Column #HR35 Butler! King! Baxter! Croft?

Monday, January 31, 2011
Column HR35
Butler! King! Baxter! Croft?

The Old Dart Coach’s past mention that many tournaments have faded into the sunset was true but failed to acknowledge those that are still going strong. One of those is the $15,000 Camilla Classic held annually in Nueva Helvetia, California. WTF is a Nueva Helvetia? The name was given to an agriculture trading colony and stockade founded by pioneer John Sutter when he arrived in “Mexico Alta California” in August of 1840. His son founded a neighboring community which he called Sacramento – the state capital of what is again becoming Mexico Alta California.

Back in the day the Camilla Classic was more a social event for good folk – all who owned darts, played a little and would gratefully accept a beverage or two. It was the first event of the year in Norte California. One year the ODC’s brother, not a real brother, and a pal named Jack had a Saturday night 15-round heavyweight title fight with Peach Brandy. On Sunday when the singles were called there was no brother. A search party was dispatched which found said brother head down-feet-up in his small old foreign car. As he was ready for play – meaning that he had pants, shirts and shoes – he was hustled into the venue just as the last call was made.

Still somewhat under the effects of the Peach Brandy, evil as it is, a quick check was made only to discover that he had just two darts.

“Where’s your other dart?”

“No idea.”

“OK where have you been?”

“I was at the bar, walked out to the parking lot, fell in a really big hole, got up and fell into my car.”

Another search party went out which succeeded in finding the recalcitrant dart. By this time his opponent was completely bewitched, bothered and bewildered. Not to mention completely amazed that so many people had gathered around to watch him play. Defying odds in one of the greatest displays of man over Peach Brandy in history, the ODC’s brother stumbled, fumbled and fell (only a couple of times when tripped by the duct tape oche) to a win. The crowd roared but felt so bad for the looser that they took up a collection and paid his entry fees. Might be a good idea for this year’s event at the Red Lion (February 11-13) – hide the Peach Brandy and check the parking lot for bodies each night.

Not in the same class with the Camilla of past, but this year’s edition of the 2011 Las Vegas Open was a roaring success. Most of the credit goes Buddy Bartoletta and Laurett Meddis for staging a well run tournament for players and social players. Ms. Meddis deserves extra credit for not succumbing to the “yakking on the microphone just to be yakking” syndrome. Well done. A tip of the hat also goes to the Tuscany Hotel/Casino for not over pricing the beverages and for keeping the tables clean – especially porter Nancy who was muy bueno. The atmosphere was helped by placing the boards against the walls around the room leaving the center open to “social discourse.” Boy did the ODC discourse. One person said to the ODC, “You haven’t changed a bit. You look the same.” The ODC answered, “Might I mention the words ‘laser surgery.’” As is apparent he was one discoursing son-of-a-gun.

Darts? Larry Butler took the National Cricket Championship on Friday. On Saturday he annexed the men’s ‘01 singles and cricket pairs with Bob Sinneave while on Sunday he was runner up in the cricket singles. Wife Sharon annexed the money on all three days.

THE PDC OPENS PLAY

As the Las Vegas Open was opening and closing its 2011 dart season the Professional Darts Corporation, heretofore known as the PDC, started the competitive year in Halle, Germany with a pair of £30,000 events. One question asked by all dart fans was, “Will Phil Taylor bounce back from a disastrous second half of 2010?” If you’re pressed for time and want to move on to checking the internet for porn the answer is no. Phil Taylor, like Tiger Woods, is still wondering “What the hell is going on!” Both will put a happy face on the situation but the fact is that neither will be back on top soon.

On Saturday Taylor said after losing to Andy Smith, “It’s frustrating when you get beaten but sometimes it gives you a kick up the backside. I’m still a little bit off my form.” Then comes the excuse, “I’ve got some new darts which I need to practice more with because I haven’t had a lot of time with them yet. I’ve got some hard work to do and I’ll put it right.” Tiger also mentioned “new clubs” and developing a new swing. His old swinging got him in a lot of trouble but it wasn’t on the golf course.

Mervyn King cashed in Saturday with an easy 6-1 win over Vincent van der Voot. The fact is that King was the king pretty much the entire day. In the semis King was down 0-1 and 1-2 against Simon Whitlock but, once tied at 2, King took off for a 6-3 win. The ODC was over the moon as his pal “Rocket” Ronnie Baxter took Sunday’s event. Baxter took home the £6,000 prize money with a convincing but hard fought 6-4 win over Spaniard Antonio Alcinas. Alcinas was part of the Spanish team that showed England the exit door at the recent World Cup. Baxter is almost unbeatable when he can hit double top. When he can’t he can be had. He didn’t miss many on this Sunday in Germany. Both players scored well and maybe a miscue on the part of the Spaniard was the difference. Alcinas had finishes of 160, 120 and 100 as they split the first 6 legs.

With the darts Baxter hit 177 leaving 33 to break the tie after 9 darts. When he missed 6 to close Alcinas couldn’t capitalize. Leading 4-3 Baxter squandered a 180 when Alcinas took out 80 to level again. Double top got Baxter to 5-4 as Alcinas failed to hit double 11 on the end of an 84 finish. At 5-4 down Alcinas spectacularly took out 133 to level the match – except for the fact that he needed 123. Whoops. Baxter then calmly hit double top for the win. One might understand how Alcinas may have had a sight case of mental fatigue as he got to the finals with a series of 6-5 wins.

Where goeth Phil Taylor? He goeth out to Dennis Ovens, another ODC pal, 6-4 after leading 4-3.

Baxter after his match emailed the ODC with, “Hiya pal. I remember that time in New Orleans. I was down to you 0-1. My entire life passed before my eyes. I though to myself, ‘Is this way it’s all going to end?’” It didn’t.

AND FINALLY

The latest Dartoid’s World poll asks the question, “Which came first in the evolution of darts?” The ODC’s first choice would have been beer but that wasn’t one of the options. The options were soft point, steel-tip, the chicken and Olly Croft. The ODC opted for the chicken (with beer off the table). The winner was Olly Croft with 63% which…

…prompted the ODC to ask, “How many Crofts are there?”

The answer? “One is too many.”

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Howie Reed
The one and only Howie Reed (the Old Dart Coach) goes back decades with the legends of our sport - he knows where the skeletons are buried. Just ask any of the ADO and WDF old-timers! His widely popular column, Toeing the Oche, is a must-read.

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