I read somewhere recently that the difference between a journey and an adventure is that when you are nervous or excited about something it becomes an adventure. We are both excited as we begin our longest dart trip of her career, a 12 day trek from Greenville that takes us out west before going to England for the 2012 Winmau World Masters.
Thursday's flights took us to Houston then on to Denver for the ADO World Cup National playoffs and the Colorado Open. Fortunately we had pretty smooth flights, always a big thing in my book, and arrived in Denver. The shuttle was waiting on us to take us to the Red Lion hotel which was again hosting this event. It was a cool 47 degrees there with snow in the weekend forecast.
The staff here always does a great job and they invited us to their hospitality room for free food and drinks upon our arrival. After eating we threw some darts to try and get used to the higher elevation which seems to speed up the flight of your darts. Coming from the humid South where it was 83 degrees when we left it is something that you have to try and adjust to as quickly as possible.
Sandy didn't sleep much but still got up with the chickens to get a work out in while a gentle snow was falling. After breakfast we went to the dart hall to check in with the ADO, get her reimbursement money and socialize with fellow players while she tinkered with her darts to find the best flight/shaft set up in the thin Rocky Mountain air.
Her bracket was drawn and she played well at times hitting two 180's but was not consistant. She and local hero Brenda Roush tied and advanced to the finals. It was the first time in four trips to Denver that she reached the finals but she was unable to step up her game and Brenda again won and advanced to a international event from the Denver playoffs.
After the event we went to dinner with good friends Julie Scheppele and Robbie Phillips who was celebrating winning the Men's playoff and earning the trip to Canada next year. After the great Margarita caper we returned to the hotel where Sandy needed a nap, so I went off to play a 3 hour first round in the Blind Draw.
After catching up on our sleep we started the day having breakfast with Florida friends Bill and Paula Murphy, the food was good but the service was lousy. Sandy found a last minute triples team with Joe Swick and Gloria Gutierrez but lost in the second round.
She and Marilyn Popp won Ladies Doubles 501 and endured two rude girls in the process. Not sure if they didn't like losing since they had won this event last year when the national players weren't here or that Sandy and Marilyn had names on their shirts. I trekked up to the famous Smashburger for my red meat fix before going to the land of mad cow disease , glad it's coming to the Carolinas soon.
Sandy lost a tough 5 leg match to Marilyn in the Top 8 to an impressive 116 out. She and Darin Young teamed up in Mixed Doubles Cricket but they lost a hard fought, nail biting 3 set match to Brian Blake and Cali West in the Top 16. Then we hung around the dart hall cutting up with friends and had a very funny incident happen which sent us into hysterical laughter. I can't say what happened because I'm sure this person wouldn't want it told to the world but Sandy said she didn't remember the last time she laughed that much.
Sunday started the same way with an early morning workout and a hearty breakfast for Sandy while I walked up to Panera Bread for a change of pace. I enjoyed seeing the mountains for the first time on this trip since the clouds have covered them up since we arrived. They were majestic and yes they had snow caps.
Back at the dart hall Sandy and Marilyn Popp tried to repeat their Saturday success this time in Cricket Doubles. They played well and made it to the semi-finals before losing a tightly contested match to eventual winners Cali West and Sandy Haas. Then came Ladies Cricket Singles and Sandy was ready. She beat several good players on her way to the finals against one of America's best players Paula Murphy who is a two time National Cricket Champion. But on this day Sandy was very focused and would not be denied, winning the title 4-1.
We had to hurry off to the airport after the match to catch a flight to Atlanta where we will depart to England from on Monday. After checking in we found that the brackets for the matches in England were posted. In Wednesday's Lakeside qualifier she will play Sanne Jorgensen of Denmark at 10:40 AM, that's 5:40 AM in America. There is one other American lady going to England and if she and Bette Cunningham both win two matches they will meet in this bracket.
In Thursday's Winmau World Masters she has a 12:55 PM match against Northern Ireland's Nicole Dillon. While all the brackets are tough, Sandy's may be one of the toughest with tournament top seed Deta Hedman and defending champion Lisa Aston both of England.
After staying near the Atlanta airport we checked in early and spent about 7 hours waiting to catch our flight to England. We used the time to shop, eat and drink at the bar before flying out at 7:30 PM. While Sandy got a nap in I watched the movies to keep my mind off the bumpy ride. If you are interested I liked "Battleship" which combined two of my favorite movie themes, aliens and the navy.
We arrived in Manchester, England at 8:30 AM after crossing 5 time zones, went through Customs and walked the the Train Station which was attached to the terminal. Public transportation in England is amazing and something America could learn from. The trip to Hull was 80 miles and after checking in I caught a cat nap while Sandy started practicing. It was so cool that the hotel put up a couple of boards in the lobby just for us.
After I got up we talked with a promoter from the Netherlands that we met on our first trip over in 2008. Surprisingly we mostly discussed the state of darts in America and why the sport of darts needs our country to embrace the sport and grow it here at home. We met up with many of the other american players before heading down the street to a pub for dinner, pints and darts. We turned in about 11:00 PM to get a good nights sleep before the Lakeside qualifier on Wednesday.
The Holiday Inn Express is a modern hotel in Hull and a major upgrade over the hotels where we have stayed before on these trips. We awoke to a cold morning but had a hot breakfast in the hotel before heading over to Costello Stadium for the days event.
The venue was packed with top level darters from all around the world including some America's finest and the practice time was scarce before toeing the oche at 10:00 AM. Sandy received a first round "bye" and her first scheduled match was against Sanne Jorgensen of Denmark which was over before it started when her rival was a "no show". They don't wait for you here, you have a match time and must check in 10 minutes early, if you are not there by match time you forfeit and this is how Sandy advanced to the third round.
Once there she made quick work of Agnieszka Lega of Poland winning 3-0 and threw very well in the process. We were hoping that fellow American Bette Cunningham would be her fourth round match but that was derailed by a very talented Finnish player Kirsi Viinikaznen who advanced to play Sandy. They split the first 2 legs with Sandy throwing a 15 dart game but Kirsi answered with a 14 dart game and eventually ended up winning the match 3-1.
The Top 16 finish was her best ever in the Lakeside qualifier.
We then turned our attention to the men left in the field rooting them on. L-style teammate D.J.Sayre also made the Top 16 losing to fellow American Tom Sawyer who finished in the Top 8, one game away from earning a bid to next year's Lakeside tournament. We also were able to meet the CEO of L -Style Global Jinta Serizawa who was in town for the event. It was an honor to meet him and his assistant Rachael and to properly thank him for the sponsorship and for their faith in Sandy. After the qualifier we went to dinner with many of the players at a popular local restaurant and watched the PDC Grand Prix on the TV before turning in for some much needed rest.
This was another cold morning here and after breakfast we headed to Costello Stadium for the early rounds of the Winmau World Masters. Registration ended at 9:30 but Sandy's first match wasn't until 12:55. It never ceases to amaze me that an event this historic, this traditional and this important does not have dedicated practice boards. By 10:00 play had begun and you literally had to watch for matches to finish to get a few darts in before the next match began.
Sandy again had a first round "bye" and a very tough bracket which included the #1 overall seed Deta Hedman, the defending Champion Lisa Aston, one of the Lakeside Qualifier Finalists Aileen De Graaf and the second ranked player from Northern Ireland Nicole Dillon who was Sandy's opening opponent. She was a very talented player and started out hot winning the first leg on 20 darts. Sandy was again behind in the second leg but was able to close the gap at the end and had a couple shots at an out but again lost digging herself in a hole. Sandy started to find her triples in the third leg but Nicole was still hitting well and pushed her lead to 3-0.
It appeared she might sweep Sandy as she got off to a great start in the fourth leg but again missed some doubles to possibly end the match. This time Sandy took advantage and ended up winning the leg. Nicole appeared a bit shaken by her missed opportunities and Sandy started hitting her stride on 19's and 20's and finished off the leg with a 21 dart game. Sandy pulled even in the sixth leg and forced a decisive seventh leg to determine the match. She started well in the last leg and quickly built a lead before Nicole's 140 closed the gap late. Still Sandy got to the doubles first and then she began to miss match winning opportunities. She had eight darts at the out but could not convert and Nicole ended up winning the match on her first look at double twenty.
It marked a disappointing finish to this, her third Winmau World Masters but we managed to stay in good spirits as we supported the rest of Team USA. When we left we grabbed some fish n' chips and headed to the hotel for a power nap. We woke up late and headed to the hotel bar for some networking opportunities with potential sponsors before turning in about 3:00 AM.
This has been a rather exhausting trip and sleep has been scarce so after getting to bed late we took full advantage of a day where we could catch up and slept in late, very late. After we got up we headed out for another round of fish n' chips before walking over to City Hall to watch the stage events for the Winmau World Masters with most of the American team and were treated to some great darts.
This event seeds the Top 16 men into the Top 32 against the 8 qualifiers from Thursday's early rounds supposedly for a bigger TV audience on ESPN and as it turned out the qualifiers crashed the party for the most part. The matches that created the most buzz in the dart hall were Paul Brown destroying defending Champion Scott "2 Hottie" Waites 3-0, Rohit David upsetting former Champion Martin "Wolfie"Adams and Phil Nixon besting Robbie "Kong"Green. Rick Hofstra, who some remember from last years event when he beat America Jim Widmayer almost upset the top seed Stephan "The Bullett" Bunting before losing control at the end.
The days matches ended shortly after 11 PM and we grabbed some take out food on the way back to the hotel to turn in for the evening.
Saturday we met up with friends Robbie Phillips and Julie Scheppele for lunch before heading out to my favorite aquarium in the world. You have to eat fish n' chips before going there right? And we did, then off to "The Deep" which is a spectacular seven story underground aquarium and once again it did not disappoint.
After the tour, we headed down to the Winmau World Masters for a great afternoon and evening of darts. The higher seeds made it through most of the matches and we were witness to a 170 out, a 167 out and a slew of perfect scores. After darts we grabbed a late night meal before retiring for the evening to get ready for the long trip home.
Sunday came without a wake up call but we still managed to make our train on time. The trip through the scenic English countryside to Manchester was beautiful and after getting into our hotel we headed next door to an Irish Pub for a few pints and a good meal to help us sleep as if we needed it. We seem to have been living on sleep deprivation since the start of this trip but that is the price you pay for an unforgettable memory which will surely last a lifetime.
Monday we boarded the plane for the long flight home, first through Atlanta and then home to our life, family, friends and yes the waterbed we have so dearly missed for what seems to be months. We arrived safe, sound and exhausted.
Sandy is so proud to again be part of this legendary event and for the opportunity to represent America in international competition. She was joined by a great group of dart players, some new to these events and some veterans but all played well and deserve mentioning as ambassadors to the sport, the ADO and the United States. Thank you to all that helped this trip be so incredible.
Bette Cunningham, Austin Adams, Tom Sawyer, Joe Huffman, DJ Sayre, Chuck Pankow, Chris White, Howard Meyers, Tom Curtin, Robbie Phillips, Brandon Rogers and Joe Chaney.
* 13,756 miles traveled
* 4 states
* 2 countries
* 6 planes
* 4 trains
* 4 shuttles
* 10 events
* 2 ladies titles
* 2 very tired people