Meet the NHS worker with a PDC Tour Card hoping to upset the odds at the UK Open
Graham Usher is planning to sweet talk his NHS colleagues with some biscuits if he goes all the way at the UK Open this weekend.
Usher, who last played at the event in 2009, is hoping to continue his excellent run of form in Minehead, having won a PDC Tour Card for the first time in January. Nicknamed 'The Gambler', the 49-year-old has already taken some notable scalps this year, including those of Daryl Gurney and Ryan Joyce, the latter at last week's Baltic Sea Darts Open.
He's now hoping for a solid run at the UK Open, having lost to Glen Durrant on his only previous appearance 14 years ago. Now much more experienced, Usher will have the support of his brilliant NHS colleagues when the tournament begins on Friday.
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Speaking exclusively to Daily Star Sport, Usher said: "They’re all over it, asking me who I’m playing, when I’m playing and if it’s on TV. They’re all really supportive and keen and want to come down and watch me."
Working a full-time job for the NHS and playing darts is no mean feat. But Usher, who has worked for the NHS for 15 years, admits he has a brilliant set of colleagues who help him out if he needs time off here and there for events.
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"It is a bit difficult, but I’ve got a great team," Usher says. "We’re a small team of about seven. The managers are great and everyone is really supportive which makes a big difference. When you know your workmates are behind you as well as your family it’s good."
"We work 8-4 Monday to Friday, so if I need to take the odd day off at short notice I can. The team are really good. I've been here for 15 years and started off by getting all the kit ready for theatres. Then I worked with adults with learning disabilities and now I work in the stores. I’ve been here for the last five years and it’s a really good team."
Usher has been involved in darts for a long time but only in January did he finally win his PDC Tour Card. The former World Masters quarter-finalist admitted he was delighted to finally succeed at Q School, adding that even he is surprised at how well he's settled, particularly at last week's Baltic Sea Darts Open.
"I was really pleased to get it," he says. "I’ve tried to get it a few times before, unsuccessfully, obviously. But this time I changed my throw a little bit, played with more of a smile and tried to enjoy it more and it worked out.
"I’ve had a few good wins so far. I beat a few top players and qualified for the Euro Tour which was a fantastic experience over in Germany in Kiel. I’m enjoying it, particularly playing on a big stage, which is just fantastic.
"I thought I’d be really nervous and overwhelmed but the crowd were amazing, and I settled straight away without any nerves or anything like that."
Usher might have to get used to an even bigger crowd if he goes deep in Minehead this weekend. The Gambler faces a tricky test against qualifier Noel Grant first up, before possible clashes against John O'Shea and Ricky Evans.
While none of those matches are on the main stage, darts punters – and Usher's NHS colleagues – will be able to track the 49-year-old's progress on the outer boards for the very first time.
That's because alongside the standard main stage broadcast on ITV4, this year's event will see stages three to eight broadcast on PDCTV, meaning fans can watch all of their favourite players.
Usher is heading into the weekend with a positive attitude and wants to see where it takes him. "My last UK Open was in 2009," he recalls.
"I’m well experienced now, and I’m going down there with a positive attitude and hoping to go deep in the competition. There’s no reason why not.
"I’ve looked at the draw, and while it’s never easy, I’m going to go and enjoy it. Getting to the last-16 would be good, and depending on how the draw goes, with it being an open draw and all, you never know."
And he even has a plan if he goes deeper into the tournament, and it's one his NHS colleagues might like the sound of.
"I’ll fetch them a biscuit tin, that’ll sweet talk them round," he jokes.
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