HARRY WARD admitted it was “unreal” after landing his first-ever PDC title at the Players Championship.
The 21-year-old, who won his PDC Tour Card at UK Qualifying School in January 2019, beat Max Hopp 8-7 in a dramatic final in Barnsley.
Ward continued his remarkable rise with a first title within four months of playing full-time on the professional circuit on the second day of the ProTour weekend double-header.
The Derbyshire youngster was ranked 88th on the PDC Order of Merit at the start of play, but produced a string of impressive displays to reach his third ranking quarter-final of the year.
Defeats of Vincent Kamphuis, Madars Razma, James Richardson led to a meeting with World Championship runner-up Michael Smith in the Last 16, where a 145 finish saw him come through a deciding leg.
Ward then overcame Nathan Aspinall 6-5, which he followed up with a 7-4 win over Jose de Sousa to reach the final where he held his nerve to defeat Hopp and claim the £10,000 star prize.
He revealed: “This is unreal, I’m so, so happy to win this title.
“Max is a great player and it was a really tough final, and after I missed three darts for the match I began to doubt myself a bit.
“I rode my luck at times but that’s what you have to do sometimes and I’m really pleased that I made the most of it.
“I went to Q School without expecting to win a Tour Card so to achieve what I have done over the past few months is fantastic for me, and now I want to kick on further.”
The final between 21-year-old Ward and 22-year-old Hopp began with a stunning 133 checkout from Ward, who doubled his lead only for Hopp to fire back to restore parity.
Ward fired in his 20th 180 of the day before finding tops to break throw and 5-3 up, and followed it up with another 13-darter to take a commanding 6-3 lead.
Hopp once again fought back, taking out a magnificent 150 finish to make it three straight legs for the German number one, who was bidding for his third PDC title in just over a year.
At 7-6 up, Ward missed three match darts, allowing Hopp to his double ten with his last dart in hand to take a thrilling encounter to a last-leg shoot-out.
Hopp piled on the pressure with visits of 180 and 125, but Ward was unshaken as he took out 68 to seal a historic win in his short career.
On Saturday Vincent Van der Meer also had an excellent run into the last 16 in Barnsley, beating Jonny Clayton along the way.
Youngster Nathan Rafferty also got to the same stage, beating former World Champions Raymond van Barneveld and Stephen Bunting 6-3 on the way to the last 16.
By Phil Lanning