Darts ace battles back to make the big time

Bob Crawley, right, is congratulated by world number-nine Mark Webster
Bob Crawley, right, is congratulated by world number-nine Mark Webster
Lee Cook of Phoenix North End B

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Bob Crawley has qualified for the ‘FA Cup of darts’ – just a year after his playing days in the sport looked over.

The Horndean ace lost half of his index finger in a saw accident at work, which seemed to put an end to his time on the oche.

But after completely remodelling his throwing action, the 50-year-old metal spinner battled past hundreds of fellow amateurs in Brighton to qualify for the Speedy Services UK Open next month.

And in a further boost, Crawley will be joined at the prestigious event in Bolton by his son Jason, who has also made it through to one of the PDC’s biggest tournaments on merit following wins over Premier League player Kevin Painter and two-time world champion Ted Hankey.

Both players will now compete in the UK Open finals which, like football’s FA Cup, allows amateurs to compete on the big stage with professionals.

And that could see the Crawleys come up against greats like Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld.

Crawley Snr, who plays for Phoenix Lounge in the Portsmouth Men’s League, said: ‘I’m very proud. It was something I thought I was never ever going to do again.

‘I almost gave up but to qualify for a tournament like this after the accident makes everything worthwhile.

‘When I lost my finger I was very worried. Darts had been a big part of my life for 10-to-15 years.

‘But I remodelled the way I played as it seems to have done the trick.’

Crawley added: ‘I actually played four days after my operation.

‘My hand was in a bandage but I beat the guy 2-0.

‘My friends tied little bits of tissue and were waving them like flags on their fingers and were waving them at me.’

Crawley used to throw darts from his fingertips but now has to release the arrow from further down in his hand – which he admits still does not feel right.

He said: ‘It feels unnatural.

‘I’ve just started to come back in to some form again. I’m about 80-90-per-cent at my best.

‘With a little bit of luck, I hope I’ll do well. I lost a lot of confidence after the injury but I’m getting back now.’

Crawley competed in the qualifiers in Brighton against 127 other hopefuls.

After completing the first challenge of getting the highest score from 15 darts, the next obstacle was a one-off leg of 701.

The match was a close affair but Crawley managed to hit the winning double to make it along with four other players for the finals, which start on June 7.

If he wins his first match there, he will proceed and take on India’s Prakash Jiwa – the highest seed in that round.

Meanwhile, if son Jason triumphs in his opener, he will come up against world number 12 Mark Walsh.