THE peaceful setting of Lakeside Country Club roared into a glittering sporting showpiece at the weekend with players and supporters from 15 countries descending on the start of the world's most prestigious knockout competition.
Fans turned up in their hoards for four sell-out sessions at the Frimley Green club — and once again they were treated to some rip-roaring action involving the game's biggest talents and most colourful entertainers.
Those who took to their seats early Saturday lunchtime to witness the start of the 25th Anniversary Embassy World Darts Championships were in for a treat from the off with World number one and reigning Embassy champion John ‘Boy' Walton taking on four-times semi-finalist Andy ‘The Viking' Fordham.
The match was being billed as one of the biggest ever first round match-up's, but unfortunately the pressure told for popular publican Fordham and it turned into a bit of an anti-climax.
Fordham matched Walton for scoring but just couldn't finish on the day, leaving Walton waltzing to a 3-0 victory, dropping just one leg along the way.
This was Fordham's chance to finally make his mark on the Embassy crown - and the despondent look on his face as he left the arena, said it all.
Walton now goes into a gripping second round clash with local boy Colin Monk, who edged past debutante Tony O'Shea 3-2 - unconvincingly it must be said.
So far none of the big boys have buckled. Number four seed Mervyn King was in agony for much of his first round clash with Australian Russell Stewart after twisting his left knee when retrieving his darts from the board.
He still went on to win 3-1, however, to set up a second round match-up with Austrian Mensur Suljovic, who beat Dutchman Vincent van der Voort 3-2 in one of the best all overseas clashes ever to be seen on a Lakeside stage.
Embassy 2000 winner Ted Hankey had to be at his very best to progress to round two. He was taken all the way by up-and-coming Finn, Jarkko Komula, before stealing a 3-2 victory.
Colourful Wayne Mardle, Hawaiian shirts and all, sent out shockwaves when breezing to a 3-0 victory over gallant Davy Richardson.
Mardle, looking good at 16/1, now faces Swede Stefan Nagy - 3-0 conqueror of Scotland's Gary Anderson. England captain and number two seed Martin Adams had few problems in disposing of Peter Johnstone 3-0, while Wayne Jones edged past Middlesborough's Tony Eccles 3-2 in a rousing Sunday night match-up.
The youngest ever Embassy participant, Sweden's Markus Korhonen, lasted just four sets before bowing out gracefully to Steve Coote. At 18, however, he will certainly be back for more.
Seeds Bob Taylor and Marko Pusa, were due to join popular Dutchman Co Stompe in action.
Action starts at 7pm.
In full, the fixture list reads: Monday - Co Stompe (Ned) v Mike Veitch (Sco); Bob Taylor (6) (Sco) v John Ferrell (Eng); Ritchie Davies (Wal) v Tony David (Aus); Marko Pusa (3) (Fin) v Matt Clark (Eng). Tuesday (2nd rnd) - Colin Monk (Eng) v John Walton (1) (Eng); Stefan Nagy (Swe) v Wayne Mardle (8) (Eng); Erik Clarys (Bel) v Ray Barneveld (5) (Ned); Mensur Suljovic (Aus) v Mervyn King 4) (Eng). Wednesday - Steve Coote (Eng) v Martin Adams (2) (Eng); Wayne Jones (Eng) v Ted Hankey (7) (Eng); plus two other second round matches.