Shy and unassuming, Gilding is a champion for all of us

In 2011, a little-known Andrew Gilding made the last 32 of the UK Open in Bolton. Four years later, he made the last 4, losing only to an approaching-perfect Michael van Gerwen despite exhibiting some of his very best darts. In 2023, ‘Goldfinger’, via a spell off the Pro Tour and on the practice board, stood – to his trademark far left, of course – and nailed the winning dart for the UK Open victory. They do say things come in threes.

Not a soothsayer on Earth would have seen it coming. Granted, the UK Open is called the ‘FA Cup of darts’ for a reason. It is darts’s twelfth night: the order of things is disrupted and the establishment don’t get it their way. But even then it only ever beckons the slight outsider. Danny Noppert, Nathan Aspinall, Ronald Scholten – none of these were as unforeseen or unpredictable. This wasn’t even Sunderland v. Leeds 1973, or Man City v. Wigan 2013 (something about these threes). It was Gilding v. van Gerwen, Mr. ‘Goldfinger’ vs. Mr. Dominator.

Most charming of it all was all how unassuming Gilding was throughout it. In sport, we are used to tension and stakes of the greatest possible proportions. For stars like Michael Smith and Peter Wright, this has been unbearable to the point where when curses are vanquished, all that comes is relief. But with Gilding, it was as if it was happening to someone else, and he was just happy to be there. £110,000 and a major champion? He musters a wry smile and an eye twinkle. The darting equivalent of a pressure valve, reminding us all just how folly it all it is.

“I’ll have to win them all now then, won’t I?” Even after victory, we got a Gilding-ism. Because of tonight, Andrew Gilding’s life and career will never be the same. It may be the most astonishing footnote or the bridge to a whole new era. Either way, aren’t we glad we saw it?


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