Luke Littler’s Incredible PDC Debut – The 16 Year Old Who Finished Second in the World Darts Championship

The world’s richest, most famous, kebab-loving 16-year-old, Luke Littler, was unknown outside the darts world until the 2024 PDC World Darts Championship. Hardcore fans of the sport were well aware of this incredible talent from Warrington, not least as he had won the PDC World Youth Championship in 2023. But his sensational performance at the game’s biggest event has turned him from a promising prospect into a star of the game and, for a couple of weeks at least, he was front-page news, as well as back page.

The Runcorn-born arrowsmith was priced at 3/1 with some bookies to win the 2024 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award ahead of the final. His odds have drifted since but even so, the fact he is among the possible contenders is startling considering relatively few people had even heard of him in early December last year.

Littler’s Run to the 2024 PDC Final

Littler began playing darts at the age of just 18 months and joined his local darts club, the St Helens Darts Academy when he was 10. By 13 he had registered a nine-dart finish and as a youth rules had to be changed to allow him to play against older and older opponents so he could be challenged. Even then he regularly put much more experienced players to the sword, with many reluctant to face him.

As such, and given he had won five events on the PDC Development Tour in 2023, his performances at the 2024 World Darts Championship were not a total and utter shock. Even so, it is hard to really put into words just what he has achieved at such a young age.

Eases Though Early Rounds

Luke Littler
Luke Littler (Darts Actueel, CC BY 3.0, via Wikipedia)

Littler qualified to play at the tournament due to his showings on the Development Tour and faced the Dutch ace, Christian Kist, in the first round. Kist won the 2012 BDO World Championship and so is clearly no mug and, aged 37, is far from over the hill in darts terms. Even so, Littler showed no signs of nerves whatsoever and hammered Kist 3-0. He averaged over 106 in that game – a formidable number.

In the second round, it was more of the same as he defeated Andrew Gilding with ease. He beat the 2023 UK Open champ 3-1 and averaged 92.65. That was the lowest three-dart average he would deliver all championships, incredibly averaging over 100 in five matches in total! There are so many stats and facts we could talk about but perhaps the most startling is that at the age of 16, after just one appearance, only 11 players have averaged over 100 in more World Championship matches than Littler!

A number of seeds fell in that second round – Gilding, seeded 20th, was one of 11 to lose – and so the draw just began to open up a little. In round three, Littler faced Canadian player, Matt Campbell, and took the first two sets 3-0. He won 4-1 in the end, averaging a shade over 97. Next up was the legendary Dutch master, Raymond van Barneveld. Barney is no doubt past his best at 56 but many felt the 2007 champion, who also won the BDO title four times, would prove too good and too experienced.

They were wrong, as Littler blew him away 4-1, averaging more than 105 in the process. People were now had to take the youngster very seriously and his impressive throwing meant that some began to talk about him as a potential winner.

Littler Gets Bigger and Better

Despite being just 16, Littler had plenty of experience at the business end of tournaments. That said, youth titles and wins on the Development Tour are a far cry from playing in front of thousands at Ally Pally in the quarter finals of the biggest tournament in the sport. There was a feeling that maybe he would let the pressure get to him.

However, he made a mockery of such thoughts, once again averaging over 100 (101.93) to slaughter Brendan Dolan 5-1. That Dolan had beaten Gerwyn Price 4-2 and Gary Anderson 4-3 in the third and fourth rounds, respectively, shows just how impressive that performance from Warrington’s finest was.

That saw Littler into the semis and just two games away from making history. Michael van Gerwen is the youngest ever winner of the PDC world title but if Littler could win two more games he would destroy MVG’s record by almost eight years! 2018 champion Rob Cross represented his first obstacle but Cross was also serving as inspiration for the tyro, given he had won the PDC title on his debut in the tournament six years earlier.

Cross edged the first set 3-2 and there was a suspicion that finally nerves were getting to Littler. Once again, however, he made a mockery of those who doubted him, storming back to win 6-2 and averaging a massive 106.05 in the process. That victory guaranteed him at least £200,000 and the chance to land a cool half a million, as well as the opportunity to etch his name into the record books.

Luke Loses Battle of Lukes

Luke Humphries
Luke Humphries (@Darts Actueel, CC BY 3.0, via Wikipedia)

The final was a battle of two Lukes, Littler and Humphries. The latter was the bigger Luke, his win in the semis ensuring he would end the tournament as the world number one no matter what. Humphries, named Luke due to a father who loved Leeds United and decided that Luke would stand for Leeds United Kings of Europe(!), was the warm favourite and had won his semi 6-0, averaging 108.74!

He had won three major tournaments in 2023 and would clearly provide Littler with his toughest test yet. The then-world number three, Humphries, settled quicker and bossed the early proceedings but the underdog stayed in the match and scraped to 2-2. He then found his feet and rattled off sets five and six 3-1 and 3-0 to make the impossible dream seem decidedly possible.

However, it wasn’t to be for the teenager and, despite averaging over 100 yet again in the final, he went down 7-4. It was an impressive performance in the showpiece game nonetheless, and an exceptional match. Littler will have many more stabs at beating Mighty Mike’s record as the youngest winner of this tournament but for now his biggest decision will be how to spend his £200k cheque for finishing second.

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