IT HAS been quite a year for Swindon darts player Johnny Haines.
After negotiating his way through Qualifying School in Barnsley in January to earn his tour card, the High Street Club player has made a superb start to life on the PDC circuit by beating the likes of former world champion Raymond van Barneveld on his way to qualifying for the showpiece World Championship.
Haines picked up half of his £7,900 prize money by reaching the final stages of three high-profile European Tour events, but was not expecting anything like that level of success when he arrived in Yorkshire for the lottery that is qualifying school just under 12 months ago.
“The standard there was a lot better than I thought it was going to be, and I missed the Saturday of it because I was playing in a CIU tournament,” he said.
“But the last day when I qualified I was a great feeling.
“I didn’t go there expecting anything, more hoping, and to do it and get my tour card was a brilliant feeling.
“My first PDC event was a UK Open qualifier, and it was brilliant to be in the same room and chatting to some great darts players. I picked up some good money that weekend too, which was a great start.
“It took me a bit of time, maybe four or five tournaments to feel comfortable there, but after that it was fine.
“I have really enjoyed the European events this year and I made three of the four, and there are seven next year which is great.
“I won most of my money from them, and it has really helped me get to the world championship.
“All the qualifiers for them were on Friday nights which I liked, because it was just like playing in Friday night darts which I am used to.”
Despite his success Haines is determined to keep his feet on the ground, and believes there is still a long way to go before he can call himself a professional darts player.
“I have made a real improvement over the last two years, but it hasn’t changed me and I still go up there and try and play the same way,” he said.
“It is not like snooker where someone can snooker you, it is the same board that you throw at each time and you have to play that rather than the opponent.
“You need to relax and play things your own way.
“I don’t feel like a professional yet, I am just a pub player, and you need to be in the top 32 to be a real professional because that is where all the money is.
“There are some big names that have to go to qualifying school like Kevin McDine and Alex Roy, but I have another year to reach my plan of getting into the top 64 over two years.
“I am close to that now, so I am pleased.
“But even if I do get in there I still won’t call myself a pro, and I need to be in the top 32 to be there, but if I carry on and keep going I could get in there one day.”