Former Lakeside world champion Scott Mitchell secured his place in the last 16 of the BDO World Championship with a hard-fought 3-1 win over teenage sensation Leighton Bennett, who made history by becoming the youngest player to ever feature at the BDO World Championship.
Bennett, who celebrated his 14th birthday on New Year’s Eve, rose to prominence by claiming the BDO World Youth Championship title 12 months ago and ‘Boom Boom’ has enjoyed a remarkable year on the senior circuit which confirmed his place at the Indigo at the O2.
The 14-year-old faced a tough assignment against 2015 champion Mitchell and experience paid dividends for ‘Scotty Dog’, who produced some clinical combination finishes to establish a commanding cushion, although Bennett acquitted himself admirably in the biggest game of his life.
Mitchell raced to the first set in three straight legs, sealing the opener courtesy of a 116 kill. The 49-year-old extended his buffer with another clean sweep in set two, featuring an 81 outshot on the bull, with Bennett afforded just the solitary dart at double.
The England Youth international demonstrated glimpses of his incredible talent but he registered his first leg of the contest in the early exchanges of set three, pinning double 10 having missed tops for a 118 finish in the preceding visit.
Bennett doubled his tally with a 64 kill for a 15-dart break moments later, before closing out the set on double two after a plethora of missed doubles from Mitchell. Despite this, the Dorset star regained his poise in set four, wrapping it up by a 3-1 scoreline to confirm his passage into the last 16.
Bennett averaged 77.58 and landed a maximum on debut, becoming the youngest player in history to win a set at either the BDO or PDC World Championship and he told Eurosport that he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“It was absolutely awesome. On my debut to play a top player like Scott, who’s been there and done it. I’m over the moon to be here and I made the crowd enjoy it. At least I didn’t get beaten 9-0. That’s what I was dreading when I went 6-0 down.”
“Scott is absolutely awesome. I’ve always wanted to play him because he’s been a world champion before and he’s a top man. I’ve got a lot of time for Scott, he’s a perfect bloke,” added the teenager.
Mitchell was also full of praise for the Lincolnshire prodigy, admitting: “You cannot not play Leighton Bennett. I know he’s only 14 years old and he keeps telling everybody it’s not about the age, it’s about the way that he plays and that’s exactly how it is.
“People are getting hung up on the age, honestly he’s got a 29-year-old inside that 14-year-old body and I really worry every time I have to play him. I don’t want to play him any more”, he quipped.
Bennett, who has been tipped by Phil Taylor to become the youngest ever world champion, will return to the O2 stage on Saturday to take on 17-year-old youngster Keane Barry as he bids to defend his World Youth crown.
Sixth seed Nicky Kenny became the fourth seed to exit the men’s tournament, after losing out to Dennie Olde Kalter in a five-set thriller. The Dutchman established a 2-0 cushion before Kenny launched a stirring fightback, but Olde Kalter kept his cool to triumph with an 88.15 average.
Kenny produced a classy 120 checkout in the opening set but struggled for consistency in the early exchanges as Olde Kalter drew first blood. The Welshman kicked off set two with consecutive 15-darters but the Dutchman’s clinical combination finishing saw him extend his lead.
The debutant converted nerveless 90, 98 and 93 outshots to move 2-0 ahead, after Kenny had wired the bull for a roof-raising 170 checkout in the decider. However, the Welshman responded by snatching a hard-fought third set and finishes of 109 and 76 saw him restore parity at two apiece.
Kenny had the momentum yet the pendulum swung once again with Olde Kalter’s finishing the catalyst. The British Classic winner kicked off the fifth with 86 and 65 checkouts and although Kenny sank double 16 to stay alive, the Dutchman wrapped up the win with a fine 111 kill.
Third seed Richard Veenstra overcame impressive debutant Justin Hood in a quick-fire affair. The pair crashed in six maximums apiece but Veenstra’s finishing midway through the contest proved decisive, as the 2016 semi-finalist avoided the upset with an 86.31 average to Hood’s 90.22.
Hood made a blistering start to proceedings, firing in four maximums and averaging over 99, yet it was Veenstra who secured the opening stanza after the Somerset star missed one set dart at double five. This galvanised the Dutchman, who raced through set two with majestic 127 and 145 finishes.
Hood reduced the arrears after claiming the third set with legs of 13, 18 and 16 darts, despite a clutch 90 checkout on the bull from Veenstra. Nevertheless, missed doubles proved costly for ‘Happy Feet’ in the fourth and the Dutchman prevailed in a scrappy finale via double one.
David Evans fought back from 2-1 down and survived a match dart to edge out Nick Fullwell on his World Championship bow. ‘Stretch’ struggled with debut nerves in the opening stages but improved as the contest progressed, sealing victory despite averaging five points less than Fullwell.
The qualifier raced to the first set in three straight legs and although Evans rallied to level, Fullwell’s superior scoring saw him regain the initiative. The Wolverhampton ace had the opportunity to record a 3-1 victory but after missing the bull for a 126 clincher, Evans capitalised.
The 14th seed conjured up a set-saving 107 finish to force a fifth and final set, where he also landed a 112 checkout. Fullwell squandered six darts at double in a pivotal third leg and Evans pounced – nailing a fine 87 finish to triumph inside 12 darts and set up a clash with world No 3 Veenstra.
Ben Hazel continued his dream World Championship debut by recovering from 2-0 down to dump out the veteran Gary Robson. ‘Big Robbo’ opened up a 2-0 advantage but capitulated after the interval and Hazel reeled off three consecutive sets to triumph – clinching the win with a two-dart 91 checkout.
Ryan Hogarth will meet second seed Jim Williams for a place in the last eight after seeing off Thibault Tricole in the evening’s finale. Tricole’s win over Ross Montgomery saw him become the first Frenchman to register a win at this event, but he was unable to complete the Scottish double.
Neither player performed to their potential, but 15th seed Hogarth raced into a two-set lead and although Tricole displayed his mercurial ability to cut the deficit in set three, Hogarth completed a battling 3-1 victory with a 74 outshot on tops.
Elsewhere, four time world champion Lisa Ashton stormed into the women’s quarter-finals with a whitewash win over Paula Jacklin. ‘The Lancashire Rose’ wasn’t at her blistering best but didn’t afford Jacklin a single dart at double, sealing her spot in the last eight with a 79.81 average.
Ashton fired in a 177 in the opening leg, before registering legs of 16, 15 and 17 darts to continue the procession. Jacklin was unable to live with the power scoring of the top seed and Ashton completed the rout with a fine 79 finish on the bull followed by an effortless 110 checkout on tops.
Three-time winner Anastasia Dobromyslova will meet reigning champion Mikuru Suzuki in the last eight following a straight sets win over Sharon Prins. Dobromyslova labelled her performance as ‘disgusting’, averaging a modest 64.51 and squandering 36 darts at double in a scrappy affair.
David Evans 3-2 Nick Fullwell
Nick Kenny 2-3 Dennie Olde Kalter
Anastasia Dobromyslova 2-0 Sharon Prins
Richard Veenstra 3-1 Justin Hood
Gary Robson 2-3 Ben Hazel
Lisa Ashton 2-0 Paula Jacklin
Scott Mitchell 3-1 Leighton Bennett
Ryan Hogarth 3-1 Thibault Tricole