Amateur players around the UK are dreaming of emulating how Rob Cross began his rise to the top of darts

Rob Cross after his 2016 Rileys Qualifier win and his 2018 World Championship win
Rob Cross after his 2016 Rileys Qualifier win and his 2018 World Championship win

Rob Cross made a life-changing decision two years ago this February to make a near 350-mile round trip from Hastings to Norwich.

Having failed to qualify for the BDO World Darts Championships in late 2015, the electrician who happened to be pretty handy at darts turned his attention to the PDC's UK Open - aka the "FA Cup of darts", which gives literally anyone the opportunity to enter.

You just head down to your nearest participating Rileys Sports Bar and for less than a tenner (£7 this year to be precise) you get a free drink and entry into a knockout competition, with the winner earning a spot at one of the biggest majors on the PDC circuit.

This is exactly what happened to Cross that night in Norwich before heading to the Butlin's Minehead Resort, where he won three matches to set up his first ever meeting with Michael van Gerwen.

He produced a gutsy display in a defeat which will forever be remembered for MVG's stunning nine-darter sandwiched between a pair of 170 checkouts!

18 Perfect Darts and a nine-darter from Michael van Gerwen

It's safe to say being part of such a crazy moment, on such a big televised stage gave Cross the thirst and hunger for more such experiences so he promptly joined the Challenger Tour to work his way through the ranks.

He dominated that level and topped the Order of Merit to secure a PDC Tour card for 2017 and 2018.

A year on from that life-changing moment in Norwich he earned £250 prize money from his first event as a professional but it wasn't long before those cheques became a lot bigger as he won four Players Championship events and reached a major TV final at the European Championship, where he'd again lose to MVG in a thriller.

We all know what happened next at the season-ending World Championship as he thrilled the crowds with a string of epic wins - not least the unforgettable triumph over MVG in the semi-finals - before crushing Phil Taylor's hopes of a fairytale ending to his career in the final.

And after all that he pocketed a cool £400,000 although with a well-deserved guaranteed qualification for the money-spinning Premier League.

Fancy a similar route to the top of this highly lucrative sport?

This year's Rileys Amateur Qualifiers begin on January 20 and run through to February 18 and will be held at their bars across the UK, with those in Chester, Chorlton, Coventry, Greenock, Liverpool, London Victoria, Norwich, Nottingham, South Benfleet, Twickenham and Wolverhampton all staging two events.

Players can enter more than one tournament but they must pay the £7 entry fee each time - which will come with that free drink!

Entry can be made via www.rileys.co.uk/tournaments, or in person at the Rileys Sports Bars, with entries for each event closing at 5pm on the day before that specific knockout.

Players must be aged 16 or above to enter, and entry is not open to players who compete in the 2018 PDC Qualifying Schools. Full tourmament rules can be seen at www.rileys.co.uk/tournaments.

2018 Coral UK Open - Rileys Amateur Qualifiers

2018 Coral UK Open
Rileys Amateur Qualifiers
Saturday January 20
Greenock Q1 - Andrew Davidson

Sunday January 21
London Victoria Q1 (Two players qualify) - Michael Burgoine & Joe Davis

Saturday January 27
Chorlton Q1 - Andrew Johnson
Norwich Q1 - Jason Mold
Nottingham Q1 - Tony Mitchell
Twickenham Q1 - Ian Jopling
Wolverhampton Q1 (Two players qualify) - Mark Craddock, Liam Kelly

Sunday January 28
Leicester - Benjamin McClelland
Liverpool Q1 - Mark Rice
South Benfleet Q1 - Paul Hogan

Saturday February 3
Chester Q1 - David Airey
Harlow - Alex Roy
Sheffield - Chris Lacey
Worcester - Andy Hamilton

Sunday February 4
Chester Q2 - Craig Winstanley
Coventry Q1 - Harry Ward
Greenock Q2 - Simon Tate
Solihull - Daniel Lee

Saturday February 10
Chorlton Q2 - Martin Atkins

Sunday February 11
Twickenham Q2 - Dan Read

Saturday February 17
Aberdeen - Scott Robertson
Coventry Q2 - Martin Biggs
Liverpool Q2 - Paul Whitworth
Norwich Q2 - Darren Brown
Nottingham Q2 - Andy Hibbert

Sunday February 18
London Victoria Q2 (Two players qualify) - Darryl Pilgrim & John Scott
South Benfleet Q2 - Andreas Hajimina
Wolverhampton Q2 (Two players qualify) - John Morris & Andrew Pullen

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