As the growth of the North American darts scene continues to rise, Florida’s Daniel Baggish, Philadelphia’s legendary figure, Darin Young and Ontario’s ‘Ginga Ninja’ Matt Campbell represented North America amicably at the 2020 PDC William Hill World Darts Championship in London prior to the festive break.
Before we delve into the World Championship itself and the plaudits that the three North American representatives deserve, lets just offer an overview as to just how much the profile of the sport in the North American region has grown over recent years.
Championship Darts Circuit: The growth of the North American game
The growth of the Championship Darts Circuit, a tour that was set up around five years ago by a group of four partners – Peter Citera, Anthony Eugenia, L.David Irete and Jeff Goode. This particular team of darts enthusiasts shared a vast knowledge of the sport and a long-term vision – to pasture together the best players that North America has to offer and to raise the bar in terms of standard on a consistent level, with rewards to match those who can play at the highest level.
Like any new business plan, the CDC did take time to generate interest and build. The Dart Connect system coincided with the launch of the CDC tour, allowing darts fans on a global scale to keep up-to-date with all events and individual performances.
A year or two into the existence of the CDC, tournaments were able to view using online streams and gradually, the Championship Darts Circuit consistently gathered in large viewing figures in each of their events.
Hard work, rewarded
Following the consistent hard work and high-quality players emerging from the CDC tour, in 2018 – the CDC’s efforts were recognised by the PDC and after months of meetings and communication with the PDC, Barry Hearn and Matthew Porter rewarded the CDC’s efforts by offering three spots at the 2019 PDC World Championship, those three places were allocated to the highest-ranked USA player on the CDC tour, whom at the time was Arizona’s Chuck Puleo (pictured below), the highest-ranked Canadian (Jim Long) and the winner of the North American Championship in Las Vegas, which was none other than Jeff Smith.
Following the 2019 World Championship, both Puleo and Long were rewarded further as the Professional Darts Corporation awarded places to the pair in the USA and the Canadian team at the PDC World Cup of Darts in Germany. Puleo pairing up with the ever-present Darin Young and Long accompanying Dawson Murschell. The Canadian duo performed superbly with a great run to the quarter-finals, just losing out to the Netherlands 2-1, with Murschell enjoying a memorable win over Michael van Gerwen en route.
After an impressive 2019 from a North American perspective on both the CDC tour and in at the PDC World Championship and the World Cup, the growth of the sport and the opportunities that were on the table to the top players in the North American region, more and more ‘new’ players emerged out of the region as the 2019 CDC Tour kicked off on March 30.
Darin Young made a great start to the year on the CDC tour after agonisingly missing out on the PDC World Championship spot in the final event back in 2018. Young won two out of the first three events, reaching the final in all three. Ontario’s Matt Campbell came into some great form midway through the season, reaching four consecutive finals, winning two of them and threw his name into the hat for a place at Alexandra Palace.
The Canadian Burst onto the scene midway through the 2018 CDC tour, reaching the final on-tour in just his first CDC weekend – reaching a final after coming through the qualifiers, producing 23 maximums over the course of the event and just losing out to an on-song Darin Young in one of the greatest finals we’ve seen since the CDC’s inception.
After Young and Campbell continued to reach finals and win events, it came as no surprise to see the pair clinch their places at Alexandra Palace. Campbell, who just missed out on a place at the North American Championship, deservedly booked his debut at the PDC World Championship.
Joining Young and Baggish at the PDC World Darts Championship was none other than Florida-based star, Danny Baggish – a player that’s been taking North American darts by storm over the course of the year, winning events left, right and centre, travelling to tournaments all over North America and producing some breathtaking displays, breaking average records.
Baggish stormed his way through the qualifiers at the North American Championship in Las Vegas. Baggish recorded several averages in the one hundred-and-teens en route. In the North American Championship itself on the PDC stage, Baggish defeated Elliott Milk, Leonard Gates and Jeff Smith to secure his place at Alexandra Palace and setting up an opening round tie with Daryl Gurney in the PDC US Darts Masters.
Ahead of Baggish’s clash with Gurney, it was a tie that excited darts fans, not only in North America but on a global scale, given the quality of Baggish’s performances in 2019. Despite losing out 6-1 to the Irishman, who’s of course a two-time major winner, Baggish certainly won over several fans, globally.
So, as the Championship Darts Circuit tour came to a close, Baggish made the decision to compete in the final two CDC events via the qualifiers. The Florida thrower stormed through the first qualifying event, averaging a whopping 110.5 in both of his victories, sealing qualification with a 111.2 average in a 3-0 win over Mike McClain.
During Main event nine, Baggish produced several impressive displays as he reached the third round, before losing out to an in-form Danny Lauby. Baggish notably saw off three-time world champion John Part in a crushing 5-0 win with a breathtaking 112.2 3-dart average.
As expected, Baggish successfully came through the qualifier for the final CDC event of 2019 and after tasting defeat in the previous event, Baggish successfully stormed through the field in Philadelphia and won his first CDC title at the second time of asking. Baggish enjoyed a series of victories over the likes of Paul Burns (5-0), Joe Chaney (5-2), Dave Richardson (5-1), Jeremiah Millar (6-1), Chuck Puleo (6-2) and Joe Huffman (6-2) in a blistering series of performances to end the CDC season.
So, as the 2020 PDC World Championship kicked off at Alexandra Palace, first-up from a North American standpoint, Ontario’s Matt Campbell came up against former BDO World Championship finalist, Mark McGeeney.
2020 PDC World Championship
Campbell put in a solid performance and matched McGeeney in the scoring stakes, in the end, McGeeney’s stage experience proved to be a telling factor as he pounced on every single error from the Canadian. Campbell fell to a 3-1 defeat, but there were plenty of positives to take from his performance – his scoring was consistently heavy, if his timing was better and grasping the chances more ruthlessly, then he really can be a handful to any player in the PDC ranks. Will Campbell decide to give PDC Qualifying School a go, who knows?
Ever-present USA darting star, Darin Young was involved in an emotionally-charged first round tie as ‘Big Daddy’ completed a memorable 3-1 victory over five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld in a result that ended the Dutch legend’s final World Championship campaign.
For Young, it was a result that filled him with confidence and although the night was surrounded by the aftermath of the Dutchman’s career coming to a close, Young remained upbeat as he moved into round two.
“Raymond’s been on the front-line for the best part of 15-20 years, it’s excitement for me, but honestly, I feel bad for Raymond.” said Young after the win. “I was always the underdog as far as the crowd was concerned, but I kind of played that to my advantage, I think. I’ve put a lot of practise in, my preparations been good and you never know when it’s going to be your last match.”
“There’s no pressure on me whatsoever, everyone in this place was expecting me to lose this match. What I think happened for me is that all the years of experience, all the years of being here and the age I’m at now and the practice that I’ve put in this year, I haven’t put in since I was a young lad is paying off. If I can keep that rhythm going then I don’t really care who I play.”
Following Young’s heroics over van Barneveld, the Philadelphia star almost recorded a Dutch-double. Young moved within a leg of a 3-1 win, before Jeffrey de Zwaan produced heroics of the highest order to force a deciding set. The American moved ahead in the fifth set and missed a match-dart at D8 to stun the ‘Black Cobra’ but de Zwaan used his stage experience to secure a place in the third round of action at the Ally Pally.
It was another impressive showing from Young, who used his experience to carry himself through the tournament and despite defeat, there are many positives to take from another decent World Championship campaign.
Thirdly, it was time for the much-fancied Florida star, Danny Baggish to make his PDC World Championship debut. Baggish used his spare time in London to perfect his preparations as the USA ace sharpened up with the likes of 13-year old star, Leighton Bennett at Target Darts HQ and John Scott alongside the Middlesex super league team.
Baggish was tipped for big things ahead of the action at Alexandra Palace, and it’s fair to say that he won over plenty of fans in the United Kingdom due to his professionalism and his high-quality levels of performance.
Despite Baggish’s great year in terms of his form across North America, questions were asked how would he be able to handle the pressure applied from the PDC professionals, well those fears were soon put to bed as Baggish dug in deep to secure a hard-fought 3-2 win over Andy Boulton in his opening match.
Coming back from 1-0 and 2-1 behind, Baggish really had to remain mentally calm and composed on the oche as he withheld early pressure from Boulton and the Florida ace’s quality shone through as he moved into the second round of the competition.
Following the win, Baggish was full of confidence and expressed his delight as he spoke to a jam-packed media room at Alexandra Palace.
“I feel ecstatic,” said Baggish. “Everyone that’s here, want to be here and to be able to play here for the first time and win is unbelievable.
“I found another gear from 2-1 down and after I made it 2-2, I felt like it was ‘my time’.
Baggish admits that playing darts in London earlier in the week really helped him.
“It’s unbelievable. Where I’m from, there’s no steel-tip leagues, it’s all electronic and soft-tip. What you guys have here is fantastic and I’ve loved it [London].
Baggish was also quick to praise the CDC, insisting: “I wish we could play events every weekend.”
“The CDC is the best thing going right now. If we’re going to continue to bring the best players in North America against each other, then it’s only going to help darts in North America.”
In terms of the possibility of attending PDC Qualifying School, Baggish was quick to admit that he will be there.
“I’ll be at Q-School.” Said Baggish. “If I can play well at a solid pace, then I’ll stand every chance.”
In the second-round, Baggish came up against the much-fancied UK Open champion, Nathan Aspinall. Many wrote Baggish off before a dart was thrown, and the American responded to that as he took the opening set, although he expected a backlash from Aspinall.
As anticipated, Aspinall battled back as the pair continued to trade blows with moments of real quality being produced in what was a fascinating spectacle. Baggish created an opening in the third set, and of for large parts looked like he was heading for a 2-1 lead, but Aspinall really showed his class as he wrapped up a 3-1 win.
Despite defeat, Baggish really showed a glimpse of his potential and even Aspinall was full of praise for the American, insisting that it won’t be the last time that Baggish will appear on the biggest stages in world darts.
On a continual scale, darts in North America is on the rise, massively. it’s certainly going to interesting to see how many North American’s head over to PDC Qualifying School in January.