Lived it and loved it at Lakeside!
It wasn't an April fool. 1st April I set off to fulfill my darting dream to The Lakeside. After a 5 hour journey we arrived and checked in to our room for the duration. Yes the hotel is dated, yes everything was slightly overpriced but I LOVED IT. It took me back to the 80s/90s when I was an avid follower of the game. It was everything I had dreamed it would be.
My final darting sponsor for this event was Iain Evans of: http://acehospitality.net/.
He asked that I promote and support Ollie's Army to raise awareness and funds for this very worthwhile cause Battens Disease. With my four sponsors supporting me in my Lakeside adventures, going into the darting venue with my family as a player was quite overwhelming, but seeing all my darting family and friends I soon felt more at ease.
If anyone would like to donate to my these very worthwhile charities you can do so by clicking on the following links:
One thing you never realise whilst watching these events on TV is the amount of work that has gone on in the background to make it happen. The Lakeside is a hive of rooms each filled with lots of different people, all doing what they do to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible for everyone whether it be players, their families and friends or those supporters sat at home watching.
There can be a lot of negativity aimed at darting organisations or venues but I feel if those negative people actually came, supported and saw what I saw during my time there, they too would've realised just how hard it is to run and what a great job all involved do to showcase the sport that we love. The WDF is one of the most friendly and best atmospheres with players and supporters all mingling together cheering on everybody's great darts.
The Lakeside was everything I hoped it would be. ( I have stayed in much worse) it was the iconic venue and people that made it extra special for me. We made lots of new friends and had laughs with everyone. Massive thanks to Nick Rolls, Anthony Dundas and the rest of the WDF team for making it so special for me. So professional. All the questions answered. My customised walk on music made me feel at ease.
In preparation for my game against the lovely Suzanne Smith I kept everything as normal as possible. A nice lazy morning, out for brunch before heading over to support the other players playing. Returning to our room and relax by playing cards with my family.
My practise was going well in the iconic players room. A nice 20 mins here and there to keep my arm loose. It felt like all the other players whose pictures surrounded us and had graced the Lakeside stage were there watching and supporting me.
Eerily, I was quite calm in the run up to my appearance on stage. Hearing my walk on music, which included a tribute to one of my oldest darting mentors Anita Ward made me feel more relaxed. Even when I lost the first set I still felt calm. I went straight back into the players room and pounded the treble 20. That stage does funny things to even the best players.
As expected, it was a great battle between us "Lefties". With Suzanne the heavier scorer but some good finishing from me when needed. My 123 finish on the bull gave me extra confidence and drive to dig in. Even though I hate having to move along the oche going for a double that's precisely what I had to do after my dart was lying badly and blocking my view to take my forth leg on the bounce. I had to move approx 3 feet from the centre of the oche to be able to see the double section. I saw the line and threw and in it went! I received fantastic commentary from Paul Nicholson and John Rawling about how they felt it was the best dart of the day.
Massive respect to Suzanne. We always have great games and this was no exception. I received lots of comments from virtual strangers saying how good our game actually was and how enthralling it was right to the very end. We players can't ask for more than that.
It was so surreal completing all the interviews both before the games and after but I loved it. Yes I am human and can show emotion ( and not a Terminator as Paul Nicholson joked ). You can hopefully see the emotions in the new videos I have added into my video page.
Needless to say it took me a while to come down after my game. I was up into the early hours trying to reply and comment on the hundreds of inboxes, texts and comments I had received. Thank you to each and everyone of those that took the time to congratulate me and wish me well going further into the competition. I was extremely humbled.
I spent the rest of my time there watching and supporting all the other fabulous darters whom have shed blood, sweat and tears to make it to the 2022 World Championships. There were some brilliant games, some great camaraderie as well as some big upsets. But this is darts, its all on the day.
My second visit onto the Lakeside stage was against another great friend Kirsty Hutchinson. Again this had the makings of another brilliant game. Surprisingly I had a few more nerves second time round, even though I had done everything practically the same as my initial preparation. I was so excited to get back up there and perform.
With my curls on show, game two started with some power scoring from Kirsty with myself just missing the bull for a 126 to take the opening leg. As Kirsty openly says her power scoring is what gives her the lead more often than not so I knew I had to keep up with that as well as hitting the double when given the opportunity. At 2.0 down I pinched the third leg with a sneaky double two. I went into the interval 1 set down and again went straight back on the practise board until we were called back to the stage. The darts were not seeming to fly as they were in my first game.
Starting set two a lot more strongly and despite having one bounce out I took out a nice three dart outshot at 80. However another 3 bounce outs cost me dear in the second leg. To level up the second set and with Kirsty poised to take the match I threw another big 134 checkout to take the set to a deciding leg. unfortunately my go for broke attempt a two double tops didn't come and Kirsty hit the winning double. Despite the scoreline, the game was a lot closer than it appeared. The video of this game has also been added to my Video Page.
Thank you to each and every person for your support and words of wisdom. Big shout out to those who have helped me financially to achieve my dream. I couldn't have done it without you. Even though my Lakeside dreams are over I cannot be sad. My dream has been fulfilled and to get a win at Lakeside on my debut is more than I ever dreamed. I feel humbled, more determined and proud. There is a slight tinge of disappointment that I didn't go further. However i have made a fantastic start to the WDF season and now I yearn to be back at the World Championships next year.
Feel free to see the new photographs attached in my websites Gallery - credit for these to Chris Sargeant of Tip Top Pics photography.
Jo jo Twinkle - over and out.........FOR NOW! Roll on Scotland.