Unsung Heroes: Hylton leaves a vapour tail
By Editorial Staff 02/02/2020
FEBRUARY, 2010, and Mark “Mile High” Hylton was about to begin what was to be a shortish, but highly significant, test flight into the world of PDC darts. A superb take-off was followed by a turbulent spell ‘cruising at altitude’ before a steep descent took him away from our view.
Hylton had been around amateur darts for quite some time, including a notable appearance at the 2007 UK Open, before he was approached to turn professional. His first few months on tour proved a steep learning curve. It seemed that ‘Mile High’, as he was known due to a previous career on the airlines, would take a while to adjust to the professional game.
However, Mark was playing superbly behind the scenes while cleaning up in non-professional events all over the country. His management/coaching team funded trips to Australia, and Canada, that summer to see if their hunch was right. Take-off was finally managed by Hylton as he soared to the final of that year's PDC Australian Open. The prize money, £3000, ensured he would qualify for the World Championships.
Success followed success, with Mark then qualifying for the Grand Slam of Darts while gaining more consistent results on the Pro Tour. Despite not progressing from the group stage, the Grand Slam provided stage darts and ensured he, and his team, were confident of success at Ally Pally.
Team Hylton prepared meticulously. Mark played in all conditions and, as often as possible, on borrowed stages with friends acting as officials, When it was known who, the legendary Steve Beaton, would be his first-round opponent, similar style and pace players were found and they played the event format time and time again. They also calculated the next two likely opponents.
The venue was scouted, the weather anticipated, which was extreme, and complications allowed for. Despite all the usual beginner’s nerves and the skills of his opponent, Mark ran out the winner in the deciding set.
During the days between matches, similar preparations were made for tackling Colin Lloyd. Again, despite all the advantages, and a few tactics, being with Jaws’. Hylton, was less nervous before and had been instructed as he headed for the stage: “you are the best kept secret in world darts”, “now go and show these people why”, and he did. Lloydy threw everything at him and never made a dent. By the end of the game Lloyd was shaking his head in disbelief, as Hylton averaged over 115 for spells and became the event’s leading 180 hitter.
Sadly, for those who love an underdog story, events beyond anticipation and a superb performance from, his opponent, Mark Webster halted Hylton’s run at the last 16 stage.
The two big wins at Ally Pally gave further lift to Mark’s career. He was awarded the PDC’s New Player of the Year award, a lucrative dart sponsorship, and went on to great success in more major events. Reaching two Qtr finals during 2011, rising to number 32 in the world and frightening the life out of Phil Taylor in Blackpool.
Although Mark has slipped from view since those halcyon days, his efforts should not be forgotten. To debut aged 44, with no top-flight experience, and to hit the heights he did, was remarkable.
Indeed, the vapor-trail Hylton left guided many. You don’t need to be a hallowed name to win big!
Just ask Rob Cross!
Lead Image: PDC ( L Lustig)
A version of this article appeared in The Ultimate Guide to the PDC World Championship – https://appsolutely.dev/darts/