By Alex Moss
26 MAY 2017 • 11:11PM
Both defending champions Darryl Fitton and Lisa Ashton were sent packing on the opening day of the BDO World Trophy, as Conan Whitehead and Anca Zijlstra recorded upset wins at The Memo Arts Centre, in Wales this evening.
Fitton was the holder of the men’s title but saw his defence come to an end at the first hurdle, as he was beaten 6-3 by World Trophy debutant Conan Whitehead.
Aided by two 14-darters, Whitehead raced into a 4-1 lead, before Fitton fought back by winning back-to-back legs to close the gap to one and get the match back on throw.
However, a 104 checkout in the next leg saw Whitehead break the Fitton throw again to lead 5-3, and in the next leg he finished off 32 to dump the defending champion out of the tournament.
Reigning ladies champion Lisa Ashton saw her reign come to an end after losing 4-3 to Zijlstra, of the Netherlands, in the first round.
Ashton, who had won the tournament for the last two years, looked to be heading for the quarter-finals as checkouts of 108 and 121 helped her to come from behind and lead 3-2.
But Zijlstra had other ideas, taking the game’s last two legs to win 4-3 and end her opponent’s perfect record in the tournament of reaching the final every year.
Elsewhere, last year’s World Trophy semi-finalist Jamie Hughes was the highest seed in the men’s draw to be knocked out on the opening day.
Third seed Hughes was beaten 6-2 by Canadian qualifier Jeff Smith, who raced into a 4-0 lead before sharing the next four legs to book his place in the last 16.
Lakeside runner-up Danny Noppert’s hopes of winning a first major this weekend were brought to an abrupt halt after he lost 6-4 to fellow Dutchman, Willem Mandigers, in the first round.
In a match which went back and forth, Noppert took the opening leg, saw his opponent respond to lead 2-1 and 3-2, before hitting a 14-darter to break and level at 3-3.
However, a key 128 checkout on double 10 saw Mandigers break, and he then claimed two of the next three legs, on double 12 and double 18, to complete a 6-4 win and knock the sixth seed out of the tournament.
Second seed Mark McGeeney got his bid for a maiden BDO major title off to a confident start as he eased past Wouter Vaes 6-2.
After his 111 finish in the opener was cancelled out by a 14-darter from Vaes in the next leg, McGeeney reeled off the next four legs to open up a commanding 5-1 advantage.
Dutch debutant Vaes kept his hopes alive by winning the seventh leg, but Dutch Open champion McGeeney got over the line in the next leg to progress to the second round.
Next up for McGeeney will be Welsh veteran Martin Phillips, who whitewashed qualifier Carl Dennel 6-0 to book his place in Sunday’s last 16.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, home favourite Nick Kenny, Scotland’s Ross Montgomery and Lithuanian ace Darius Labanauskas all recorded wins on the opening day.
Kenny saw off qualifier Martin Atkins 6-4, Montgomery edged past American Joe Chaney 6-3, while Labanauskas ended Swedish hopes with a 6-3 victory over Dennis Nilsson.
In the ladies draw, Wales’ Rhian Griffiths knocked out the highly-fancied Lorraine Winstanley 4-0 in the first round.
Griffiths looked in good form from the start as she kicked off with scores of 180 and 140, and checkouts of 84, 86 and 121 helped her see off the sixth seed in straight legs.
Trina Gulliver began her latest bid to complete the triple crown with a 4-2 triumph over Maria O’Brien.
Gulliver, a former winner of the ladies World Championship and World Masters, has yet to win the World Trophy, but progressed to the quarter-finals of this year’s event with a hard-fought win against O’Brien in the first round.
Third seed Aileen de Graaf cruised through to the last eight with a 4-1 win against Lindsey Ashton, daughter of reigning ladies world champion Lisa, hitting a 120 checkout on the way to victory.
The 2017 BDO World Trophy continues tomorrow with the remaining men’s and ladies first round matches.
2017 BDO World Trophy
Men’s and Ladies’ First Round
Friday May 26 (5-11pm)
Danny Noppert (6) 4-6 Willem Mandigers
Lorraine Winstanley (6) 0-4 Rhian Griffiths
Nick Kenny (14) 6-4 Martin Atkins
Jamie Hughes (3) 2-6 Jeff Smith
Aileen de Graaf (3) 4-1 Lindsey Ashton
Darius Labanauskas (10) 6-3 Dennis Nilsson
Darryl Fitton (7) 3-6 Conan Whitehead
Trina Gulliver (7) 4-2 Maria O’Brien
Martin Phillips (15) 6-0 Carl Dennel
Mark McGeeney (2) 6-2 Wouter Vaes
Lisa Ashton (2) 3-4 Anca Zijlstra
Ross Montgomery (11) 6-3 Joe Chaney
Picture: David Gill