Shropshire Star

Big Interview: Nine-dart hero Luke Woodhouse is king of the kitchen

Sporting history isn’t supposed to be made in the kitchen.

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Just you try telling that to Luke Woodhouse, who last weekend made himself the talk of darts without leaving his Bewdley home.

The 31-year-old initially entered the Professional Darts Corporation’s Home Tour hoping for nothing more than a little light relief after weeks of lockdown, writes Matt Maher.

He ended up gaining far more, thanks to throwing a perfect nine-dart leg during a victory over world number three Gerwyn Pryce.

In a sporting world desperate for stories, it was enough to guarantee the previously little-known Woodhouse, currently ranked 57th in the world, headlines around the globe.

“It has been crazy and that might be putting it mildly,” he says. “If I am being totally honest, I didn’t comprehend quite how big the story was going to be.

“To have all this attention just for throwing a few darts in your kitchen. It is mad really.”

Mad might be one word to describe it, for there is certainly nothing normal about this particular sporting achievement. Each match on the Home Tour, set up by the PDC after the coronavirus pandemic began wiping out the calendar is broadcast via video call and filmed on a mobile phone on a tripod. Fans are able to watch on the PDC’s own TV channel. Entrants are split into groups of four with every player, of course, competing from the comfort of their own home, often separated by hundreds of miles or in some cases thousands.

Woodhouse’s next opponent on the night, the Austrian Rowby-John Rodriguez, claimed to have heard his nine-dart triumph while sat on the toilet. Rodriguez, who lives in Vienna, also had to ask his neighbours for permission to play past 8pm due to lockdown restrictions. Neither was there anything traditional about the route Woodhouse took to history on the board, twice hitting 177 before finishing with a 147 checkout.

“I’ve been told that is the first time anyone has hit a nine-darter in a televised match without a 180,” says Woodhouse, who finished top of his group with three wins from three.

“When the PDC first put forward the idea of the Home Tour I think everyone was just pleased to have the chance to play in some sort of competition again.

Luke woodhouse in action (Photo: Lawrence Lustig)

“It is obviously a completely different match to normal. There is no physical opponent there with you and no crowd. Ultimately you are playing on your own but you are aware there are people watching you.

“My first game was against Ted Evetts and if I am being honest it was a bit weird at first.

“But after a few legs I really started to enjoy it. When I threw the nine-darter it was surreal, I don’t think I really appreciated at the time what I had done.

“Obviously, my phone has been going crazy. The story has gone everywhere. Last time I looked the clip had been watched 170,000 times online which is hard to get your head around.

“Throwing a nine-darter is one of the pinnacles of the sport. I’ve probably done it 20 or 30 times before while practising but never in a competition.

“The reaction has taken me by surprise but to get so much attention is brilliant really.”

In some ways it is fitting Woodhouse’s first major breakthrough in the sport occurred in his kitchen.

After all, it is the place where he has always felt the most comfortable practicing and where, as a youngster, he first fell in love with the sport during visits to his grandparents’ house. “They were huge fans of the darts and had a board in their kitchen,” he explains. “Every time I would go round as a child I would play. Ever since I have been playing, the kitchen is where my board has always been. We’ve got a nice little alcove in our house and it sits in there perfectly.”

The eldest of five brothers, Woodhouse claims to have always possessed a competitive edge.

As a teenager he was a keen cricketer and footballer, playing for Kidderminster at district level in the latter, before darts began to dominate his attentions.

A regular in local league teams since his late teens, he took part in his first PDC event in 2014.

Winning his first Tour card, in 2018, allowed Woodhouse to quit his job in a mailing office and dedicate himself to the sport full-time. Progress has been steady if unspectacular until now. December saw him make a first-ever appearance at the World Championships, reaching the last-32 at Alexandra Palace. “I’ve always liked the solo element of darts,” he explains. “With football and cricket you have to depend on your team-mates to a certain extent but in darts it is just you. You are on your own and if things don’t go well there is only yourself to blame. I always remember Phil Taylor saying darts is similar to a boxing match. There is just you and your opponent and no-one else.”

Woodhouse claims he enjoys the three or four hours he spends every day practicing though the current lockdown has also afforded the dad-of-two some rare extra time with his family.

“Obviously the circumstances aren’t what anyone would want but it has been nice in some ways,” he says.

“During tournaments you can be away for days and it is a lonely profession at times. There is a lot of waiting around. It has been nice just to spend a bit of time at home.”

Woodhouse knows that when the sport is fully back up and running, life will quickly become hectic again.

His next match in the Home Tour isn’t due to take place until several weeks from now with the group stage spread out over 32 nights.

In the meantime, the experience of the past week has only served to whet his appetite for future success.

“At the moment I am ranked 57th and you need to stay inside the top 64 to keep your card,” he says.

“My first ambition is to try and get into the top 32 and just try and kick on from there. I just want to push as high as I can and see how far I can go.

“I’m a realist and I know things aren’t going to happen overnight but the past week has definitely given me confidence. I’ve enjoyed the attention and it has been nice to do a few interviews. Has it made me more determined to have success in the future?

“Without a doubt.”