Luke Humphries was recently awarded the PDC Best Newcomer Award for 2019 after a stellar debut year on the PDC ProTour - topped off by a run to the World Championship quarter-finals.
We caught up with the back-to-back Development Tour winner this week, to discuss his highlights of 2018 and how he prepares for the season ahead.
Speaking about the PDC Awards dinner in London, Luke said: “It was a brilliant night, I’ve been there before but this time round I got a few nominations
“To win that award was fantastic, I’d never even dreamed of winning Best Newcomer
“Naturally this year was the only time I could win it, so it was an amazing feeling.”
Humphries’ stand-out performance was a run to the 2019 PDC World Championship quarter-finals and Luke is still clearly delighted with his performance.
“It was a fantastic run in the Worlds and the highlight was probably defeating reigning champion Rob Cross on the way
“I also beat back-to-back World Youth Champion Dimitri van den Bergh on the way but the highlight would have to be the win over Rob
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment. Even if I manage to win a World title I’ll never forget that win - it’s not every day you get to beat a former World Champion up on the stage!”
First Worlds Experience
This outstanding run came in just his second appearance at Ally Pally. Luke was defeated in the opening round against Jeff Smith for his first appearance, but admits that debut on the grand stage set him in great stead for the following year.
“I took a lot from that first Worlds experience. When you get up on that stage you imagine what it would feel like but when you are actually there it’s a lot different
“Just getting up there that first time really helped me as I knew what to expect and I think you could probably see that a little bit in Adam Hunt’s performance against me. It’s tough that first time you step up there, this year I felt much more at ease"
Invaluable Euro Tour
During Humphries debut year he also competed on multiple European Tour events throughout the year and this stage experience was also invaluable for the Englishman.
“I feel the Euro Tour was a massive help for me. I think a lot of people don’t realise that, they think this was my second time on the stage in my career
“If you look back I think I played a total of 13 matches on the European Tour stage and it’s not much different to playing at a major like the Worlds
“The stage is pretty big, aswell as the crowd and they can even be noisier and louder in Europe, every time you step on the stage it feels like you’re playing on a TV event"
Time on the Development Tour
Humphries has plied his darting trade on the Development Tour to earn on a spot on the Pro Tour, finishing top of the Order of Merit in back-to-back years. It wasn’t all plain-sailing for Luke as he made the step-up though.
“I really enjoyed my first year on the Pro Tour, but I found it a lot tougher than I expected
“I came off the back of the Development Tour where I was winning quite a lot and losing much less
“When you make that jump to the Pro Tour you find yourself losing in first rounds more often and you’re not used to it
“I think I coped well with it in the end though, it’s tough travelling a lot and then losing in the first round
“But you have to realise it’s not going to be an overnight success kind of thing and that it takes a lot of dedication and hard work. I still enjoyed it as a whole and I seriously cannot wait to get this season underway”
New Season Ahead
January sees the professional circuit move into it’s off-season with a gap between the World Championships and the Tour getting underway after the first week on February.
Luke’s first event will be the Player Championships on 9th
February and he’s been working hard on preparation.
“I took about 10 days off after the Worlds, but it wasn’t 10 straight days as I would fit in an hour here or there on the board.
“After that though it was straight back into practice and I think I’m practicing more now than I would have before if I’m honest
“Once I had that first taste of success it made me put more effort in to get better, it really drove me on to get back on the stage - to get in more Majors"
Goals for the Year
The 23-year old has also set himself some clear targets that he’s aiming to achieve along the way to rising up the PDC rankings
“One of my goals has probably got to be to taste that success on the stage again and qualify for a bigger tournament like a Matchplay or Grand Prix, setting those big targets is key for me
“My main goal has got to be to win a ProTour event though. To win a first ranking title would really be the next thing for me.
“I’d really love to win the World Youth title this year, it’s my final year that I can compete so lifting that would be great - and also getting the Hat-trick of Development Tour top finishes!”
There will be more opportunities that ever before in 2019 for Luke to reach his target as the PDC has increased the number of Player Championship events up to 30 throughout the year.
This increase in events packs out and already busy darting calendar for Tour pro’s and Luke welcomes the changes.
“For me it’s a case of the more the better if I’m honest because at the end of the day it is our full-time employment really
“So naturally the more tournaments the more money is on offer and more players can make a living playing our great sport
“For me personally it opens the door to more opportunities to build my game, career and name in the darting world
“I know it’s really cliché but it’s truly a dream come true for me to be able to do this as my full-time job"