BASINGSTOKE darts marksman Colin Monk retained his coveted crown when he won his third Hartwell Hampshire Open at the weekend.

Monk battled his way through a field of more than 500 players at Southampton’s Novotel on Saturday to take home the £1,000 winner’s cheque for the third time.

The arrows ace faced Midlands man Tony Randell in the final and came through 5-1 to keep the trophy in his home county.

Jubilant Monk said: “I just wanted to win it to keep it in Hampshire. I am a Hampshire boy and for a minute I thought it was going to be heading northwards.

“I didn’t play my best darts in the final but I did throw some decent ones earlier in the day. But I did enough and the trophy is staying here.”

The event was the biggest one-day open ever staged by the Hampshire County Darts Organisation and also one of the best.

Last-minute preparations were made to accommodate the record field of 522 entrants – almost 100 more than previous years.

The Novotel’s neighbouring sister hotel, Ibis, also opened its doors to players as a total of 32 boards were put up to cope with the increased numbers.

Other previous winners Mark Thomson, Neil Raikes and Paul Carter fell by the wayside as the day progressed along with other male and female players of all ages and abilities. Hampshire professional Andy Jenkins reached the latter stages but missed out on the final again.

The standard throughout the day was so high that both finalists only made the last two by the skin of their teeth.

Eastleigh’s Sam Rooney looked good for a place in the final as he hit a maximum against Randell as they stood square at 3-3 in legs. But he missed four shots at a double to let the Midlander back in.

Monk – a former World Masters winner and twotimes World Darts Championship semifinalist – was 3-1 up against Hampshire county player Kev Ede but was pulled back level before holding his nerve to nail double ten while his opponent was waiting for a chance at 60.

Randell took the lead in the final but Monk’s experience showed as he levelled and then reeled off another four successful legs to secure the silverware he won last year and in 2003.