DAVENTRY darts ace Kevin Painter was celebrating this week after winning the first major title of his career.
Painter enjoyed a brilliant 13-9 defeat of Mark Webster in the Cash Converters Players Championship final at the Doncaster Dome on Sunday night.
Painter, the 2004 World Championship runner-up when he lost to Phil Taylor in a sudden-death leg, finally held aloft major silverware by claiming the £60,000 title.
The 44-year-old had stared defeat in the face in his semi-final, coming from 9-6 down against newcomer Scott Rand to win 10-9.
But he turned on the style in the final with nine 180s and three ton-plus finishes.
“It’s incredible,” admitted Painter. “It’s been a long time coming for me and a lot of people kept saying that I’d missed my chance to win a major in the 2004 World Championship, but this shows them that I hadn’t.
“I’ve always believed that I can do this and you have to stick with it because anything can happen in this sport.
“I’ve come good when it mattered in the semi-finals and final and it came together at the right time.”
Webster edged the final’s opening leg before Painter hit a nerve-settling 180 and double 16 to level and then broke by hitting the same bed.
A miss at double 18 in the next allowed Webster to win the fourth, and he then repeated the double top finish to lead 3-2.
Painter hit back with a 101 finish, and after Webster took the seventh following a 180 he then took three in a row, including a brilliant 11-darter, to move 6-4 up.
Double top gave Webster his fifth leg before a 68 finish from Painter edged him out to 7-5.
But he paid the price for missing a single 20 to leave the bull in the next as the left-hander stepped in on double seven.
Any hopes Webster had of levelling the game, though, were shattered in the next as Painter hit back-to-back 180s in an 11-darter, which he followed with finishes of 110 and 104 to lead 10-6.
Double top gave Webster the next, but Painter again set up a potential nine-darter with two 180s.
He missed a seventh treble 20 for the second time, but again mopped up the leg in 12 darts to lead 11-7 before moving a leg away from victory on double 12 following two misses from the Welshman.
Webster hit double 16 to keep the game alive in the next, but his respite was brief as Painter hit a key 140 to leave 67, which he took out on double 16 before dropping to his knees in joy at the first major of his career.
“I got some fluency in my game in the semis and final and I thought I played well in the final,” added Painter, who moves up to ninth in the PDC Order of Merit following the triumph.
“You have to dig in when it gets tough and I did that. If you’d said to me at the start of the week that I was going to be the champion, I’d have thought your head wasn’t screwed on properly.
“I’ve been playing all right and it wasn’t beyond me to win a tournament but everything has to come together to win a tournament and it did for me.
“I had a bit of luck at times but my finishing throughout the whole tournament was good.
“I think the 104 in the final was the turning point, Mark was on a double and it was a great shot.
“He came back at me but fortunately I took the 67 out. The crowd were fantastic and they gave me great support, and it’s a very special moment.”
Painter had earlier won a thrilling semi-final with Coventry newcomer Scott Rand, who was the width of a wire from winning a place in his first major final inside two years as a professional.
The lorry driver, who knocked out Raymond van Barneveld and James Wade during the event, led 9-6.
But he saw his only two darts for victory, at double 16, land agonisingly on the wrong side of the wire as Painter won four successive legs.