Jamie Hughes won his first senior PDC title at the inaugural Czech Darts Open in Prague on Sunday evening, to confirm a Betfred World Matchplay debut in the process.
The former BDO star claimed his PDC Tour Card in January and has produced some blistering performances on the Pro Tour with minimal reward, but he secured his first PDC title in just his fifth month on the circuit, defeating Stephen Bunting 8-3 in the final at the PVA Expo.
This was the final event before the World Matchplay cut-off and Hughes needed to win the tournament in order to clinch a maiden Winter Gardens appearance. ‘Yozza’ rose to the occasion in sensational style, breezing past a number of established stars to clinch the £25,000 top prize.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win my first title, I’ve worked so hard for this moment,” said Hughes. “I’ve been playing well for a while now, better than I played this weekend strangely enough, and now I’ve finally got the results to show for it.
“To make the World Matchplay so soon is fantastic for me and now I can’t wait to show the world what I’m about on one of the biggest stages in world darts.”
The showpiece was contested by two European Tour final debutants and Bunting drew first blood with a break of throw, after Hughes started nervously with a series of missed doubles. ‘The Bullet’ then produced a classy 95 kill to extend his lead to 3-1, but Hughes responded with aplomb.
The 33-year-old reeled off seven consecutive legs to storm to glory, averaging 96.63, firing in three maximums and converting 44% of his attempts at double. Hughes crashed in a clinical 83 kill to seal the lead in leg seven, but the turning point came in the following leg.
Bunting was bidding to restore parity at four apiece, but the Black Country star conjured up a delightful 120 outshot to move 5-3 ahead and this deflated his opponent, who squandered opportunities to reduce the arrears in the closing stages as Hughes became the fifth different winner on the European Tour this year.
‘Yozza’ kicked off his campaign with victory over Devon Petersen, before whitewashing two-time world champion Adrian Lewis to book his place in Finals Day. The Tipton ace then overcame Ron Meulenkamp, Ian White & Simon Whitlock to reach the final, where he prevailed in emphatic fashion.
Bunting, who claimed two PDC Pro Tour titles in 2014 and 2016, was bidding to win his first stage title as a PDC player, but the former Lakeside world champion secured £10,000 for his efforts and had plenty of positives to take from the weekend.
“I am proud of my achievements this weekend, even winning just one game I would’ve taken positives from,” said Bunting. “It shows progress that I’ve reached my first European Tour final, hopefully it will be the first of many, and I can take my good form into the upcoming TV events.”
It was an extraordinary tournament in Prague, with 11 of the 16 seeds biting the dust in the second round. Nevertheless, the other big winner this weekend was Keegan Brown, as his run to the semi-finals saw him seal a World Matchplay return.
The former World Youth champion defeated Michael van Gerwen for the second time on the European Tour in 2019, before also dumping out Mensur Suljovic en route to the last four, and the success of Hughes and Brown saw James Wilson miss out on a place in Blackpool by just £250.
Another highlight from the weekend saw Gerwyn Price land a magical nine-darter in his second round victory over Glen Durrant. ‘Duzza’ led 3-0 but the Welshman produced an inspired fightback and rattled in the perfect leg to close out victory, but his run was ended by Simon Whitlock in the last 16.
Photo Credit: Jonas Hunold/PDC Europe
2019 Czech Darts Open
Sunday June 30
Keegan Brown 6-4 Danny Noppert
Mensur Suljovic 6-3 Ted Evetts
Stephen Bunting 6-5 Chris Dobey
Daryl Gurney 6-1 Jermaine Wattimena
Ian White 6-1 Andrew Gilding
Jamie Hughes 6-3 Ron Meulenkamp
Mervyn King 6-4 Corey Cadby
Simon Whitlock 6-3 Gerwyn Price
Keegan Brown 6-2 Mensur Suljovic
Stephen Bunting 6-3 Daryl Gurney
Jamie Hughes 6-5 Ian White
Simon Whitlock 6-4 Mervyn King
Stephen Bunting 7-4 Keegan Brown
Jamie Hughes 7-3 Simon Whitlock
Jamie Hughes 8-3 Stephen Bunting