Column #CM84 UK Open Day 1 – Weston-super-Mare

Tuesday, March 25, 2020
Column CM84
UK Open Day 1 – Weston-super-Mare

When I walked back after the first day of the UK Open in Minehead from Butlins to my Bed and Breakfast the lights twinkled from the other side of the bay. There sits Weston super- Mare.

Weston-super-Mare is today a town far bigger than Minehead but until the 19th Century, before people made it a seaside resort, it was only a small village with around 30 houses. It offers a great sandy beach. In the surrounding area you can find the remnants of an Iron Age fort – the only traces that people lived there in the past.

While Minehead once was an important port one only tried to build one in Weston around 1820. Isambard Kingdom Brunel – an important and well-known English engineer – was born there in 1806. He built the Great Western Railway which among others connected his hometown with Bristol and brought tourists into the town. Gradually, gambling halls, tea rooms, hotels, villas and everything else was needed in the seaside resort that emerged. As in Blackpool, Weston has got a Winter Gardens though until now no big darts tournaments were played there. Instead, Weston is famous for its motocross race which always takes place in autumn. And of course, Weston has two piers – one close to the city centre.

During the Second World War around 10,000 people were evacuated to Weston. As elsewhere in the region strategic industries could be found between 1940 and 1942. German bombs hit the town and destroyed big parts of it. After the war, the town was rebuilt, but from the 1970s its importance as seaside resort declined and today industry and distribution centres are much more important. It is more of a sleeper town for Bristol and Weston College is part of the University of Bath. Today, most tourists are day tourists from the Midlands. Besides a new pavilion on the pier an indoor centre with a skiing slope was planned and approved – but until now it couldn’t be financed…

Not far away from Weston is the M5 on which several darts players travelled to Minehead – to be sure Steve Brown was among them as he lives in Bristol. Brown was eliminated in the second round but at least he had a short way home.

The first day of the tournament is always a very long day. In the afternoon three rounds were played on all ten boards. I did see a lot of players and matches but missed a lot as well. For example, two of the German players – Christian Bunse and Harald Leitinger – I didn’t see at all.

It looked like the coronavirus didn’t matter here in England at all…

Butlins is full and as usual you can see the high fives with the crowd during the walk on as well as the handshake between the players, and the hugs. The only thing that reminded of what was going on was on the small tables at the boards 3 through 8 where bottles with hand sanitizer stood (not that I saw a single player use it). I felt a little bit uneasy but I didn’t need to mingle with the crowd as I could use the back entrance to the stages as the players did.

The most crowded is always where the boards 3-8 are – there is not much space and even less viewing space. This year, players allocated to these boards and to the second stage started play one hour earlier than the matches on the main stage, which I could leave alone at first. Of the Riley’s qualifiers (you always can recognize them by their red shirts) only one survived the first three rounds – Rhys Hayden.

From the Challenge Tour and Development Tour players only one was still in the race as well – Kyle McKinstry, who stood in the quarterfinals of the BDO World Championship in 2019 but couldn’t win a Tour Card. All day he impressed with his clinical doubles which defeated Fallon Sherrock. Lisa Ashton lost her match as well. Her opponent Mike de Decker was completely unfazed against her. I saw Mike de Decker again in his third round match on the second stage against William Borland – it was a sparkling match between the two young players.

It was interesting to see how many young talented players were around and it made it a little awkward for the older established players. But all in all, in this UK Open the well-known and established players dominate.

Thanks to the draw we had in the second round two Premier League pairings – Peter Wright eliminated Glen Durrant and Michael van Gerwen threw the reigning champion Nathan Aspinall out of the tournament – both were thrilling high class games.

Among the outsiders who survived the first day were even two Germans – Gabriel Clemens and Martin Schindler. Other outsiders were Alan Tabern – who sits at the moment on place 98 of the Order of Merit and who won four matches on the first day – and Jason Lowe who got a Tour Card in January and never before played on stage, though he took part in the UK Open 2018 and reached the last 32.

It had been an entertaining, intensive and – as always on the first day of the UK Open – slightly chaotic day though there were no real upsets.

I had a last view on the lights of Weston-super-Mare and looked forward to the second day of the tournament.

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Charis Mutschler
The founder of Global Darts, darts journalist Charis Mutschler hails from Marbach, near Stuttgart, Germany. A regular at most major PDC tournaments, a lover of literature, dance and music and cats, Charis' popular writings about darts and its players often transcend the usual. She brings something unique to the chroniclers of the sport we all love.