American star Mawson to start UK Open challenge in Bolton
Former Bolton finalist Gary Mawson will kick-off the UK Open against qualifier Ashley Whisker in the first round of the FA Cup of Darts next month.
The draw for the preliminary round and first two rounds proper have been made for the event, which starts on Thursday June 3 at the Reebok Stadium.
The Preliminary and First Rounds feature the players placed from 65-96 in the UK Open Order of Merit, following eight qualifying events, along with the 32 Rileys Amateur Qualifiers and ten BDO County Qualifiers.
Thursday's opening night also features the Second Round games involving the players who finished from 33-64 in the UK Open Order of Merit, with popular star Wayne Mardle drawn against Ireland's Mick McGowan on the Main Stage.
The top 32 players, including reigning UK Open champion Phil Taylor and 2008 winner James Wade, enter the event on Friday June 4 at the Third Round stage.
American ace Mawson, whose family hail from Bolton, enjoyed the finest weekend of his darts career two years ago when he battled through to the final of the UK Open, defeating reigning champion Raymond van Barneveld along the way, before losing out to James Wade.
Mawson is one of 106 players who will take part in the Preliminary, First and Second Rounds at the Reebok Stadium when the four-day UK Open - nicknamed "The FA Cup of Darts" due to the free draw format for each round - begins on June 3, screened live on Sky Sports.
Mawson has drawn Basildon-based Ashley Whisker - a 26-year-old tractor driver - in the Preliminary Round, with their match opening the tournament on the Main Stage, which is one of eight stages which will host simultanous action around the Reebok Stadium's Premier Suite.
Chorley's Louis Blundell meets former World Champion Richie Burnett in one of four First Round games to be played on the Main Stage, which also include the Roses battle between Lancashire's Darren Latham and Yorkshire starlet Joe Cullen, Steve Hine's clash with Northumberland's Ian Gleeson and Leeds-based Rileys Qualifier Stuart Monaghan against Irish debutant William O'Connor.
Former World Championship finalist Kirk Shepherd was drawn with Adrian Gray, while promising youngster Arron Monk - the son of experienced professional Colin Monk - faces Nick Fullwell and Paul Nicholson, the totesport.com Players Championship winner in January, will face either Peter Hudson, Paul Neate or Dave Smith.
Board two's matches on the opening night include Manchester-based Rileys Qualifier Paul Whitworth up against Scotland's Chris Loudon, last year's quarter-finalist Mark Lawrence taking on Alex Roy and games involving former World Champion Steve Beaton, Kevin McDine and Mark Frost.
Jyhan Artut, the emerging German who knocked Mardle out of the World Championship last December, meets Kevin Dowling in a Preliminary Round contest on Board Three, while Bristol's Steve Brown clashes with Welshman Wayne Atwood in the Second Round on Board Five.
Peter Manley, the former Las Vegas Desert Classic winner who recently returned to action after suffering a health scare, has drawn St Helens-based teenager Michael Smith, with their game on Board Six likely to draw plenty of attention and coming after Scotland's Robert Thornton faces the winner of a clash between Rileys Qualifiers Mark Wilson and Paul Gibbs.
Roland Scholten, the 2004 UK Open champion, comes up against either Bradley Williams or Joe Palmer in the Second Round as he bids to repeat his success at the Reebok Stadium.
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