Bradley Kirk is aiming to finish his first year on the full BDO circuit on a high by qualifying for the World Championship at Lakeside in 2017.
The Southampton-based thrower reached his first final in the BDO two weeks ago in the HAL Masters, and is hoping it will be the first of many finals he gets to as he bids to climb the rankings enough to secure a spot in the organisation’s flagship event in January.
“The main target is definitely trying to qualify for Lakeside,” Kirk said. “If I don’t do that then it’s not really worth me playing in it to be honest.
“If everything goes well I’m capable of doing it, it’s just whether it does or not.
“Getting to the final of the HAL Masters has given me a decent set of ranking points and it has moved me up to the top 70 odd I think, so I’m getting there.
“I think it’s the top 25 who get to Lakeside in the end on the seasonal tables and the season finishes at the beginning of October, so there’s still a long way to go.”
At the age of 21, Kirk has already enjoyed plenty of success on the darts circuit, with last year seeing him finish top of the PDC Unicorn Development Tour Order of Merit.
Kirk won two of the last four events on the tour, as he pipped the likes of Benito van de Pas, Dimitri Van den Bergh and Rowby-John Rodriguez to top spot and a two-year tour card on the PDC’s main circuit.
But his love of playing county darts for Hampshire, as well as his burning ambition to represent England still there, Kirk decided to turn the tour card down.
“I got offered a two-year PDC tour card for finishing top of the Development Tour,” he said. “I ended up turning it down because I wanted to play in the BDO for a couple of years.
“After discussions with Jason (Thame, MODUS Darts) he thought it was the best idea to do that. I wasn’t experienced enough and I wanted to carry on playing for Hampshire, which would have been a problem.
“I wanted to play for my country as well, but later on in a few years I’ll be doing PDC if I can.
“Obviously it’s the stepping stone if you really want to make a career out of it. But at the moment I’m getting some experience and enjoying it first.”
For Kirk, playing on the BDO circuit has seen him play darts outside of the UK for the first time, and it is an experience which he plans to learn as much from in order to continue his progress in the sport.
“Travelling everywhere is something different,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve been abroad for most of my life. I’m enjoying the darts and I’m enjoying the people around me, so it’s so far so good.
“It’s definitely an eye opener as to how other countries do it. You see the way some players play it’s just different to the way we play it.
“The Dutch players are obviously really good on their outshots and setting up shots and most players over here wouldn’t think of that.
“You’re learning the different things that they do and that can obviously help your own game.
“You can learn from anyone playing darts. They can do things differently and it might work for you or it might not.”
Having played mostly in local leagues and tournaments, Kirk took the plunge and entered the PDC Development Tour for the first time last year, playing in almost all of the 16 events.
“I just wanted to give it a go and see how I compared to some of the other players,” he said.
“Obviously pretty much all the best youth players are playing there, so I just wanted to test myself against them.
“It went really well, winning it on the Order of Merit, but it was just seeing how I compared and seeing if I could do anything at a higher level, because I’d never really gone outside of Hampshire before then.”
Kirk is continuing to play on the Development Tour this year alongside playing on the BDO circuit, and hopes his second appearance in a final in 2016 will come sooner rather than later.
“I want to make amends for not playing particularly well in the HAL Masters final,” he said.
“It was my first time up there and I was quite tired at that point as well. It was quite a long day so it’s just a case of preparing for it a bit better next time.
“In the earlier rounds I was playing really well and then just slipped off a bit, so I was quite surprised to get through the semi-finals because I didn’t play particularly well.
“Then in the final it was a quite a difference in playing on the stage in front of that many people, compared to when you play on the floor. It was enjoyable though and good to know I can do it.”
A busy 2016 schedule for Kirk continues with two trips to Germany later this month, with the Bulls German Open and Masters tournaments in Bochum on April 16-17 followed by the next four Development Tour events in Mulheim on April 23-24.
“My sponsors have given me the chance to do this for the next couple of years so a massive thank you to them,” Kirk said.