For the first time in 18 years there will be no local hero for Fylde coast darts fans to cheer at this month’s BetVictor World Matchplay in Blackpool.
Neither Fleetwood’s Wes Newton nor Ronnie Baxter of Mereside will feature in the annual extravaganza, which gets under way at the Winter Gardens on Saturday week.
Both players have dropped out of the PDC’s world top 16, who are seeded for the World Matchplay, and both failed to win one of the 16 qualifying places via the ProTour order of merit.
It’s the first time since 1998 that Baxter, runner-up on his debut in the tournament and a semi-finalist five times, has failed to earn a place on the Blackpool oche.
A quarter-finalist for the second time last year, Newton has appeared in eight of the last night Winter Gardens spectaculars but has paid the price after slipping to 22nd in the world rankings.
Baxter and Newton saw their final chances to qualify slip away in the weekend’s two Players Championships at Robin Park in Wigan.
To have any chance of winning a World Matchplay spot, Baxter and Newton had to win one of the tournaments or finish runner-up in both.
Newton was a first-round loser both days, though each of his conquerors went on to enjoy a successful weekend.
Ian White, who defeated Newton 6-3 on Sunday, and Jelle Klaasen, who edged him out 6-5 on Saturday, would contest the final on Sunday, which Dutchman Klaasen won 6-2.
Saturday’s final was won by 2007 World Matchplay winner James Wade, beating Kim Huybrechts in a 6-5 thriller.
Unlike Newton, Baxter at least managed to win one match, 6-4 against Ben Ward on Saturday, though a 6-3 exit Benito van de Pas followed in round two.
Baxter shared Newton’s first-round fate the following day, beaten 6-4 by Kyle Anderson.
The draw for the 22nd World Matchplay in Blackpool was made today, with the 16 seeds paired with the unseeded qualifiers.
Michael van Gerwen will be the top seed as he aims to go one better this year, when he lost out in the final to Phil Taylor (second seed), who bids to win an eighth successive Matchplay crown.
There will be Winter Gardens debuts for Baxter’s Belgian conqueror Van de Pas, Gerwyn Price, world youth champion Keegan Brown, Joe Murnan and AustralianKyle Anderson, who sealed the final qualifying place with his weekend’s work in Wigan.
Tickets for the BetVictor World Matchplay are still available for some sessions and can be purchased in person at the Winter Gardens box-office or by contacting 0844 856 1111 or www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk .
First Round Draw (BetVictor odds in brackets, schedule to be confirmed),
Michael van Gerwen (1/12) v Benito van de Pas (7/1)
Justin Pipe (1/2) v Jamie Lewis (13/8)
Simon Whitlock (4/5) v Jelle Klaasen (Evs)
Ian White (5/4) v Stephen Bunting (8/13)
Peter Wright (4/7) v Kim Huybrechts (11/8)
Mervyn King (4/6) v Andrew Gilding (6/5)
Adrian Lewis (1/12) v Joe Murnan (7/1)
Michael Smith (2/7) v Gerwyn Price (11/4)
Phil Taylor (1/20) v John Henderson (9/1)
Raymond van Barneveld (1/5) v Andy Hamilton (7/2)
Dave Chisnall (2/7) v Jamie Caven (11/4)
Robert Thornton (8/11) v Keegan Brown (11/10)
James Wade (1/4) v Kyle Anderson (3/1)
Brendan Dolan (10/11) v Vincent van der Voort (10/11)
Gary Anderson (1/8) v Steve Beaton (5/1)
Terry Jenkins (4/11) v Mensur Suljovic (11/5)