Lakeside champion Stephen Bunting moves over to the PDC

St Helens Star: Stephen Bunting Stephen Bunting

LAKESIDE CHAMPION Stephen Bunting has spoken of his excitement at the "new challenge" which awaits him on the PDC circuit, after accepting his offer of a PDC Tour Card.

The 28-year-old received the offer of a PDC Tour Card after winning through to the semi-finals of the recent Lakeside Championship, which he went on to win with a 7-4 sets victory over Alan Norris in the final.

That victory followed up his triumph in a second successive World Masters in October, while he also won six other Open events in his rise to number one on the BDO/WDF circuit last year.

However, Bunting has now opted to join the PDC's £7 million circuit, and will make his debut on the PDC ProTour in next month's UK Open Qualifiers in Wigan.

"It's been an absolutely massive decision for me to make and a very difficult decision," Bunting told www.pdc.tv in his first interview since making the move.

"I've been tearing my hair out for the last two weeks and my decision was only made last night, which shows how tough it was. I've always looked at the PDC and seen the money involved, and my family were a big influence in my decision - my son Toby was cheering, so it shows that the family are excited!

"I've loved my time in the BDO. I've won everything I can in the BDO now and was just looking for a new challenge.

"The Lakeside's a trophy that I've been chasing for so many years now. People used to ask me when I would be joining the PDC circuit, but I always said that I wanted to win Lakeside first, and now I've done it I think the time is right to make the switch over.

"If I was going to join the PDC, the best time to do it was as World Champion.

"My Twitter has gone mad! 99 percent of the people are positive and saying that it's a really good move for me, and if you want to become more professional and get more TV coverage that this was the move to make.

"I'm really looking forward to the new challenge and let's see what I can do against the big boys!"

Bunting is the latest star of the St Helens darting scene looking to make his impact on the PDC circuit, with Michael Smith winning last year's PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship and Dave Chisnall included in this year's Premier League Darts after reaching the World Grand Prix final in his rise to fifth in the world.

Bunting said: "Dave Chisnall's had a great couple of years, and then you look that Michael Smith's up there and we've had Alan Tabern and Gary Welding on the PDC circuit too in recent years.

"There's a lot of local players and they're all good lads, and I think the fact that I've got a lot of friends in the PDC already will help my settling-in period."

Bunting is also keen to test himself against the sport's biggest names - including 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor and new PDC World Champion Michael van Gerwen - week-in, week-out on the PDC circuit.

"Phil Taylor's been a fantastic ambassador for the sport for a lot of years and Michael van Gerwen's up there with him now, and I wanted a piece of that pie to be honest," he added.

"I know I'm good enough to compete with the likes of them, so I'm relishing the chance to take them on."

The St Helens ace has previously qualified for the last two UK Opens through the amateur qualifiers, reaching the last 32 last summer, but will now hope to win through to March's Televised Finals through the professional route in February.

"I can't wait to get going in the first few events next month," said Bunting. "The decision was only made last night so I'd not had chance to think about playing, so I'll get back on the practice board now and I'll be ready for those events.

"It would be nice to qualify for all the TV events and then hopefully in the next few years I can break into the Premier League too.

"That's a big ambition. The thing that appeals to me more than anything about the Premier League is that there's a venue in Liverpool, and to play in front of my home crowd in the next few years would be absolutely amazing."

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