BEN Ward will attempt to regain the Southern Counties Open crown this weekend safe in the knowledge that he has already reached the televised stages of the tournament dubbed the FA Cup of darts.

Dorchester’s Ward, 25, heads to the George Albert Hotel in Evershot today in buoyant mood after qualifying for the UK Open in Wigan last weekend.

He sealed his place following some impressive performances during the first three qualifiers at the Robin Park Tennis Centre.

The same venue hosts another three next weekend and, with his spot at the competition proper already secured, Ward, pictured, will return to Wigan in the hope of finishing the qualifiers as one of the top-32 ranked players.

If he does, Ward would go to Butlins in Minehead next month with the advantage of entering the final stages of the Coral-sponsored UK Open in round three.

The big Southern Counties event, where he takes part in the doubles today and singles tomorrow, is his immediate focus and if his recent form is anything to go by he could well repeat his success of 2011 – he won the singles on that occasion before claiming the mixed pairs title with Sarah Chick 12 months ago.

Commenting on his achievements in Wigan, he said: “The aim at the start was to qualify for Minehead and I’m obviously delighted to get through.

“I had four darts to beat John Newland comfortably in the first round on the first day but ended up losing 6-5.

“I played alright the next day but ended up losing 6-5 to Steve Beaton in round four and had three darts to beat him too.

“Then in the third qualifier I played Michael van Gerwen and brought it back from 3-0 down but lost 6-5.

“I’m back in Wigan next weekend and I’ll be looking to make the top 32 for Minehead.”

Meanwhile, more than 150 men’s entries have been accepted for the Southern Counties Open with 30-plus women competing for the ladies’ title today.

The action gets under way at around 11am on both days this weekend.