IN recent years, much has been made about the lack of young British darts players, compared to countries like the Netherlands.
Naturally, this issue is borne of the differences in perception of the sport (it’s now recognised as one) between the two countries.
In the Netherlands, the game is played in schools. Here, however, it’s still played predominantly by pub folk. For one budding professional, though, Bedford’s very own Michael ‘Burger Boy’ Burgoine, the tale of how he has got to the brink of the PDC tour is familiar, yet unique.
“Basically, my Mum and Dad owned a pub when I was about six or seven,” he said. “I used to have a chuck on the board then.
“My Grandad always told me about how well he used to play. My Dad, also, was a fairly decent darts player.
“So I started playing, not really doing anything until I was about 14.
“Someone in the pub said ‘do you fancy signing up for the pub team?’ so I said ‘yeah, I’d like to do that’.
“I took out 98 to win the first game so I’ve never looked back since then.”
Reaching the UK Open for the last two years is no mean feat for a late-twenty-year-old amateur who combines his love of darts with teaching at Bedford College.
Now, though, Burgoine wants to follow the flights of the likes of Dean Winstanley, Tony West – beaten by Burgoine in 2012’s UK Open – and current world number seven Dave Chisnall, all of whom made the step up to the professional game via the PDC Qualifying School. Burgoine aims to succeed in this January’s contest.
“I want a tour card and to play the best players every week,” said Burgoine. “I’m just going to go there and try my best.
“I want to be playing on the pro tour and playing the Michael van Gerwens and Adrian Lewises and Phil Taylors week in, week out.
“It’s good to see [professionals having followed the same path]. They probably had a luckier break than most others.
“I want to follow in their footsteps and try and be the best. That’s all I want to do.”
You’d imagine a professional career in the game would be enough to satisfy his darts cravings but Burgoine wants to use his potential reputation to give something back to the game and adhere to the Dutch mould.
“I’d like to set up some kind of academy,” he said. “It’s been done in a few places.
“That’s one of my ambitions. Because I came from playing youth darts in Bedfordshire, I like to see young players coming through.
“I had a chat with the principal here at Bedford College and he said the problem we’ve got is linking it with some kind of funding. I need to link it into English and maths; obviously the maths part is alright, it’s just linking it into the English.
“I suppose it probably could be done as a separate activity after school.
“It’s something I can think about when I’ve made a bit of a name for myself so I can use that as an added incentive for people to come on board.”
Targets aplenty then, and here’s hoping he can hit them as well as three beautifully-nestled treble-20s. Oh, and he’ll probably know how to pull a pint.
• Burgoine is currently seeking sponsorship in order to fund his exploits in the game. Anyone or any business interested can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.