The first seven Riley Amateur Qualifiers for the 2017 Coral UK Open have been confirmed, following the opening weekend of knockout competitions hosted at various Rileys Sports Bars across the United Kingdom.
In total, 32 Rileys Amateur Qualifiers will compete in this year’s Coral UK Open at the Butlins Minehead Resort in March, where they may get the opportunity to lock horns with the best players in world darts. The UK Open is commonly referred to as ‘The FA Cup of Darts,’ due to the open draw format and multi-board aspect of the tournament.
The highest-profile qualifier from this weekend’s Rileys qualifiers was Steve Maish. The 53-year-old nicknamed ‘Mr Magic’, came through the qualifiers in Chester to secure a place in his 13th UK Open. The seven-time World Championship qualifier will be hoping to replicate the performance which saw him reach the last 32 back in 2006.
Lee Evans will make his third UK Open appearance in a couple of months after securing his place via the London Victoria-based qualifiers. The Gloucester has defeated Ronny Huybrechts and Rowby-John Rodriguez in Minehead over recent years, but he’s yet to go beyond the last 64, which he’ll be hoping to rectify in 2017.
Evans was one of two London Victoria qualifiers, with 21-year-old Dan Read sealing a spot in his maiden PDC major TV event. The Berkshire ace has previously competed on the PDC Challenge and Development tours, although this will be his first taste of televised action in the PDC.
The experienced Dave Prins will make his third UK Open appearance in March after coming through the Sheffield qualifiers. ‘The Badger’ has featured prominently on the BDO circuit over recent years, reaching the last 16 of the 2014 BDO World Championship, but he’s never gone beyond the last 96 in his previous two UK Open appearances.
Welsh star Gareth Pass, will also make his PDC return in Minehead. The Staffordshire-based teacher last competed competed in the PDC back in 2013, but won through to his second UK Open campaign after prevailing at the Rileys Wolverhampton qualifier.
Neil Smith secured a place in his maiden UK Open after also coming through the Wolverhampton qualifiers, and he’ll be joined by Gary Eastwood, who won the Twickenham qualifiers. Eastwood’s only other UK Open appearance came in 2010, but he also competed on the Pro Tour and Challenge Tour in his previous PDC stint.
The Rileys Amateur Qualifiers continue with a further eight knockouts on January 28-29, with Rileys Sports Bars in Coventry, Greenock, Harlow, Liverpool, Norwich and Nottingham staging events on Saturday; Leicester and South Benfleet host qualifiers on Sunday.
Dates & Venues
Friday January 20
London Victoria (Two Players Qualify) – Lee Evans, Dan Read
Saturday January 21
Chester – Steve Maish
Sheffield – Dave Prins
Twickenham – Gary Eastwood
Wolverhampton (Two Players Qualify) – Gareth Pass, Neil Smith