Column #CM128 An interview with “Captain America” – Jim Widmayer
Wednesday, November 29, 2023
The Grand Slam’s about to begin!
Jim, you are some kind of old hand in the US sport of darts – what has kept you interested in the sport for such a long time?
Yes, been playing a long time. What keeps me playing is the competition, camraderie and the new experiences darts access me to.
You started to play darts around 1989 – how did you get into the sport of darts?
1989! WOW, that was a long time ago. I got into darts when I first started going to bars. It just started out as a way to win free drinks and a few more dollars in my pocket. People at the bar started to notice how good I was and put me on their dart team. It didnt take long until I was best in the league. Won my first big tournament in the U.S. 3 years later.
You were born in New York which was and probably still is a stronghold of the sport. Now-a-days you live in Florida – is darts popular there as well?
I would say darts is popular in Florida. There are a lot of leagues and we have a state championship. We have small tournaments once a month throughout the state and a lot of Luck of the Draws. Darts in Florida is both steel and soft tip.
And would you say the sport today is more recognized and more widespread in America then it was in the 1990?
Today, darts is more widespread throught the U.S. only because of the soft tip game. It’s popular because it’s on tv more and also people can follow everything on DartConnect. But the numbers for participation in steel tournaments are down and the number of tournaments itself are down from the 90s. I stopped playing darts from 1998-2006 and a lot of big tournaments in the U.S. disappeared.
Germany – where I live – is a small country and the PDC has made a big impact here over the years. Would you say one can feel some progress due to the PDC in North America as well?
Well, the PDC started with the help of us Americans in the early 1990s, and I feel they kinda abandoned us. We were their support, they had ranked tournaments here and I think they forget that. Over the years, they came for a couple years and then go away, so I’m skeptical on what they are looking for here. So, to answer your question, there really hasn’t been any progress here with the PDC.
You were one of the US players invited to play in the inaugural PDC World Matchplay, you played some Pro Tour events, you took part in the UK Qualifying School 2023 but all in all you stayed until today a BDO/WDF player. Did the PDC never tempt you or is it more a financial/distance/cirumstance decision?
It’s tough for an American to make it overseas unless he has no responsiblities or – not to be an ass -but doesn’t know where his priorities are. I wouldn’t trade my job and my family for darts and the amount of time away and money needed to travel and play the tour isn’t feasible for an American with a job and family.
You rarely play CDC events either – for the same reasons?
I just play the event thats associated with the World Series of Darts qualifiers. I have my reasons I don’t play CDC events. CDC doesnt care about their players and doesn’t know what to do to gain more support, it’s just their way and that’s it. They just came out with a new set of rules and for a tour where they don’t get full capacity of participation, the rules are pretty ridiculous.
This year you will stand on the Lakeside stage for the fourth time – are you looking forward to it?
I always look forward to that stage! There’s something about the atmosphere there. That’s not just me saying it, you hear it from everyone who takes that stage. Just hope this is the year I can overcome it. This is my 4th appearrance at the World Championship – 2014, 2015, 2019 previously, unless I’m missing one.
Do you like to play on stage? And do you feel nervous on stage?
Yes, love to play on stage. It’s better for me when I do bring my A game – lol
You will play against Hungarian Patrik Kovacs – have you ever play against him before?
Never played him before, at least to my knowledge. I’ve played so many times internationally at World Cups, the Masters and other tournaments but don’t remember playing him.
Does it, after all the years you have competed, still matter against whom you play and do you bother to inform yourself about your opponents?
No, it doesn’t bother me who I play because eventually will have to play someone somewhere down the line. If I’m aware who I play beforehand, I might research who they are and what they have done, if I don’t know already, just to prepare myself.
How would you say you developed as a player over the years and do you feel you still can improve? Or would you say you were a stronger player when you were younger?
I’m pretty much the same player that I have always been. Sometimes moments of greatness, sometimes not so good moments – lol. There is always room for improvement for everyone.
Do you still practice?
Yes, I still practice, but not as much as I should. I only practice when motivated.
And when you practice – what do you do and for how long?
When I do practice, I’m on the board for 3 hours during the day and sometimes back for a couple more at night playing an online tournament or league.
Do you play electronic darts as well?
Not really, I’m in Florida and there is a lot of electronic darts. I’m just not interested in it. I’ll get out to a draw on a weekend every once in a while but with it being double elimination in a smokey bar that takes all night, thats not for me.
Many players in Europe now-a-days work with mental coaches- is it something you are interested in?
No, not interested in it. I was contacted a few years back by someone who works with players from England, just didnt seem it was for me.
You not only will take part for the fourth time in the World Championship but you took part an amazing twelfth time in the World Masters last year which shows you have been very successfull in national tournaments in your career. Are the big tournaments something you still highly anticipate – the highlights you can’t wait for?
I love playing in the big tournaments, it brings out the better competition and my game. I always look forward to playing international competitions.
What is you favorite tournament?
My favorite has to be any tournament I win! Only joking! My favorite is the World Cup, no better feeling then representing your country.
Your nickname is “Captain America” – absolutely justified as you’ve been for many years captain of the US National Team. Is it for you something special to play for your home country?
Yes, to me it’s an honor representing my country and the American Darts Organization members. I’m disappointed every time I don’t make the World Cup Team, just missed out for the 2023 team, I was next to go if someone turned it down.
And would you rate the two WDF Cup wins in 2008 and 2014 as your biggest successes or what for you were the best and most satisfying wins in you career?
2008 & 2014? Those may have been America’s Cup. World Cups are held on odd numbered years. I don’t have any World Cup wins. Winning the Las Vegas Open is my biggest win and my most satisfying win is winning the Welsh Open Pairs with Jeff Smith.
It was not easy for the WDF to take over when the BDO collapsed and the start was bumpy – did you as a player feel it and is it running smoother by now?
It’s running smoother now, they have some good guys in charge and they will take it where it should be. Things don’t happen over night, like everyone thinks they do, it will take a little time but I’m confident that they will get the job done.
Is there something you still would love to achieve in darts?
Yes, to win Lakeside! Isn’t every dart players goal is to win the World Championship?!
As you’ve seen to be sure a lot from players around the world do you feel the UK/European supremacy will end some day?
They will always be dominant in darts because their competion and level of play that keeps them where they need to be is close to them. In the U.S. a 4 hour drive doesn’t get us out of most states, where as in UK and Europe it gets you to another country. But now with all the online darts, it gets us closer.
I am always astonished that the sport of darts in North America seems to be dominated by the same players for years and in the regard of the size of the country and the number of inhabitants only a small number of new names and even less young players come up. Is it a problem to get children or youth interested in the sport?
Yes, you have the guys like myself and Larry Butler who don’t go away. There is no promotion for youth darts in the U.S. and that hurts us with bringing new energy into the sport of darts and progression.
Since this year you are the president of the ADO – the American Darts Organisation. As in other countries the national organisation is often critisized – what do you feel are the biggest problems you’ll have to overcome?
The past problems of the organization is the biggest problem. There is a lot of things I will be getting done to get rid of the past and move the ADO forward. It won’t be easy because I don’t have all the board members with me, some are hung up on what they did in the past that didn’t progress anything. But yeah, looking to getting rid of past problems for the ADO.
Probably as a player you yourself sometimes were not happy with the ADO – do you think that will be helpful for this job?
Of course, I wasnt happy with the ADO, that’s why I ran for President. I been playing the ADO system since I pretty much started playing darts, over 30 years. I have seen the various changes and what has worked and what didn’t work and where they went wrong, so I have an idea to what needs to be done.
Have you some kind of vision where you want to direct the sport?
Yes, we need to grow the sport, starting with the youth. We need to build our own youth ranking system amd get more tournaments involved in running youth events. And we also need to make more opportunities for our players to play internationally and make the World Championship.
What I was always told from American (and Canadian) friends is that the sport of darts more or less is non-existent in any kind of media – not even when players celebrate international successes.
There is absolutely no media for darts in North America. We watch darts on streaming devices and here what’s going on through Facebook and Twitter.
The ADO was always quite strongly linked to the BDO and it sometimes looked to me both were even linked in their problems. Is the link to the WDF now as strong (after all the vice president of the WDF is Buddy Bartoletta, an American who once has been ADO president) and can that might be helpful in reforming the ADO?
Yes, they were always linked, Della Fleetwood and now Buddy Bartoletta. I talk with Buddy if I need direction, I’ve known Buddy for years, since I started playing darts and before he was ADO President. He will be very helpful for me to get the ADO where i want it to be.
Will you still find the time to take part in tournaments yourself in future?
I’m retired, so I have all the time to take part in tournaments. Just don’t interupt my time to go fishing!
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