stood in the quarterfinals and then in 2020 he won it. With the end of the BDO his career came to a standstill. In 2021, he took part without success in the PDC Qualifying School and now plays on the WDF Circuit.

Mark Webster: The 1983 born Webster played from 2005-2009 with a lot of success on the BDO Circuit but switched to the ODC after he won the BDO World Championship in 2008.  He had a few good years but then suffered from dartitis, slid down the rankings and lost his Tour Card.  So far, he has not tried to get it back.

Barrie Bates: Bates was born on October 17, 1969 and started to play on the PDC Circuit in 2002 and at first was successful in floor events. He was even the floor event player of the year in 2006. In the same year, he reached the final of the UK Open. In 2009, he stood in the quarterfinals of the PDC World Championship. In 2010, he reached, together with Mark Webster, the final of the inaugural PDC World Cup. In following years he had some problems both with injuries and gout and lost his Tour Card. He got it back in Qualifying School 2019.

Jamie Lewis: Lewis, born 1991, started his darts carreer in 2009 on the BDO Circuit, but soon switched to the PDC where he was most successful in floor events before reaching, out of the blue, the semi-finals of the 2018 PDC World Championship.  But after that he lost both his form and his Tour Card.  So far, he hasn’t gotten it back. Lewis suffers from an anxiety disorder.

Jim Williams: The 1984 born Williams played from 2012-2020 on the BDO Circuit and won several Open titles. In 2018, he stood in the semi-finals of the World Masters and in 2020 the final of the World Championship. After the end of the BDO he tried in vain to get a Tour Card.  So, Williams played on the PDC Challenge Tour and was so successful that he headed the UK Challenge Tour Order of Merit at the end of 2021. He was awarded a Tour Card for 2022.

Gerwyn Price:  Born in 1985, Price managed in a short time an unbelievable rise in the PDC.  Barrie Bates had met the former rugby player at some local tournaments and advised him to take part in Qualifying School – and Price earned a Tour Card 2014 in his first go.  In 2016, he won his first Players Championship. In 2017, he reached the final of the UK Open.  In 2018, he won the Grand Slam.  He defended his Grand Slam title in 2019, won the World Grand Prix in 2020 – and 2021 he won the World Championship, the World Matchplay and the Grand Slam. No other Welsh player has been so successful in the PDC.

Jonny Clayton: Born in 1974, Clayton played for a few years on the BDO Circuit before he switched to the PDC in 2015. He was not such a high-flyer as Gerwyn Price but in 2017 won his first Players Championship and in 2018 an European Tour event.  In 2020, together with Price, he won the PDC World Cup – and never looked back. In 2021, he won the Masters, the World Series Final, the Premier League and the World Grand Prix – to be sure he is the player of the year!

Lewy Williams: Williams was born on January 18, 2002 and started to play darts very recently, in 2017.  In 2020, he qualified via the Riley’s Amateur Qualifiers for the UK Open and played himself among the 64. In 2021, he got a Tour Card and qualified both for the European Championship and the current PDC World Championship.

 

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Charis Mutschler
The founder of Global Darts, darts journalist Charis Mutschler hails from Marbach, near Stuttgart, Germany. A regular at most major PDC tournaments, a lover of literature, dance and music and cats, Charis' popular writings about darts and its players often transcend the usual. She brings something unique to the chroniclers of the sport we all love.