IT was back to school for young darts hot-shot Billy Holmes on Monday – less than 24 hours after he taught players more than twice his age a good lesson in a prestigious competition.
After showing off his skills in a range of disciplines over the last couple of months, the 13-year-old Hazeley Academy pupil qualified for the Protege Team Taylor event final held in Wolverhampton on Sunday, with a ticket onto the lucrative PDC Tour the ultimate prize.
But not satisfied with simply taking on some of the best amateur players in the country, Billy produced some of his best ever darts to win through two rounds, with dad Mark describing the day as one of the best experiences of his life.
Unfazed by the crowds watching on, Billy enjoyed a 3-0 first round victory over an opponent old enough to be his father, even turning on the style with a magnificent 117 checkout – 20, treble 19, tops.
A closer encounter followed in the second round, but once again Billy was a match for his more experienced opponent, winning 3-2 thanks to a fantastic 79 checkout after scoring 140 under pressure.
Eventually losing 4-2 in the next round, Billy had secured a remarkable final 16 finish when victory in another two rounds would have seen him earn a place in the PDC’s Qualifying School and one-on-one tuition from 15-time World champion Phil Taylor.
Watching his son play darts well beyond his years, Mark said he was in tears after Billy won both matches, and wasn’t the least bit disappointed when he was eventually knocked out of the competition – unlike the boy himself.
“He was really annoyed about losing,” said Mark. “He’s a winner – he’s got fire in his belly and that’s what makes him such a good player.
“He can give it a bit during matches, celebrating when he gets a good score or hits a double, but people don’t mind that because they can see how much it means to him.
“Fair play to the men he beat. They both took it well. One of them lifted him up in celebration after losing, which was good to see. There were probably more than 100 people watching on at times. It was incredible.
“People say to me that I shouldn’t worry about him being annoyed after losing. That’s part of his game. He hates losing, even if it is against someone a lot older and more experienced than him. He’ll learn from it.”
Mark and Billy took in a professional competition in Barnsley on Saturday before heading to Wolverhampton for the big event, giving the youngster chance to once again rub shoulders with some of the sport’s familiar names, some of whom sent Billy a text message wishing him good luck on Sunday morning.
In just so happens that the pair support Wolverhampton Wanderers, so a quick visit to the club’s Molineux Stadium was next on the agenda, leading to an impromptu exhibition from Billy in front of a packed pub before Wolves’ home game against Leicester City.
It was then off to Rileys Sports Bar where Billy performed so well that Mark now plans to enter him in more youth and adult competitions as his wonderful story continues.