Darts: Tahuna Irwin aims big at Auckland Darts Masters debut

Last year, Tahuna Irwin was a spectator at the 2017 Auckland Darts Masters, watching the glitz and glamour of the world's best battle it out right in front of his eyes.

Fast forward 12 months and the 21-year-old will take centrestage, as he gets the chance to face one of the stars in his backyard at the Trusts Arena on August 3.

He will be one of six Kiwis flying the flag this weekend and it will be a surreal experience for the shy, quietly spoken youngster from Gisborne, who has only been playing darts for three years.

Darts runs through Irwin's blood. He got into the game when his grandfather, asked him if he could play in his team one night, as they were short one player.

"I rang up mum and went down, and I did pretty well for my first time," Irwin told Newshub.

"I just got hooked on it after that. It felt natural and I felt like I knew what I was doing.

"My granddad was actually pretty intimidating, but when I came into the scene that changed.

"I’ve played many sports and this is the one that gives me goosebumps. I love the feeling when you get the triple 20s - it satisfies me for some reason."

That one night filling in was the start of a rapid rise through the New Zealand ranks.

Last year, Irwin became the country's youngest singles champion and he has represented New Zealand internationally, competing in Japan and Australia.

But his most impressive achievements were all accomplished last month.

On top of qualifying for the Auckland Masters, he beat out 15 of the country's best to earn a spot at the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) World Darts Championships at the iconic Alexandra Palace in December.

He then won the New Zealand national youth title, all in the space of seven days.

It was an outstanding effort, considering his priority at the start of the year was to qualify for the PDC World Youth Championship in Somerset in November.

The world youths see the best arrowsmiths, aged 16-23, compete for a £10,000 (NZ$19,248) prize.  

"It was overwhelming," he explained. "It took me a couple of weeks for it to sink in and realise that this is a big thing.

Gary Anderson
Kyle Anderson Photo credit: Photosport.

"All my family is proud, especially my old lady - she's pleased. They're all proud actually.

"I want to try my best and be me. Depending on how well I do, this could be a good set-up for the rest of my life."

Regardless of how well he goes, Irwin plans to learn as much as possible, and use this weekend's experience as a stepping stone for bigger and grander things.

The ultimate goal is to try to claim a tour card for the professional circuit in the UK.

"You have to set yourself a goal. If you want it, you'll go for it and that's what I'm trying to do."

"I'm aiming to be number one in the world, because I want to do good - for my town, my family and New Zealand."

As all his family can't attend, Irwin's darts club in Gisborne will set up the big screen for members of the community to watch the spectacle.

He'll find out who his first-round opponent is on Thursday, when the draw is done, but he already has an idea on who he wants to challenge at the oche.

"Hopefully. I'll get Kyle Anderson, because he beat me in Melbourne earlier this year. I'd like to give him another game, see how this goes."

The other top players making the trip to New Zealand are Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, current world champion Rob Cross, Peter Wright, Simon Whitlock, Michael Smith and Raymond van Barneveld.

No matter what happens on Friday, this won't be the last time you hear the name Tahua Irwin. 

Newshub.

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