Nine-dart Littler stuns Van Veen to claim Event 20 title

Luke Littler (PDC)

Teenage sensation Luke Littler landed a nine-dart finish on his way to winning a fourth Winmau Development Tour title of 2023 in Leicester on Sunday.

The 16-year-old recovered from 4-1 down to deny his Dutch rival Gian van Veen in a dramatic final, as the top two on the Development Tour Order of Merit locked horns at the Morningside Arena.

Over 210 players aged 16-24 featured in the fifth and final event of the year’s fourth Development Tour weekend, and it was Littler who claimed the spoils in a deciding-leg thriller.

Van Veen – aided by an 11-darter in leg two – raced into a 3-0 lead, and maintained his three-leg buffer with a hold of throw in leg five to move to the cusp of victory.

However, a 130 checkout for a 12-darter in leg six sparked Littler into life, and after winning the next two legs to force a last-leg shoot-out, he fired in a 16-dart break in the decider to complete the turnaround.

Littler had made a subdued start to Sunday’s action, before moving through to the last 32 with a superb 4-2 victory against UK Open semi-finalist Adam Gawlas, averaging 104 to Gawlas’ 101.

The JDC World Champion then produced an astronomical 115.22 average to account for Lewy Williams, and he maintained his blistering form in his last 16 clash against Rune van Damme.

Littler achieved perfection in the opening leg of his meeting against the Belgian, closing out a 4-1 victory before averaging 102 in his quarter-final demolition of Owen Bates.

In the semi-finals, Littler ran out a convincing 5-2 winner against Dutch youngster Jamai van den Herik, and his comeback heroics against Van Veen saw him cement second place on the Development Tour Order of Merit.

However, Van Veen retains top spot after progressing to his third final of the weekend, surrendering just seven legs prior to his blockbuster showdown against Littler.

Van Veen – a winner of five Development Tour titles in 2023 – dropped the solitary leg in his opening three matches, before accounting for teenage prodigy Leighton Bennett in the last 16.

The Dutchman then averaged just under 100 to defeat Cam Crabtree in a high-quality quarter-final, and he defied a 99 average from Wessel Nijman in the last four - in a repeat of Saturday's Event 19 decider.

Nijman beat Van Veen to triumph in Saturday’s showpiece, but the 23-year-old was denied back-to-back titles by his younger compatriot, despite posting averages of 102 and 97 in his run to the semi-finals.

The final weekend of Winmau Development Tour action takes place at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena on August 18-19, which will be followed by the Winmau World Youth Championship on August 20.

The top two players from the final 2023 Development Tour Order of Merit will win a PDC Tour Card for 2024-25 and a place in the 2023/24 World Darts Championship.

Van Veen remains top of the Order of Merit on £17,500, although Littler has closed the gap following Sunday’s exploits, moving up to £15,975, with Nijman further adrift on £12,750.

The event draws and results are listed in the Match Centre.

Click here for match stats & results.

2023 Winmau Development Tour
Sunday July 16, Morningside Arena
Event 20

Jamai van den Herik 5-3 Nathan Rafferty
Luke Littler 5-2 Owen Bates
Gian van Veen 5-2 Cam Crabtree
Wessel Nijman 5-4 Christopher Toonders

Luke Littler 5-2 Jamai van den Herik
Gian van Veen 5-2 Wessel Nijman

Luke Littler 5-4 Gian van Veen