CRAIG Winstanley will be rubbing shoulders with some of the sport’s elite after being a surprise qualifier for the 2018 Coral UK Open — the so called FA Cup of darts.

The 30-year-old from Sutton only attended the Riley’s qualifier in Chester to have a drink and a few throws with his mates, but ended up winning a place in the 128-player tournament which takes place at the Butlin’s Minehead Resort from March 2-4.

Winstanley, who works as a fabricator with Universal Arches, wants to enjoy the occasion and see how far he can progress.

Winstanley said: “It happened by chance because I only went for a drink with my mates and took my darts with me – but ended up winning it from a field of 67.

“I was not really that prepared, but it just clicked on the day really.”

Winstanley, who has only really been playing for year, throws with elite darter Michael Smith’s Sunday team at St Anne’s.

The transition from throwing in his room, to playing for the town’s Super League team and Merseyside, has happened swiftly, but he is taking it in his stride.

“I am just chuffed to get there and if it happens it happens.

“I’d like to win the first game and get that out of the way.

“It would be a bonus if I won some money – but you need to win that first one to get anything,” he said.

He will have support at Butlins, with his parents and friends getting a minibus down for the event.

He has also received congratulations from Premier League leader Michael Smith, who he has been practising with.

“Michael congratulated me – and I have been practising with him and playing with Eddie Dootson.

“Although I had no holidays left, work have allowed me to go and have sponsored me too, so I have a lot to thank them for,” he said.