Column #253 The Madness is Over!
May 19, 2006
The Madness is Over!
Friday Night Madness is over and it wasn’t really madness and for this KUDO must go out to Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) Tournament Director Tommy Cox. Somehow tonight he not only managed to corral 256 American “last chance” World Series of Darts (WSOD) hopefuls into the bowels of the Mohegan Arena, someway he and his fine staff also managed to get them all out of the venue in a mere five hours time. From start to finish the competition ran more smoothly than anyone might have imagined, including I am willing to bet, Cox himself.
The Mohegan arena, home to the WNBA Connecticut Sun, has seen a lot over the few short years of its life. Tim McGraw. Bon Jovi. Rod Stewart. Davis Cup tennis. Even the World’s Strongest Man competition.
But surely never has this fancy venue witnessed anything quite like the show the PDC brought to town this evening.
Despite a slight delay to allow for a handful of darters stranded in traffic, the competition ran without a hitch. Darters were drawn to battle it out in groups of eight on thirty-two boards aligned along the hallway across from the arena concession stands. Slowly the night progressed and as it did large big screen “leader boards” kept all appraised of the scores being tallied. For weeks preceding the event and for most of the night, conversation evolved into bets as to how few darts would be required to make the cut to the final bracket (pre-set at a maximum of sixteen plus ties). My bet with Mike Broderick from Philadelphia was fourteen darts. Let me state here and now that Broderick owes me a dollar and he better damn well pay!
That’s right. When the three hour time limit ended ten darters, each who recorded fifteen dart games and a large host of others who closed in sixteen were left a million dollars short of their hopes. Kevin Czipo (he of the bouncy, buxom Ellen) was one. Dayton Strawbridge was another. For so many “so close” was not close enough.
But for twenty-one darters from all across America fourteen darts or better was what it took. Darin Young notched up an eleven-darter in the first fifteen minutes of play. William Anderson scored a twelve-darter.
Seven shooters, including one (Stacy Bromberg) of many ladies who registered, managed to close the double in thirteen darts: Davis Snider, Jade Henson, Brad Wethington, Tim O’Gorman, Todd Harrington and Buddy Lessig.
Eleven darters finished in fourteen: Bill Davis, David Saba, Tom Cocker, Glen Ligus, Phil Sroka, Adam Leger, Kenneth Johnson, Jeff Russell (who threw on my board), Paul Seledones, Jim Newman and David Scism.
Marilyn Popp and Janel Pelletier nearly made the cut. Popp hit a sixteen darter and Pelletier knocked down both a fifteen and a sixteen dart game.
Shortly before 11:00 p.m. the twenty-one darters left standing were divided into four groups to fight it out in best-of-seven legs bracket matches to determine the final four positions to take the stage in the morning. One lucky darter was to face thirteen time world champion Phil Taylor. The others were to be pitted against Denis Ovens (ranked ninth in the world), Mark Walsh (ranked number twelve) and Ronnie Baxter (ranked third).
Group #1 saw Saba versus Russell, Cocker versus Henson and Ligus versus Seladones, with the winner to face Walsh in the morning. From this group Jeff Russell emerged the victor over Glen Ligus in a lopsided 4-0 contest. For Russell, who came so close during the WSOD regional qualifiers and who struggled during Madness to find his fourteen darter (hitting in the final half hour) the victory must have been sweet indeed.
The second group matched Young against Anderson, Leger against Newman, and awarded Davis a bye, with the winner to face Ovens. When the dust settled – and there was dust as group produced an extraordinary second round battle which saw Bill Davis claw back from a 3-0 deficit to take out America’s current number one ranked darter, Darin Young. For Philadelphia’s Davis (who nearly missed Madness stuck in traffic), the victory over Young was tremendous. For Young, who came so close so many times during the regional qualifiers and who had tonight’s match in hand, the loss was as disappointing as it gets. Davis went on to defeat Adam Leger 4-0 to book his spot on stage tomorrow.
The third group saw Adams face Lessig, O’Gorman take on Bromberg, and Sroka with the bye. O’Gorman emerged the victor 4-1 over Lessig – a disappointment to all his Jersey fans. For Bromberg who watched from the sidelines, the O’Gorman win was especially bittersweet – as she powered her way with four maximums to take O’Gorman into the seventh leg just a half hour earlier, only to come out on the short end 4-3. Tomorrow, O’Gorman will test his mettle against the great Phil Taylor.
The final group saw Harrington matched against Scism, Johnson against Wethington, and Snider with the bye – and produced the most exciting final of the night. In the end it was Brad Wethingon, in a wrinkled shirt with his parents cheering him on, who closed the double first to snatch the match from Snider 4-3. Wethington will face Ronnie Baxter.
So the final American field is now set. As I write (it is 5:00 a.m. – I have been throwing darts down the hall), hopefully they are all asleep. Beginning seven hours from now they will mark history as one-by-one they take on the top sixteen darters on the planet in the next step of their individual quests to reach the million dollar pot of gold at the end of the Mohegan oche.
They will need their rest – particularly O’Gorman in his match against Taylor. But win or lose each has earned a place in the darts history books – as one of the first combatants in the first, of hopefully many, World Series of Darts.
So to Isen Veljic, Jim Widmayer, Tom Curtin, Ray Carver, Roger Carter, Joe Efter, Tim Grossman, Jim Watkins, Joe Slivan, Dave DePriest, John Kuczynski, Joe Chaney – and now Jeff Russell, Bill Davis, Tim O’Gorman and Brad Wethington – I say…
Good night and good luck.
You’ve already done yourselves, your families, friends, leagues and darts in America proud.
From the Field,
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