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Column #HR266 Earthquakes, darts and Vegas – Par Uno

Tuesday, July 16, 2019
Column HR266
Earthquakes, darts and Vegas – Par Uno

WOW, what a week!

The Red Socks played the “Yang Ees” in London at the home of West Ham United.  The President of the USA met the “Boss” of North Korea on the DMZ. The Brits invaded Las Vegas.

Las Vegas felt two earthquakes and the SLS (Silly Little Slogan) Hotel and Casino reverted to the much beloved (by darters) name of the Sahara.

Now, if only some dart entrepreneur (calling for Barry Hearn!) would approach the Sahara and persuade them to bring back the old North American Open. Encourage “weekend players” attendance by running singles and doubles (ladies and gents) on Monday and Tuesday (301 double/double). It would be like Christmas in July. In the old days as many as 2,000 players used to attend the North American Open.  But back to reality, at least for the time being.

The four North American Qualifier winners were Leonard Gates (USA), Jeff Smith (Canada), Elliot Milk (USA) and Danny Baggish (USA). The scores were 4-2, 4-3, 4-0 and 4-0. They were joined (by points) on stage for the North American Championship by Gary Mawson (USA), Jim Long (Canada), Shawn Brenneman (Canada) and Darin “Big Daddy” Young (USA). After Q-3 Senior Lopez told the ODC that “Danny Baggish “will win it all.”  This, after Baggish dismantled Chris Lim (who deserved a better fate) 4-0.

Prior to the North American Championship, the 8 Norte Americanos would face the top 7 from the PDC Order of Merit and a kid named Nathan Aspinall. Last year’s North American champ, Jeff Smith, had a chance to beat Peter Wright but missed doubles to lose 6-5. Overall the PDC outscored the North Americans 48-24. There were chances to break on occasions, but the dastardly double seemed to always get in the way (along added with some “dodgy” play by van Gerwen, Price, Smith and Anderson).

Barely an hour after getting trounced by the PDC the North Americans took the stage for the North American Championship.  USA’s Darin Young escaped with a 6-4 win over Canadian Jim Long in a match that was an “I got it you take it” (Big Daddy grabbed it). Leonard Gates, a former minor league baseball player and one hell of a dancer, took out Shawn Brenneman (6-3), Danny Baggish ruled over Elliot Milk (6-2) and defending North American champ (aka NAC) Jeff Smith had little trouble with Gary Mawson (6-2).

Baggish emerged from a slugfest with Leonard Gates (6-5). At one point, Baggish was down 5-3. The comeback was aided by a T40 check.  Jeff Smith won 6-4 over Darin Young.  Baggish was then up 3-0 against Smith on checks of 71, 97 and 82. Smith got off the snyder with a T40 check but still trailed 4-1, then 5-2. With a bull, d16 Smith avoided a 6-3 loss taking advantage of a missed Baggish double. At 5-5 Smith missed a bull as Baggish took a 3-dart out for $10,000, the North American title and a place in the PDC World Championship.

Baggish returns the title to the USA for the first time since 2017 when “Big Chief” Willie Bruguier got it done. In wining, Baggish was as much of a gentleman as was “Chief Willie.  Heck of a 4th of July present for America (which, by the way, the PDC failed to mention).  Boy, talk about carrying a grudge.

More Senior Lopez: “To be the champ you got to beat the champ.” Baggish did.

A little before the events started, the Old Dart Coach told Las Vegas Review Journal star sports columnist, Ron Kantowski, on Thursday, “Watch the young gun Nathan Aspinall – he could win it all. He’s hungry. The rest of these guys are on a paid holiday.”

Interviewing van Gerwen, Kantowski, asked, “What sights have you seen in Las Vegas?” “None,” the Dutchman responded, “this is a business trip. I’m here to work.”  The ODC checked. van Gerwen had been practicing at the Crown & Anchor one of the only great dart venues in Las Vegas.

Practice, practice, practice didn’t do van Gerwen any good as he would exit stage left 8-6 to Michael Smith (on a 128-check). Also, in the interview with Kantowski, van Gerwen said, “Everyone knowns that Michael is weak mentally. I’m strong.” (The score should have been 8-2 for Smith as he shot a miserable 8/24 on doubles which included 7 on two turns.)

The first round was also unkind to “sleepwalking” Gary Anderson as Gerwyn Price sent him packing 8-6.

(As an aside, the following week the World Series of darts moved to Germany where both van Gerwen and Anderson got the boot in the first round. Martin Schindler won 6-5 over van Gerwen and the ever-popular Nico Kurz eliminated Gary Anderson 6-4. Is it an aberration or a glimpse into the future?)

Nathen Aspinall took out #2 Rob Cross as Peter Wright advanced 8-6 over Daryl Gurney.

On Friday, July 5th, Michael Smith reached the final with an 8-4 defeat of Price. Aspinall came from 2 legs down three times, finishing 161,126 and a missed dart to defeat Peter Wright.

The final was a humdinger!

Aspinall took leg 1 in 10-darts. In leg two he had back-to-back T80s but never got an out shot as Smith erased T30. After being level Aspinall got to 4-2 using checks of 70 and 120.  To this point Aspinall had averaged 111.  Smith would answer to draw even a 4-all with outs of T18 and 87.  Aspinall got to 5-4 and then 7-4 on checks of 85 and 80 – closing the deal with tops for the title and £20,000, averaging 107. Afterwards, a very humble and pleasant Aspinall said, ”7 of the best players and me. I won.”

There was an elephant in the room however as there were an inordinate number of bounce outs that neither hit a wire or another dart.  In addition, after just one match the sisal on some boards looked like the players had been tossing hatchets.

On one occasion a double bull shot hit dead center and didn’t go in.

The “almost official PDC story” is that first the darts hit wires or another darts.

The appearance of the sisal suggests a more believable explanation: the players are using darts with knurled points and when a player pulls out the dart sisal comes with it.

The ODC has the solution: ban knurled dart points!

One would guess that this would anger dart manufactures and sponsors.

How bad did the boards get beat up? They retail at anywhere from $75 to $100 dollars but after just one match they were selling for $10.

To borrow from Hall of Fame sportscaster Barry Tompkins, “Who’s a thunk it?”

Stay thirsty my friends.