He is the young darts star carrying the hopes of a nation.
And Devon Petersen is determined that he won’t let South Africa down, as he embarks on a career that he hopes will bring success on the big darts stages around the world.
And as Unicorn continues to back emerging darting talent, the world’s top darts manufacturer has put its weight behind Petersen’s ambitions for the future.
The young man from Cape Town has taken the biggest gamble of his life to follow his darting passion, by leaving South Africa behind to try to build a career in the world of PDC darts.
Petersen has moved to the UK to live the dream and many in the ranks of the PDC are tipping the 24-year-old to become the best player to come out of Africa.
With a new nickname – The Spartan – and a new start with a new career in the top echelons of darts, the future certainly looks rosy for Petersen.
“It was a tough decision to leave home, but I didn’t ever want to think ‘what if’ in the future,” he said.
“I have had so much encouragement from friends and family and getting the support of Unicorn, the brand of champions, just makes the gamble worthwhile.”
It has certainly been a rollercoaster ride for young Devon Petersen, but he is enjoying every minute of the experience.
His life changed completely in September 2010, when he won the South African Open in Johannesburg. His triumph guaranteed him a prized place at the Ladbrokes.com World Championship and from the moment he stepped on the Ally Pally, Petersen knew that his darting destiny has been sealed!
And it was all achieved with Phil Taylor’s darts!
“It was just the most amazing experience,” he admitted. “And it is a feeling that I want to experience many, many times over the next few years if everything goes to plan.”
Now, he will be looking for claim the big scalps of the PDC after winning a Tour Card for 2011 and 2012, through ‘Qualifying School’ in Wigan, which took place in January 2011.
On the day, Petersen won five matches to clinch his spot on the Pro Tour, including an impressive 6-0 victory over the highly experienced Jimmy Mann in the final.
But it can all be traced back to his nail-biting 5-4 victory over Les Francis in the final of the South African Open to clinch his spot at the Ally Pally.
Petersen had lost to Francis in the 2009 Final, so it was sweet revenge and it was a win to launch a career.
He followed Francis, Charles Losper and Wynand Havenga to become only the fourth South African to play at the World Championship, and he made a big impression straight away in London.
In the Preliminary Round at the Alexandra Palace, Petersen defeated Norman Madhoo of Guyana by 4 legs to 2 and he made everyone sit up and take note, by banging in brilliant finishes of 136 and 146 on the biggest stage in world darts.
He was drawn to play another Team Unicorn star in the shape of Jamie Caven in the 1st Round and gave it a really good go…..in fact, Devon won the opening set and missed doubles for a 2-1 lead in legs in the second set, before Caven’s experience came through to win the day by three sets to one.
But the darts world had seen enough and Petersen had caught that darts bug!
That was that, as they say, and he headed off to ‘Q School’ determined that darts would become his life and there are many darting experts now tipping the South African ace for great things, including former World No.1 and current PDC Director Rod Harrington.
His first TV experience actually came at the 2009 South African Masters and that is where he acquired the weapons of ‘The Power’!
Devon takes up the story: “I was standing at the back of the arena, waiting to play my match against John Part. I remember being very nervous and I was chatting to Phil asking for advice on playing on the stage for the time. He was very kind and I felt great going up there to play John.”
“I lost the match 4-1 to Part,” he continued. “But after the match, Phil opened his darts case and just gave me his darts. I couldn’t believe it – Phil Taylor giving me HIS darts! Anyway, I cherish them and I have played with them ever since.”
And the Phil Taylor Phase 5 darts have certainly done the trick for Petersen.
He has become very good friends with another Team Unicorn young gun – Joe Cullen – and has settled into life in the UK, living in Brighouse in West Yorkshire, where he has become a popular figure with the ‘White Rose’ darting fraternity.
He was introduced to darts by his father George as a teenager and soon become an accomplished player, rocketing up the South African rankings and winning several junior competitions…..not bad, when you consider he only started playing competitively when he was 17.
But Petersen nearly quit the sport all together, when he qualified to represent South Africa in the World Cup, but it turned out that he was too young. For a while, he became disillusioned with darts and stopped playing.
Nevertheless, his father and mother Lucille persuaded him to persevere and Petersen is starting to get the rewards for his hard work.
“My parents and my coach Russel Mains believed in me and encouraged me and I can never thank them enough,” he said. “Now I have Unicorn backing me, so I have to go and do the business on the dartboard. There will be no excuses.”
There are great expectations for Devon Petersen, but none greater than the hopes of the man himself, who now has the chance to prove that he made the right move and chose the right path in the world of darts.
He has no doubts. Petersen has a confidence and a belief that will be tested, but if he remains determined and ambitious, there is every reason to believe that he will achieve his goals.
The darts world will monitor his progress with great interest over the next couple of years but Devon Petersen has a dream…..to become a major player in the world of PDC darts.