Suffolk has a new darts star in Andrew ‘Goldfinger’ Gilding - who, after beating Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld in recent UK Open Qualifiers, is now targeting PDC World Championship qualification.
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk has a new darting hero to add to 2014 World Professional Darts Championship runner-up Peter Wright.
Step forward Bungay-based Andrew Gilding, who upset the odds and the likes of Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld, Jelle Klaasen and James Wade to reach the final of the second Coral UK Open Qualifier, held in Wigan at the weekend.
And although Gilding, nicknamed “Goldfinger”, came up just short in a pulsating 6-5 final defeat to BDO World Champion Stephen Bunting, the achievement is without doubt the Suffolk-born darts players finest hour in the sport so far.
“The whole thing was just surreal,” confessed Gilding, who will now take part in the PDC’s televised UK Open tournament held at Minehead, in March, alongside the likes of Taylor, Michael van Gerwen, van Barneveld and Wright.
“To beat Barney and Taylor was just unbelievable and I’m still in shock. I still can’t believe it and it’s without doubt the biggest achievement in my career so far.”
After a disappointing first UK Open Qualifier on Friday, Gilding took the second of the weekend’s three qualifiers on Saturday by storm.
Having squeezed past Jamie Robinson 6-5 in the opening round, Gilding then defeated five-time World Darts Champion van Barneveld 6-5 in the second round before beating close friend and Norwich-based Jason Lovett 6-2 in the last 64.
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Gilding then whitewashed Wade, the second most successful player in PDC history after Taylor, 6-0, before coming back from 4-0 down to defeat former BDO World Champion Jelle Klaasen in the last 16.
Gilding eased past Daryl Gurney 6-4 in the quarter-finals before playing out of his skin to defeat “The Power” 6-4 in the semi-finals.
Gilding then just missed out on a famous victory in an extraordinary final.
In fact, Gilding was actually leading before Bunting hit a 180 followed by a 161-finish in the last leg to steal victory from under the Suffolk star’s nose.
Gilding admitted he had to pinch himself on several occasions during his miraculous run, especially against “Barney” and “The Power” – who he identified as his two favourite darts players.
“Barney is excellent to watch, he’s got such a smooth action but Taylor is the one. What he has achieved in the game is nothing short of amazing,” said Gilding, who has been dubbed ‘AVG’ (in comparison to world number one ‘MVG’) by some of his closest fans.
“I’m not going to lie, my arm was like jelly when I was throwing for the match.
“I was so nervous, I missed a few doubles but so did Phil, I couldn’t believe my luck really.”
It’s been quite a fairytale for Gilding, who only started playing competitive darts ‘five or six years ago’.
“I was a bit of a late-starter,” admitted the 43-year-old.
“I always had a dartboard at home but first thought I’d give it a go when I joined my local pub team at the Earsham Queens Head.
“From there I did pretty well and then joined Walsham le Willows in the Super League before being picked for the Suffolk County Squad.”
After then gaining notable successes on the lower-level darts scene, Gilding started to gradually make his name in the sport when he won the Gibraltar Open in 2011.
Following this, he qualified as a pub qualifier for the televised 2011 UK Open in Bolton, where things really started to escalate as he reached the last 32 of the competition before losing to Mark Hylton.
Inspired by his efforts in a PDC-ranked competition, Gilding then went on to realise his potential as he put hours of practice in to qualify for the PDC Pro Tour circuit after success in the 2012 Qualifying School.
After performing steadily on the PDC Tour throughout 2012, in which he managed a quarter-final finish at the seventh UK Open Qualifier, Gilding suffered a major setback early in 2013.
“My progress stalled a little at the start of 2013 as I developed Tennis Elbow in my throwing arm,” said Golding.
“It got so bad that I went through stages where I couldn’t win a single game and as a result I lost a few sponsors which are essential for you.”
Thankfully though, the injury cleared, and Gilding was back to his best, especially in October at the PDPA Players Championship in Dublin, Ireland, where he performed admirably to reach the semi-finals before losing 6-2 to van Barneveld.
The injury nearly had the last laugh though as with his form slumping he was ranked outside of the top 64 on the PDC tour when his tour card expired at the end of 2013, meaning he had to go back to Qualifying School early this year to regain his place on the tour and therefore compete in the UK Open Qualifiers.
Gilding easily qualified though and with a cheque of £5,000 now under his grasp after Saturday’s achievements, ‘Goldfinger’ Gilding is only looking ahead in the future - putting qualification to the World Championships in his goals for the year.
“Hopefully this achievement will give me the confidence to really kick on and go further,” said Goldfinger, who picked up the nickname from his mates following a set of darts his icon Taylor used to own.
“I’m throwing the best darts of my career and I’ll need a few more good results to qualify for the World Championships but I don’t see why I can’t get that far,” added Gilding, who also walks on to the oche to the Shirley Bassey classic ‘Goldfinger’.
Indeed, the opportunities really are endless for Gilding as fellow Suffolk resident Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright has proved in world darts of late as he came from nowhere to upset the odds and finish as the runner-up of the 2014 World Professional Darts Championships.
For now, Gilding will hope to strengthen his grip, ranking and reputation in the sport as he prepares for three more qualifiers in Wigan at the end of the month.