A Hampshire bricklayer has laid down his trowel to toe the oche in the world of professional darts.

Rich North, from Romsey, won one of just 16 places on offer in the highly-competitive Professional Darts Corporation’s qualifying school – with around 450 players battling for the prestigious places.

It was the third time of trying for the 26-year-old whose life has changed over the last couple of years.

North moved from Swindon to be with his girlfriend Tracey, who also throws a mean arrow, and they married last April.

The couple met when they played super league darts in Wiltshire – they now both represent Hampshire in the British Inter County League. They recently announced they are expecting their first child and North is looking to support his family by making his mark on the professional circuit.

He said: “I played well at the Q-School and averaged over 100 in all games. I was in good form and have been throwing with Simon Whitlock (PDC professional) recently which has given me confidence.”

North has already proved he can compete with some of the biggest names in darts. He took part in ‘The Untouchables’ at Portsmouth’s Guildhall before Christmas which featured a host of stars including Phil Taylor. North beat Wayne Mardle before recording the evening’s highest average of over 104 against Michael van Gerwen, but lost out 4-1.

“It was good playing with the big boys and I’m up for the challenge,” added North who is now being sponsored event organisers Modus Sports Management.

“You do not know until you try but much of this is really down to my wife. Before I never really took it seriously enough, I was just there for the fun and to socialise.

“Now I practice four or five hours a day.

“I want to make a future for us. Even people further down the rankings, around 40 or so, are making a good living. It never used to be a career choice but it is now.”

North, mentored in his early days by Swindon’s well-known Johnny Haines and Denis Smith, starts his PDC career this weekend, competing in the UK Open qualifiers at Wigan which, he hopes, will lead to a place in the televised place at Minehead in March.

Other players securing a Tour card at the Q-School included former world champions Richie Burnett and John Part, Paul Nicholson and Kirk Shepherd.

Veteran Ronnie Baxter was among a further 12 players who accrued enough points to join the Tour.