What an 11 months it has been for former electrician Rob Cross.
The 27-year-old from Kent only started playing darts professionally early last year, and now finds himself PDC World Champion.
Last January proved to be a turning point for the man from Edenbridge, and he has his uncle to thank for that.
Imagine the scene – Cross had just lost the Ridley’s UK Opener in Benfleet and returned home in the early hours only to find his uncle (Robert Abbott) there, who told the 27-year-old that the pair were going up to Norwich for another qualifier.
It was a round trip of around 230 miles, which proved to be well worth it, as Cross qualified for the UK Open on that day.
Though he eventually lost to Michael van Gerwen 9-5 in the UK Open, it proved to be a turning point in his career, and speaking with Scotland’s Daily Record, the 27-year-old said it was an experience that changed his life.
“Last January I played in a Rileys UK Open qualifier in Benfleet and I lost,” Cross said.
“I was supposed to be going to the next qualifier, but I spoke to my mate and said I was too busy working. I just said, ‘It didn’t work out so I’ll have another go next year.’
“But, behind my back my uncle Robert Abbott spoke to my missus Georgia and told her he was going to take me.
“It was a shock when I got a knock at the door at 5.30am and he was standing there saying we were going to Norwich.
“I knew it was urgent when the door went so early on a Sunday morning. So we drove the 230 miles and I qualified for the UK Open that day.
“That’s where it all started. I ended up losing to Michael van Gerwen 9-5 in the UK Open. He hit a nine-darter, two 170 finishes and something like 19 perfect darts in succession!
“I then went home and spoke to the missus because I knew I could play a lot better. I was then thinking of making a huge decision to quit my job.
“That’s a massive thing to think about when you have three young children, but I knew I could earn enough to survive.
“I was lucky really because I joined the Challenge Tour there and then.
“You can’t do that now, they’ve changed the rules and you have to go to Q School to qualify.
“But it has been nothing but progress since, all confidence boosts along the way.”
His metronomic rise led him to a grand final appearance against darts legend Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor – whom he dominated through the final, denying Taylor the finish his career so richly deserved.
On winning the PDC Championship title, the man from Kent said that it had not quite sunk in yet.
“It hasn’t sunk in at all. I’ve been emotionless so far. I think it will start to feel real at home, that’s when there might be tears.
“Funnily enough, I have always believed in myself, that I could do anything. It sounds like a cliche but I couldn’t have done all this without total belief.
“Even before the Worlds it was a special year for what I had achieved. But to do what I did on Monday night was a dream come true.”
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