Sandy began her career in 1990 after graduating from Mars Hill University and returning to her home town where she hoped to start her teaching career. Looking back it was a very important time in her life. Jobs in the teaching profession were scarce that summer and she ended up doing substitute teaching stints when she could find them. She took a part time job in a liquor store while she waited for a career opportunity to open up in the teaching profession. But sometimes life throws you curve ball and things don't work out as planned. While working that part time job she made an impression and was offered a sales job with a beverage distributor and never looked back, she is still with them today and has turned that job into a fruitful career.
She found the game of darts while playing pool at a local pub, a life long friend, Lisa Watts brought it to her attention. After competing in sports throughout her high school and college years she had a competitive spirit that would serve her well and still does today. She joined a fun league team that summer and one of my good friends, David Thomas saw her and recommended her for our team. Soon she was on our team, winning league titles and impressing all of us. She was a natural and began to progress, learning quickly from the top players in our league and began to play regional tournaments. It was here she met Linda Sims from Georgia who was a highly ranked player back in those days. She found a mentor in Linda and began to enter ADO Regional Qualifiers and earned her first trip to an ADO National in Chicago, IL. But she would stop playing most events and focused on her career shortly thereafter. She often played in the local dart league and occasionally in the local tournament but her love of the sport never left her and her passion still simmered just below the surface.
In 2007 our team was playing in our local City Cup Final and she lost a winner take all final match against one of the league's more talented male players. After the match she gathered up a local youth player and went to the other side of the VFW where they could throw together. You see, the teacher inside Sandy never went away and her connection to the youth players has always been her favorite part of darts. She has impacted many kids through the years but on this day the kid was there for her, thank you Dalton Kelley for being there to encourage and support her. In the next 20 minutes or so she made up her mind and came over to tell me she was "tired of sucking". I didn't fully understand what that meant at the time other than maybe she would start to practice, something she always hated.
A couple of weeks later she traveled to Pineville and on Sunday won the Ladies 501 Singles title over the highest ranked player in North Carolina. Looking back, we met so many people that weekend that would become good friends. Robbie and Julie Phillips were just two of those people and we look forward to seeing them this weekend in Trinidad and Tobago. Two weeks later she attended the ADO Regional in Atlanta, GA and earned a spot to her second ADO National, this one in Denver, CO. That weekend we met many of the country's top players like Stacey Bromberg, Marilyn Popp, Brenda Roush, Tracy Feirertag and others. We met another one of this weekends teammates on that trip, our friend and ADO President Tom Sawyer.
So looking back to what began this summer, 11 years ago she has accomplished quite a bit in what she describes as her "second dart life". She has now competed in 40 Nationals and won four National Championships, two each in 501 and Cricket. She is the only player to ever win an ADO and USSDA National Championship. She has won 133 Singles Titles and later this year will travel to England, making her 8th trip to the Winmau World Masters. This weekend she will be at her 3rd straight America's Cup in Trinidad and Tobago with her teammates Lisa Ayers, Tom Sawyer and Robbie Phillips as they try to once again bring home the Gold Medal. Representing America is a humbling experience and an honor that never gets old. Throughout that time she is basically the same person she has always been, honest, competitive, hard working and a teacher to so many. She now gets to be the mentor and is simply known as "Mama" to her friends in this beautiful sport. None of this would be possible if not for her mentor and best friend, her mother Virginia "Dindy" Leach. She was raised to be a good person and to work for what she wants. Those traits not only carry her in darts but in life as well.
Along the way her sponsors have always been such a big part of her success and she is thankful to have them in her corner. The staff at Winmau has been amazing and they have created her signature "Storm" darts which has helped to take her game to new levels. The darts are sold by their American Distributor Dutchman Darts. L-Style Global has also been a huge supporter of Sandy and makes her carbon shafts and signature "Storm" flights available in dart shops across the country. Her high quality sublimation dart shirts are made by Flying Bull Darts. While she has accomplished quite a bit, she still has her eyes focused on achievements that have eluded her along the way and she is still out there chasing her dart dreams.