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Darts sensation Luke Littler on his dream first car, comparisons with Tiger Woods, taking over Madison Square Garden… and a possible new career

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There are pictures lining the walkway that bends around the outer ring of Madison Square Garden. One for every day of the year, in fact, and together they form a 360-degree scan through history – a snapshot of some of the artists and athletes who have taken over the ‘world’s most famous arena’.

At this rate, that tapestry might need a makeover: after this weekend, the slot marked May 31 may require a memento to the first time a nuke landed in Manhattan. 

Neither history nor occasion tends to weigh heavily on Luke Littler. Not much flusters this remarkable kid, who has become the poster boy of darts at just 17.

Not a first glimpse of New York from an open-top bus (‘it was good to see all the big buildings’) and certainly not recent comparisons with a young Tiger Woods. ‘No clue,’ he says. ‘I’ve heard of Tiger Woods, but I don’t know what he’s achieved.’ You can’t imagine the small matter of Donald Trump‘s guilty verdict kept him awake on the eve of battle.

The significance of The Garden, though, is not lost on Littler. He has seen enough boxing and UFC. And now it’s his face being beamed on to big screens. Now he’s here for his debut at the 2024 US Darts Masters.

Darts sensation Luke Littler headlines at Madison Square Garden as darts comes to New York

Darts sensation Luke Littler headlines at Madison Square Garden as darts comes to New York

The 17-year-old has been seeing some sights with his parents and his girlfriend Eloise

The 17-year-old has been seeing some sights with his parents and his girlfriend Eloise

It is the third leg of the World Series of Darts – Littler won in Bahrain and was a beaten finalist in Holland – and another vital pit-stop for a sport bidding to break America. 

For this teenager, meanwhile, it represents the latest milestone in an astonishing debut season that has lifted the sport to new heights and taken Littler to some bonkers places. This must be among the most special? ‘Well, I’ll see how it goes on Friday and then I’ll decide,’ Littler jokes.

New York expects. Ticket sales have already outstripped the whole of last year’s event. There will be 4,000+ on both Friday and Saturday as eight of the world’s best battle eight North American challengers. On Wednesday, several unsuspecting tourists stopped for a picture. ‘I’ve been noticed (here), but only by UK people,’ Littler says. That might change after this weekend.

His run to the world championship final reached this side of the pond. But to treat America to more magic, the teenager must first overcome an opponent who does not care for his three-dart average. 

‘I’ve been waking up at like 7am,’ Littler says in near disbelief. Jet lag does not discriminate. ‘Way too early,’ he adds. Well, for a guy who rarely rises before midday, anyway.

The teenage phenomenon will grace Madison Square Garden, the 'world's most famous arena'

The teenage phenomenon will grace Madison Square Garden, the ‘world’s most famous arena’

World champion Luke Humphries (L) and Peter Wright (R) are among those playing at MSG

World champion Luke Humphries (L) and Peter Wright (R) are among those playing at MSG

Thankfully, Littler can catch up on sleep next week. His parents – Lisa and Anthony – and his girlfriend Eloise are here in New York and the family are headed to Orlando next week. It’s a familiar haunt.

Luke and his dad went there for WrestleMania back in April 2017 and returned a few months later to take on Universal Studios and the local waterparks. 

‘We all like (theme parks),’ he says. ‘We go to Blackpool and Alton Towers. But when you come over here, it’s just a different breed.’ Among the rides to stand out in Orlando? The Rip Ride Rockit and The Incredible Hulk Coaster.

The family were back in Florida again last October. More theme parks, shortly before life became one long rollercoaster.

Littler took a brief break in Wales after the world championships but even that was interrupted by photo-hunters. Then it was back to the oche – in Bahrain, in Holland and then a different arena every Thursday for 17 weeks.

That slog has at least brought plenty of reward: numerous trophies and even a spot on late-night talk shows. Then last week, in front of 14,000 people in London, a nine-dart finish en route to Premier League Darts glory. 

Littler recently became the second player to hit a nine-darter in the Premier League Darts final

Littler recently became the second player to hit a nine-darter in the Premier League Darts final

Littler and Michael Smith are presented with New York Rangers jerseys earlier this week

Littler and Michael Smith are presented with New York Rangers jerseys earlier this week

The ‘best night of his life’, Littler called that win. An evening when – for once – Littler was briefly overwhelmed. Emotions poured out as he remembered the sacrifices made by mum and dad.

‘They put their own money into me in my younger days. And now I’m doing so well, they don’t have to work as much and they can take time off to come watch me,’ he says. ‘Driving, hotels, petrol for the car. They had to take days off work as well – because we’d have a competition on the Sunday, but we’d drive back Monday.’

The Littlers would drive cross-country from Warrington to places such as Bognor Regis and Selsey. They flew with him to the Isle of Man. ‘And at the minute it’s all paid off,’ he says. ‘Now they can just watch me and enjoy it as much as I do.’ 

Earlier this week, the family visited the Statue of Liberty. Eventually, Littler wants to put his earnings – £650,000 ($800,000) already in 2024 – towards more than FIFA Ultimate Team.

‘I’m 17, so I’m doing my (driving) lessons whenever I’m available. I’ll go car shopping, see what I want.’ Has anything caught the eye? ‘I can’t go too big on the first car,’ he says. ‘Probably just a nice Volkswagen.’

Littler's family is in need of more storage space, too, having run out of room for his trophies

Littler’s family is in need of more storage space, too, having run out of room for his trophies 

The family is in need of more storage space, too, having run out of room for Luke’s silverware. ‘If you walked into my living room right now, they’d be on the floor still,’ he says. ‘As soon as you walk in the house there is like a table with trophies on and some pictures. Then if you look under my bed, there’s just still trophies that haven’t even been unpacked.’

So what’s the plan? Any ideas? ‘Not at the minute – we’re just still travelling everywhere,’ he says. ‘But we are looking for another house. Somewhere bigger – especially for the trophies.’ 

Darts is in a similar quandary. Thanks to Littler’s rise, there are fears the sport has outgrown its spiritual home, London’s Alexandra Palace; former world champion Gerwyn Price has backed the idea of taking the sport to Saudi Arabia.

‘It’d be crazy going to Saudi for the worlds,’ Littler says. He’d rather find somewhere bigger in the UK. Not for any geopolitical reasons – if Littler could attend any sporting event as a fan, it would be Tyson Fury’s rematch against Oleksandr Usyk.

‘It’s just easier for everyone,’ he explains. ‘Because at the worlds, if you win your first two games, like I did, you want to go back home for Christmas. Saudi to Manchester for Christmas and then Boxing Day you’re flying back out? Crazy.’

Littler triumphed 11-7 over rival Humphries in front of 14,000 fans in London last week

Littler triumphed 11-7 over rival Humphries in front of 14,000 fans in London last week

Littler’s schedule is too busy for any more inconvenience. And yet the teenager is eyeing a couple of side-hustles. He is ‘looking into’ starting life as a streamer on Twitch, allowing fans to watch him play video games. 

He recently coached a soccer team of content creators and social media stars at Everton’s Goodison Park. It was a few days before the Premier League Darts final and Littler fancied a brief playing cameo.

‘Come on, five minutes at Goodison?’ he asked his parents. ‘Not a chance,’ they told him. Who knows what their verdict would be on influencer boxing? Littler has said he would step between the ropes to face ‘Beavo’ – a social media star whose party trick is ‘swallowing potatoes whole on TikTok’.

That scrap will have to wait for now. Littler has enough to worry about: taking over the Big Apple and – who knows – earning a spot on that walkway.



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