Two of the world’s highest ranked darts players paid a visit to Intersport in Lincoln yesterday, with members of the public encouraged to step up to the oche and show off their arrows alongside a professional’s.
Andy ‘The Hammer’ Hamilton and Colin ‘Ozzy’ Osborne, who are ranked 16th and 14th respectively in the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) Order of Merit, were at the sports shop as part of a promotional event run by Unicorn Darts.
“We’re here to build the sport up and get more people interested [in darts],” said Stoke-born Hamilton, 43.
“Hopefully we’re doing that, so if we keep doing this all around the country, it’ll progress the sport even further.”
Interest in darts has soared in recent years, with each match generating fantastic buzz. In effect, it’s turned from a game you play in the pub with a few mates, to one of the UK’s most popular spectator sports – with ‘sport’ being the key word.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get away from darts being called a pub game,” said 35-year-old Osborne, “but if people came and did what we do – travel the world and play for a living – maybe they might see a different perspective of it.”
Although it wasn’t full to the rafters, the event in Lincoln alone certainly dispelled the myth that it’s a game for the older generation. Hamilton and Osborne were each pitted against several darts enthusiasts – most of whom were teenagers – in games of 301, and rather surprisingly, the professionals didn’t come out with a 100% winning record.
Hamilton, who has been professional since 2005, but has played the game for 27 years, said that despite darts’ recent surge in popularity, it’s still difficult for new players to break through: “It’s all about the backing you can get. The sport’s so high profile and competitive at the moment, and it’s so hard to get involved, but there are some good youngsters coming through.
“I think you just have to have that self-belief – thinking you can do it and knowing you can do it, and then just going and doing it.”
Osborne backed up his fellow competitor’s attitude, encouraging would-be darts players to try and make it in the sport:
“If you go and play a pub game and you’re beating everybody, then you go and play at County level and then Inter-Counties and Super Leagues, and you’re still winning, then it’s your own belief – the belief that you can go up there and beat everybody.”
If that isn’t enough motivation to dust off your old arrows, in answer to a question about whether anyone will ever be as successful as 15-times World Champion Phil Taylor, Osborne stated with the utmost confidence: “Never. Not in any sport.”