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Article: Diary of a Darts Player: Winter Garden Wonderland

Diary of a Darts Player: Winter Garden Wonderland

A busy week of darts for everyone in Sussex this week, with the re-launch of the Eastbourne Open, or the Eastbourne Classic as it is now known. Originally the competition was run by a company called JR Darts of Middlesex, and was a PDC ranking tournament. However, the PDC decided that their tour competitions were to have a minimum prize fund, which was something that they could not meet.

Now with the England Darts Organisation at the helm, the Winter Garden opened its doors for a weekend of darts action once again. As I have mentioned in the last couple of articles, PDC players were not permitted to enter the men^s singles event, but were allowed in the pairs and mixed triples, so I went down on the Saturday to see who was doing what.

The first thing I noticed was that there were no boards set up in the main hall, purely the professional looking stage set, and seating for the spectators to watch the on-stage action.

Into the back hall, and the set-up was as for previous events, 32 boards, and hundreds of players. As I made my way around the venue, I was quite astounded by the number of people who said they were reading and enjoying this column. Thank you to all of you who commented upon it, it^s much appreciated feedback – and means I^d better keep on writing!

Saturday was men^s singles and ladies^ pairs, with a well-supported youth competition thrown in for good measure.

In the John Smiths men^s singles there were 400 entries, and it was Dorset player Scott Mitchell who triumphed by beating Steve Douglas from Kent, a good way for Scott to celebrate an England call-up as I^m led to believe.

In the ladies pairs it was seven-time ladies world champion Trina Gulliver and her partner Sue Biddle who proved just too strong for Sussex pair Donna Rainsley and Trish Kidd, who had beaten their county team-mates Lisa Tanner and Norma Self in the semi-finals. In the youth competition, Zoe Jones emerged victorious in a very talented field. Hailsham player Todd Rainsley reached the quarter finals.

On the Sunday I arrived at the venue early and met up with my pairs partner Adrian ^The Conqueror^ Gray. We set about having a bit of a practice session, and all was going pretty well, so just chilled out for a bit, and I took on some coffee, mainly for the reason that holding the cup would warm my hand up a bit.

It wasn^t that cold in the venue, but for some reason your fingers are always cold early on, not very useful when they^re a pretty vital part of playing darts. The venue warmed up after a while once it started filling up. We were soon called out, and I went over to the desk, only to find out our opponents didn^t turn up, so we were through without even throwing a dart. The downside of that being was we then had to wait about an hour before we got a match.

We played pretty well through the early stages, battling through a field of 114 pairs, and before too long had booked our place in the semi-finals on the main stage. On the stage, for some reason, we didn^t really perform that well. We were level after two legs, but the strong Surrey partnership of Ian Long and Doug Harwood proved to have the better accuracy on the day. They went on to win the pairs competition.

The ladies singles competition was a dream come true for Sussex legend Rhonda West who, after a hard fought battle against the superb Deta Hedman, earned her place in the final against ex-world champ Gulliver. With plenty of support from the loyal Sussex crowd, Rhonda certainly looked as though she was enjoying herself, even though she did eventually get beaten.

Once the finals had finished, the mixed triples event began, and Adrian and myself teamed up with a lady from Hastings, Jill Chapman. Jill proved to be a worthwhile asset as she was a very consistent player. Indeed, in one match she took out all three of the finishes to win the game.

We seemed to relax in the triples, and finally we were hitting the big scores and some good finishes. In one match I checked out 100, finishing with two double tops, and Adrian hit an excellent 128 finish to gain our place on the stage once more, this time in the final. As for Jill, we let her hit most of the other doubles. She seemed to quite like doing that – much to our opponents^ annoyance! In the final we were up against England International Apylee Jones, and her Surrey team mates. In a hard-fought final, the match was level at two legs each, and Adrian was left with 68 to win the title. His first dart landed cleanly in the treble 20 leaving double 4. Sadly, both darts nicked the wire, and a confident Apylee took out the finish to win them the title.

The weekend seemed to be a great success for the organisers. The only gripe I heard was the cost of admission for spectators. Maybe that is something that can be addressed for next year – then even more people would be likely to attend, I would think.

As for my league darts, both my teams, the Kings Head, South Road, and Hailsham MI Club, won convincingly and are still in contention for their respective leagues.

* Now available to view online – previous weeks^ editions of Diary of a Darts Player by Andy Relf. See elsewhere in the sports section.

Story By: Sussex Express

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