Sawbridgeworth darts player Thomas Banks, 14, making a name for himself on Junior Darts Corporation Advance Tour
Thomas Banks has stepped up to the oche and is making a name for himself in the darts world.
The 14-year-old, nicknamed Bulldog, has been playing the game ever since he was old enough to throw a dart, but his game has gone up a gear in the last couple of years.
Now he is developing his skills on the Junior Darts Corporation Tour – the junior equivalent of the Professional Darts Corporation, which has tournaments screened regularly on Sky Sports – as well as representing his country and competing at county level.
The talented teenager has made 170 checkouts in tournament play and his best three-dart average in JDC Tour action is an impressive 88.
And the sport has helped him come through a difficult time of being bullied, with his desire to prove people wrong pushing him to do even better.
Thomas lives in Brook End in Sawbridgeworth with mum Tracy, who works for delivery firm Yodel, and dad Paul, a specialist painter, as well as eight-month-old border collie Lucky.
Tracy is a darts player herself and represented Hertfordshire as well as travelling to tournaments in the USA, Netherlands and Denmark when she was younger, as well as playing netball. Paul plays darts too while Thomas also enjoys football, cricket, swimming and table tennis.
He took part in the JDC's inaugural Q-School earlier this year and finished third to earn his place on the Advance Tour for the top 32 youngsters. That came to an end at the weekend after 12 tournaments – matches were either streamed live on YouTube or the scores could be followed live online – and he finished 11th to comfortably retain his tour card for next season.
Thomas, who plays for at least an hour a day in practice or competition, took part in England Youth online tournaments during lockdown before going on to represent his country in an online contest against Ireland. Being involved in two victories meant he earned his England cap.
Thomas has shown commitment and dedication to reach this standard, with the hard work also including representing Herts Youth and taking part in England Grand Prix events. He has had four Herts Superleague teams vying to get him to play for them and has chosen Waltham Abbey. Playing for the Herts senior team is also on the horizon, where it is possible he could play alongside his mum as Tracy has put herself forward for selection.
Thomas, whose darts hero is 16-time world champion Phil "The Power" Taylor and cites Steve West as the player he would most like to play like, is dreaming of one day becoming a professional and getting to play on the Alexandra Palace stage at the PDC World Darts Championship.
"The best thing is when you're playing a match and people are watching, and you want to win," said Thomas, who is starting in Year 10 at the BMAT STEM Academy in Harlow next month. "The other week I beat one of the best players and it was a great feeling."
Thomas has just received sponsorship from Darren and Mel at Enfield superstore Darts GB, who are providing him with customised shirts and darts. His yellow and green shirt, inspired by his favourite football team Norwich City, features the names of his two sets of grandparents – Tony and Maureen Banks, who have passed away, and Tom and Jean Barnett – on the sleeve. Grandad Tom was a winger for Crystal Palace in the early 1960s.
Thomas is looking for other sponsors to help with travel costs and tournament entry fees. To help him on his journey, email firstname.lastname@example.org.