Stephen Bunting set to qualify for darts' World Matchplay in Blackpool after Coventry triumph
Stephen Bunting is almost certain of a place in darts' Betfred World Matchplay in Blackpool this month after ending his five-year title drought.
The 36-year-old Liverpudlian was outside the qualifying places for the Winter Gardens spectacular until he won Monday's Players' Championship in Coventry.
Fittingly, it was World Matchplay champion Dimitri Van den Bergh he defeated 8-4 in the final at the Ricoh Arena.
Bunting, a semi-finalist in the last World Championships, also defeated Gerwyn Price and Raymond van Barneveld on his way to landing the £10,000 first prize in the first of this week's four Players Championships – the last opportunities for places to be won among the 32 starters for Blackpool
Bunting said: "It's an amazing feeling to be stood here as a winner again. A lot of people know I was close to packing in a few years ago but since then I've worked so hard behind the scenes. I've put everything into this.
"Trying to qualify for the World Matchplay was my priority this week, so to come here and win the title on the first day is beyond my dreams.
"I know I'm playing well, but I do honestly believe there is a lot more in the locker and I can relax now knowing I'm going to Blackpool."
Van den Bergh's run to the final presents a positive sign for the 26-year-old ahead of his title defence in the Winter Gardens spectacular starting on July 17.
The Belgian was statistically the day's top performer, with a tournament three-dart average of 103.52 heading into the final and averaging over 100 in five of his seven matches.
Brendan Dolan, Mervyn King and Blackpool runner-up Van Barneveld all boosted their hopes of qualifying with runs to the quarter-finals.
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