Remarkably but perhaps not too surprisingly, Stephen Bunting impressively averaged 90+ in every single match he played in Barnsley.
Over a total of nine games in sunny South Yorkshire, the Bullet’s lowest recorded figure was 92.31. Quite the statistic for a man who is confident and clearly in good nick.
The five day marathon began with two European qualifying events. Up for grabs were trips to Hungary and Germany in September.
And once the dust was settled, Bunting booked his place in Budapest, defeating Kevin Doets and Mike De Decker to qualify for the inaugural Hungarian Darts Trophy.
However, Willie O’Connor blocked the Euro Tour double, pinching the last leg decider of their opening round match later that afternoon.
Onto the Players Championship action and it was very much a case of close but no cigar – plenty of excellent performances on show but without getting the results they deserved.
The Liverpudlian’s best run was on the first of the four events – PC18. He defeated Lewy Williams 6-2 in his opening match before overcoming the threat from the dangerous Karel Sedlacek with the same scoreline.
However, in the board final, the 37-year old went down 6-3 to Mickey Mansell in a well fought and high quality contest.
After that, it was unfortunately all first round defeats albeit extremely closely contested ones. Bunting was left to rue missed opportunities at pivotal moments before watching his opponents clean up.
On Friday, the opening draw dealt up Steve West. And despite averaging almost a full eight points more than the Essex man, Stephen had his pocket picked as West took the final leg.
It was a similar story on Saturday too, this time against Darius Labanauskas. In the Lithuanian’s defence, he did play well and on the balance of things was probably a worthy 6-4 winner. But frustratingly for Stephen, the chances were there to have turned that score around.
Then on the final days action, Scotland’s Jamie Clark nicked the 11th and deciding leg to leave the former Lakeside World Champion penniless for a third consecutive day.
Speaking after the event, Stephen said: “It was great to qualify for the Hungarian Darts Trophy. Naturally I would have liked to have booked my spot for both that day but one is better than none.
“It was quite frustrating throughout the four Players Championship events. I’m playing well and my scoring is really good, it’s just a case of missing chances and my opponent capitalising.
“If I can be more clinical, then the results will definitely come. But overall, even though I didn’t get the number of wins I would have liked, it’s reassuring to know my game is there.
Commenting on the upcoming World Matchplay in which Stephen will open the tournament up on Saturday night against Krzysztof Ratajski, he said:
“I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll be heading up to Blackpool on Thursday with the family for ten days as we usually make a little holiday of it too.
“Pleased to be up first – some players don’t like that but I’m fine with it. Hopefully, I’ll get the win then put my feet up for a few days and prepare for the next match.
“Krzysztof might not be playing as well as he can of late but I know just how good he can be so it’s going to be a tough game. But if perform as well as I have been doing, then I’ll be hard to beat.”