Home champion wanted as Open returns to city

From left: Pairs winners Lee Smith and Les Rance, with runners-up Darren Barnes and Darrell Manchip

Portsmouth individuals final is a Barnes-stormer

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The man most pleased to see the Hampshire Open returning to its roots in Portsmouth has challenged the city’s darts players to provide a home champion.

On Saturday the county’s flagship tournament will be held in the city for the first time in 30 years as a guaranteed £1,000 first prize goes up for grabs at the Pyramids Centre.

It will be a proud day for Hampshire County Darts Organisation’s general secretary, Frank Branscombe.

He will be realising his ambition of seeing the competition return to its roots and wants Portsmouth to show the darting talent it boasts.

Branscombe, who lives in Paulsgrove, said: ‘I’ll be retiring from organising the event in a few years and I’m so pleased that we have been able to bring the Hampshire Open back home to Portsmouth before then – the icing on the cake would be having a Portsmouth winner.

‘Portsmouth has a lot of talented darts players so there’s no reason why there can’t be a home winner.

‘We’ve currently got a Portsmouth champion in Andy Jenkins, so hopefully we can continue that trend.

‘The most important thing is people turn out in numbers to make the event a success so it can stay in the city for the long term.’

Cosham’s Jenkins is a former world-number eight and the latest in a number of big names to have won the event, including world champions Les Wallace and Scott Mitchell.

World championship finalist Mike Gregory was the last man to win it in Portsmouth in 1986.

Since then the competition had a nomadic existence until it settled in Southampton 16 years ago.

Branscombe always hoped that one day it would come back to Portsmouth, but finding a suitable venue proved a stumbling block until Modus Sports, which has held several professional darts events in the city, provided an introduction to the Pyramids.

He added: ‘I’ve always felt the event would meet with the approval of the players of Portsmouth and I’m very grateful to the Pyramids for helping make that happen, L Kattenhorn & Partners for providing the prize fund that attracts so many top players and Modus Sports who have enabled us to hold a ladies’ event alongside the men’s one for the first time in years.’

The £1,000 first prize is part of a £2,600 prize pot in the men’s competition which will see anyone reaching the last 16 win money.

Meanwhile, the ladies have a £1,000 prize fund, with winner taking home £500 and cash prizes for the last eight.

What’s more, both the men’s and ladies’ winners will receive places in the finals of the BDO’s Winmau World Masters and the international playoffs for the BDO World Championship.

Doors will open at 9.30am on Saturday and players can enter up until 11.30am, with the competition starting at 12.15pm. Entry costs £10 for men and £7 for ladies and is open to anyone aged 13 years or older on the day.

For more information visit hampshiredarts.org.uk or call 07901 650807.