NEW OCHE hero Harry Ward has revealed he was a hated pub player because he started winning games at just 11-years-old.
A decade on and Big H has now just tasted victory with his first Pro Tour title with a win over Max Hopp last month.
That underlines his status as one of the hottest prospects in the world but he admits he got a tough start as a kid.
He said: “My brother-in-law started me playing on a Tuesday night in his pub team when I was just 11-years-old.
“There were a few teams in the league that didn’t like it because I was quite good and beating some of the men and they weren’t happy!
“It just went from there really. It was a great start for me, ideal. To be honest since then I’ve not looked back at all.
“I think that’s why I can deal with things now even though I’m still young. I’ve had experience of playing for a decade which really helps.
“I’ve got a lot of darts under my belt considering my age. I played at Lakeside five years ago, a couple of times on the European tour and playing on the Pro Tour now I’ve got no fear really. I just love playing the best guys in the world, that brings out the best in me.”
Ward, who turns 22 on June 13, beat Hopp 8-7 in a thrilling final in Barnsley and now has his sights of going from bricklayer to full-time darts player.
He added: “I’m obviously still buzzing about winning my first Pro title. I then went straight after to my first European tour and then been on holiday for a week. It’s a good time at the minute!
“I feel like I’ve made a breakthrough, that wasn’t expected this year to win a title. To have done that has changed my mindset completely. It feels like people notice you now.
“I’m still a bricklayer but in the future obviously the aim is to be full-time in darts. I still find the time to practice and I’m doing well at the moment just doing an hour or two every day.
“One day if I was able to pack up the bricklaying I think I’d get a lot better with even more practice.
“I’ve got great backing from Unicorn and management with MDA, I’ve got everything I could ask for for progressing.
“Now I’m playing the top players in the world every week I know I have to perform in every game and that’s helped me so much.”
The swashbuckling Swandlicote kid was a shocker tour card winner in Q School in January and now has his sights on Ally Pally glory.
He added: “Getting the tour card changed everything, it was more important than winning a title. I’d not practiced for Q School. I went there and just relaxed. I knew what I could perform like and it just went right that day. It’s the golden ticket and from that day on I’ve worked harder than ever before.
“I celebrated with a Nando’s with my manager Matt Ward and Jamie Hughes who also got his tour card that day.
“I have different targets now. I’ve got to be in the top 64 by the end of next year. But the way I’ve started this year I don’t see why I can’t push towards that before the end of 2019.
“I’m playing really well, I’ve got a place in the World Championships and Players Championship so a good run in either of them would push my ranking up a bit more. I just want to cement my place in the top 64.”
By Phil Lanning