Teenager Luke Littler’s reward for his remarkable run to the World Championship final is a place in the Premier League.
The 16-year-old finished runner-up to world number one Luke Humphries at Alexandra Palace and his extraordinary run ensured record viewing figures for broadcasters Sky.
That put pressure on the Professional Darts Corporation to include Littler, who turns 17 later this month, even though he has not won a major title and as a result the Warrington youngster has been fast-tracked to become the youngest player in Premier League history.
“It’s unbelievable. No more development tour. This is it. Playing in the Premier League and comfortably in the (world’s top) 32,” Littler told Sky Sports News.
“As soon as I came off the stage, did the media and saw the family my manager pulled me aside and said ‘Do you want to do it?’ I said, ‘Let’s do it, it might not happen again’.
“I’ll probably have to take a break maybe from a few ProTours but I knew what was coming as soon as I said yes to the Premier League.
“This is just going to be an incredible experience.”
After being controversially omitted from the Premier League last year, new world champion Humphries was included this time around.
The 28-year-old believes it was ultimately the correct decision for him but believes Littler has to seize the opportunity he has been given.
“Luke did make the right decision. He’s a top talent in darts now and these are the sort of things you want to be playing in. How talented he is already he will grow to even greater heights,” said Humphries.
“It was a hard thing (being left out) to take for me but in the best way. The call we had was, ‘Prove us wrong and prove that we maybe should have put you in’ and I did that just about.
“I think they made the right decision because it allowed me to go on and have no scars in the Premier League. It may have been too early for me.
“I’m more well-equipped than ever so what better way to play in it than when you are world champion?”
However, 16-time world world champion Phil Taylor thought it would have been in Littler’s best interests to be kept out of the limelight for while.
“If I was Luke’s manager I’d probably shy him away this year and do it next year,” he told talkSPORT before the announcement was made.
Humphries, defending champion Michael van Gerwen, last year’s world champion Michael Smith and two-time world champion Peter Wright all automatically qualified via the PDC Order of Merit.
Former world No 1 Gerwyn Price and Nathan Aspinall are also included, along with former world champion Rob Cross.