Column #HR303 Rest in Peace, Terry O’Dea – more gold gone from the Golden Age

Friday, May 21, 2021
Column HR303
Rest in Peace, Terry O’Dea – more gold gone from the Golden Age

There are times when the Old Dart Coach takes advantage of this space to wax “not very eloquently” about the Golden Age of Darts.  The ODC accepts that today’s players wonder what the hell the “aged one” is on about.

The Golden Age of darts covered the years from the mid-1970’s until the mid-1990’s.  The era ended when the players began organizing in the UK.  That led to a fight between the players and the British Darts Organization, a fight that ended in a draw (which was not good for the BDO) and weakened ties between North American players and our overseas cousins.  The importance of international events on North American soil was diminished as international stars disappeared from the homes and tournaments of North America.

Another darts figure and friend from the Golden Age has passed on to the dart pub in the sky.  He was born Vale Terrance O’Dea on March 5, 1945.  The darting world knew him as Terry O’Dea, a swashbuckler of a man.  He was the Errol Flynn or Sean Connery of darts – able to drink and fight with the best of them (and win) while charming the fairer sex with a combination of good looks and a cheeky attitude.  

To the preceding description he would say “You’re joking.”

Terry O’Dea was a first-class character who brought with him talent, smiles and good cheer.  Terry joined others from the Golden Age in heaven on May 15th.

The ODC first met Terry in 1982 during the playing of the Pacific Cup in Vancouver.  He led the Australia team to victory, winning the singles (against Andy Green or Wade McDonald) and the doubles.  He paved the road for future Aussie players to play overseas.  His country rivalry with Russell Stewart was classic.  Stewart would follow O’Dea to England.

Roger Nickson wrote about his pal: I signed him to play for London (county team) in the mid-1980’s.  He also played for me at the Morning Star in Peckham.

All-time great Linda Batten talks about playing on that team.  I had so much fun playing for the Morning Star with Terry, Nicky and many others.  Great guys and me the only girl on the team, I loved it.   

In England he shared a manager with Eric Bristow.  He got a call to do a presentation.  Further details included the caveat that it was to be done for “free.”  Terry declined saying, “What, Eric turned you down?”  No fool, Mr. O’Dea.

The ODC had many occasions to run into Terry and share a pint or two.  Two stick in memory…

Once at the Japan Open players were told to arrive at 9:00 am.  Upon arrival Terry and the ODC were informed that neither would be playing until 2:00 pm.  Logically, they adjourned to a local pub around the corner.  They enticed Louise Ball, a great Australia player, to join them.  Many hours later they returned to the hall.

Terry won easily.  He then had time to root on the ODC.  At either round 16 or 8 he showed up to coach.  The ODC won.  O’Dea was called to play so baby-sitting duties were turned over to Barry Twomlow.  The ODC lost 3-2 to his good friend Lam Yin Koi of Singapore.  Terry returned just as the match ended…

“What happened?”

“He threw the wrong out,” replied Twomlow.

“I got him this far and you f**ked it up.”

Terry was a fixture at the BDO Embassy World Championships when it was the best tournament in the world.   Records that look “not very good” can be deceiving.  From 1979 to 1988 he lost to John Lowe 3 times, Eric Bristow twice, Jocky Wilson on two occasions with Rick Ney, Tony Brown and Alan Glazier.  Quality top to bottom.

One of the others who loved to gamble on anything was the late Nicky Virachkul.  At the Royal Hawaiian Terry and Nicky engaged in a marathon competition.  First was darts with 2 of 3-501 for $20 a game.

After 4 hours Terry asked where they stood.  He was told, “you’re up $20.00 dollars – the chalker is the only one making money.  My arm’s tired.”

After ascertaining that he (Terry – he probably lied) had never 10-pin bowled, they adjourned to the bowling alley.  Terry won.

Then came golf where again Terry emerged the winner.  It was then up to Terry to ask, “Wanna play cribbage?”

Nicky answered with a resound “NO” – the first time he ever ran from a cribbage board.

A former Aussie Rules Football player, called Footie, Terry could “handle business.”  In 1992 during the playing of the Pacific Cup in Melbourne, a local had been overserved and was acting like the stereotypical Aussie.  An organizer mentioned the problem to Terry while he and the ODC were sharing a pint.  “I’ll take care of it.”

Gone for less time than it takes to sip a bit of Golden Elixir, Terry returned.  Behind him lay the obnoxious one, out colder that a mother-in-law’s stare.  “He must have tripped.”

Often what one sees on the outside is no indication of the inside.  This was Terry O’Dea…

Ms. Elle Tea, the daughter of his good friend and fellow darter Shelia Bolton, recalls, To the darting fraternity that I grew up a part of you were Terry O’Dea.  To me, you were simply Uncle Terry.  Brash and opinionated, with meat cleavers for hands.  A true Aussie larrikin, who loved to take the piss, with a cheeky laugh that could fill a room.  They were my favorite parts, together with your huge caring heart.  I was 17, you promised to look after me as I wandered across to Perth for 10 days after finishing high school.  I worked in your pub, The Knutsford Arms Hotel, and you taught me how to pull beers.  I loved it so much that after 3 weeks, I wanted to stay.  I only returned to Melb after my mother booked me on the red-eye flight Christmas eve to have me home for Christmas.  As we sit here watching you in You Tube clips, doing what you loved, we marvel at just how much of a gentleman you were at the oche… taking on the world’s best with a smile.  I will miss all those things and the messages you always managed to remember to send for my birthday each year.  

Terry’s last night was chronicled by his 20-year partner Betty Walsh.  Whilst Terry was a very sick man it is still just a shock for him to go – but it was doing his normal thing and he had a scotch that night.  He wasn’t feeling well.  I spoke to him about midnight, and he just passed during the night. 

He’s in heaven now.  He will never be duplicated or copied.  He joins Barry Twomlow, Nicky Virachkul, Rick Ney, John “I’d Murder a Pint of lager” Markovich, Eric Bristow and Jocky Wilson.  The Lord certainly has his hands full.

Terry O’Dea’s memory will live forever among those whose lives he touched.

God Bess. 

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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.