Column #HR11 North American Darts Championship
Friday, July 2, 2010
North American Darts Championship
Many years ago, before The Old Dart Coach was the ODC, an aspiring writer equated his local yearly darts tournament to a circus. Being a newbie he had volunteered to help with the set up and the tear down. In later year’s he would come to his senses and plead “the call of work” even though he was unemployed. The dart standards went up in the empty hall, suddenly transforming it from four walls into a sporting venue. On the first night the room was filled with activity as darters took practice tosses, the sound of people filled the air and few beers were consumed. For three days it became my universe taking on a life of its own. Nothing outside mattered. It was the introduction into the family of darts. After the final dart the standards came down revealing an empty room. The stillness was deafening. I felt like a child viewing the vacant lot after the circus tent came down and the last circus truck pulled out.
The convention center at the Tropicana Hotel had an eerie feeling on Wednesday when the final event of the Tropicana World Festival of Darts was played. It was the “period end” on the latest experiment by the PDC to infuse professional darts into North America. Gone were the traveling pros from the UK, Australia and four from Japan. The venue was left to the 73 North American’s who chose to compete. Now they would play among themselves. They almost rattled around in the three-quarters vacant venue.
Like all PDC tournaments the North American Championships were seeded with three of the top four making it to the semi-finals. Missing was Philly’s Bill Davis who got steamrolled 6-1 by Larry Butler of Dayton Ohio. Butler would be in the semi-finals joining top seed John Part, Darin Young and Gary Mawson. All reached the semi’s with easy wins except for Butler. Boy did he get challenged. He ran into a buzz saw named Paul Lim who has been on the international darting scene for 25-plus years. Like good wine Lim just keeps getting better. He was magnificent in losing to Larry Butler 6-5 after falling behind 5-2. He connected big outs when faced with elimination with his final attempt landing just a point thickness short.
The final from which John Part emerged victorious didn’t have nearly the drama of the semis. Darin Young had to go to the wall in beating Butler 6-5 with Butler right there at the finish. The other semi with John Part and Gary Mawson facing off was a meeting between old friendly rivals from Canada. Mawson moved to the USA some time ago so now calls America home. It’s no secret that John Part has been having his troubles on the oche. His decline in the PDC rankings attests to that fact. At the Festival of Darts when Part was playing well he always seemed to draw into someone that was playing just a little better. One friend commented to Part during the week when Part got hit with a hot player, “You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Part replied, “It’s been that way lately.” Clearly Part needed a break. He got one.
Part’s match with Gary Mawson was a rather mundane affair with players holding serve early on as Part and Mawson both played well. At 5-4 Part, Mawson held serve to send the match to the decider. With Part throwing first it seemed a fait accompli that he would be in the finals. But a funny thing happened as Mawson caught fire to arrive at double 20 with Part back in the two hundreds.
That’s when “Old Mo” changed from a blue golf shirt to a red one with the small maple leaf in the middle of the back between the shoulders. Mawson missed at 40, and then missed at d10 and d5. Then he busted the d1!
Meanwhile Part was chipping away… finally reaching a double.
Mawson still had three more darts but he made a rookie error – one that a seasoned and accomplished pro should never make. As he toed the oche getting ready for another try at a double he stopped, stepped back, walked around and sighed before returning to the line. Needless to say he missed. Part didn’t, so he got into the finals probably saying “Thank you Dart God.” With maybe Mawson looking skyward thinking ‘That’s one you owe me.”
In the final Part jumped to a 2-0 lead with a 111 finish. That lead shrunk to 2-1 when Young nailed a 137 finish. Overcoming a Young 180, Part got the score to 3-1, finishing on 84 with d12. 104 wasn’t a problem for Young as he made it vanish with Part on 40. Young would tie it at three only to drop a leg back to 4-3 when Part’s 124 went the way of the buggy whip and a free drinking glass with a fill up with d11. Young had a chance in the next leg which went array when he missed a pair at tops. Part converted for 5-3. It was possible that “Old Mo” had again changed shirts when Part missed a 108-out allowing Young to hit d5 and extend the match. Against the darts Part notches d4 and the crown along with $7,550.57. More importantly it’s a win in a PDC event. For John Part that has got to mean more at this point than the money. “Old Mo” may he back riding shotgun for the likeable Canadian. Time will tell.
The PDC invested £200,000 in the hope that this “non-sponsored” event would provide some motivation for more North American participation at the professional level of darts. They’ll make another investment in North America with the back-to-back Players Championships on August 28 & 29 in London, Ontario, Canada. The prize money there is £44,000 which is $71,000 Canadian. Like a farmer tilling the soil only time will tell if they’ve been successful.
If they are, the harvest will be bountiful.