Ryan Searle stormed to his fourth PDC ProTour title in Barnsley on Saturday, defeating a resurgent Jamie Hughes to triumph at Players Championship 1.
Searle, a finalist in last year’s Players Championship opener, enjoyed another strong start to his ProTour season, producing a series of battling displays to prevail at the Barnsley Metrodome.
The former Players Championship Finals runner-up came through two last-leg shoot-outs en route to the final, where he recovered from a sluggish start to scoop the £12,000 top prize in style.
Hughes – featuring in his first ProTour final since 2019 – made a dream start, following up a clinical 120 checkout with a 13-dart break to establish an early 2-0 lead.
However, the Tipton thrower paid the price for squandering two darts for a 3-0 lead, as a sublime 152 finish from Searle in leg three sparked a sequence of six consecutive legs.
The 35-year-old followed up a classy 98 kill with legs of 16, 13 and 14 darts to lead 6-2, and although Hughes stopped the rot, Searle kept his cool to close out a resounding win with a 100.75 average.
“I’ve not played a huge amount since The Masters and I was terrible at The Masters and the World Championship,” conceded Searle, who moves back into the top 16 of the ProTour Order of Merit.
“It has taken a lot for me to come back from those two performances to win today, so it means a lot to me.
“I feel like I’m playing well. I was playing pretty well towards the end of last season but people were just playing phenomenally against me, and that can be disheartening.
“I’ve won the title today and I don’t feel like I’ve played anywhere near my best.
“It’s nice to have a B-game that competes with people, and I know if I play my A-game, I can win a lot more of these.”
Searle, who has lifted ProTour titles in each of the last four years, kicked off his campaign with convincing wins over German duo Daniel Klose and Florian Hempel.
The Somerset star then edged out the returning Keegan Brown in a deciding-leg tussle to advance to the last 16, where he produced a ton-plus average to defeat top seed Luke Humphries 6-4.
Searle recovered from 5-3 down to come through another last-leg shoot-out in his quarter-final tie against Dirk van Duijvenbode, before defying a 102 average from Jonny Clayton to seal his place in Saturday’s showpiece.
Hughes, meanwhile, claimed a host of big scalps to secure a place in his second Players Championship final, his first ranking final in over three years.
The 36-year-old registered 6-5 victories against last year’s Masters winner Joe Cullen and current holder Chris Dobey to progress to the last 16, having also accounted for Connor Scutt in round two.
Hughes then dumped out World Champion Michael Smith to move through to the quarter-finals, before brushing aside Callan Rydz and Dylan Slevin to claim the £8,000 runner-up prize.
Irish youngster Slevin impressed on his ProTour bow, having secured his Tour Card at last month’s UK Qualifying School in Milton Keynes.
The 20-year-old celebrated wins over William O’Connor, Josh Rock and Daryl Gurney in his run to the semi-finals, while Premier League star Clayton also enjoyed a return to winning ways to reach the same stage.
The Welshman – without a win in this year’s Premier League – saw off Simon Whitlock, Kim Huybrechts and Dave Chisnall to reach the last four, having also edged out his compatriot Nick Kenny in a last-leg decider.
Van Duijvenbode, Chisnall, Rydz and Gurney succumbed in the quarter-finals, while Humphries was beaten by eventual winner Searle, despite producing the performance of the day.
The world number five fired in a remarkable 119.15 average to seal an emphatic 6-1 win over Luke Woodhouse in round two, but he was unable to replicate his victory from 12 months ago.
Elsewhere, Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright were among the high-profile first round casualties, losing out to Geert Nentjes and Steve Beaton respectively.