January 22, 2016
National Championships in America
The Cricket National Championship is today. No one who plays darts in the U.S. wants to miss it, least of all me. I have to say I wish I was able to be a part of it. So how is it that one of the top shooters in America isn’t going to be competing for the National title?
If you are not familiar with how you qualify to compete in an ADO National Championship currently, let me explain.
The ADO created a playoff system to qualify players to compete for a national title. It starts at the local league level with players competing for spots in their region. These are usually called qualifiers. The cost to enter is usually around $10 or $20. The format is a one-day round robin format event (every player entered, plays every other player in the room. The player with the best record on that day wins.) The winner of that days’  competition gets to compete in the next level up: the Regional. So all the winners of the local qualifiers (in a good region, there will be several) get their spot secured for the regional. Anyone can play in a regional, as long as they belong to an ADO affiliated league or pay their ADO membership individually…but if you didn’t win your spot at the local qualifier, you have to bring the $110 entrance fee. The winner of this regional gets the big prize: not only the chance to compete for a national title, but also a paid round trip flight to the destination of the National and a stipend to help with hotel costs. If you drive to the National, you get reimbursed according to mileage.
I must admit, in the early years of my darting, I really didn’t know much about darts events outside of my local league. I knew when sign-ups for fall/winter league were, and I knew when summer league sign-ups were. Beyond that, I didn’t really give much thought to other events. After a few years in league, I found out about qualifiers, regionals, nationals and the whole ADO system. My region, which includes all of upstate New York, was pretty much hit or miss on having enough women to hold a regional. Too often, the night before a scheduled regional, I would get a call from the Regional Director, that there would not be enough women, so to not bother coming.
This was very discouraging to me. Many times, I would just have to carry over my qualifier win to the next regional, until finally, we would have one. Then, when we finally did have one, I didn’t win. It took quite a few years of this process before I finally won a cricket regional and got to compete on the national level.
I finished in the top 8 that first year, and from then on, I was hooked! As a player that didn’t travel but to just a few close tournaments, it was quite an experience for me. I enjoyed everything- the skill level of the players, the people I met and became friends with, and the tournament that followed..with so many great shots from all over the world. When I got back home, I had to tell all my friends how cool it was and encouraged them to come out and play the next qualifier!
After several years of having hit or miss regionals, I decided to take matters into my own hands and become the local ADO rep. I held qualifiers often, trying to find ways to raise the money needed for each player to make it to the regional. Syracuse had quite a few women shooters who would compete in these and I felt things were going well. We had a few regionals in a row, where we had enough women. There should be at least 8 people to hold a regional, however it can be done with as few as 4 or 5. The problem there is that either the winner has to raise the balance of money to actually go, or everyone has to pitch in the extra money before the matches start. The amount of money that has to be raised to send one person to the National? A whopping $880.00!
The great thing about this process, is it takes a local, league-only player and exposes him/her to the experience of traveling to dart tournaments. For me, after attending my very first national, I became so immersed in practice routines, running qualifiers, and going to as many tournaments as I could afford, it was almost like a drug. I just loved it…And it all started with that first chance competing at the Nationals.
In that respect, I have to say, it is a great grassroots program. It took me from league player to one of the top players in the country. Of course, my success is also due to a lot of hard work and determination; But I feel the whole process kick-started my climb to the top.
Moving on to present day…I now hate regionals. Not because I don’t want to play in them, but because there is never one to play in. On the scarce occasion that we do have a regional, I hate having to play in it; Chances are it has taken numerous tries to get enough women qualified to actually have one, to coerce a few more to show up , and then I walk in the room… I’m not blind to the fact that most women don’t want to play against me; for that matter, most men don’t want to play me…(but that is a topic for another blog.) The point is, after all the effort to finally pull a regional together, if I win, how many of those women will bother to come back?
One year, it was assumed that I wouldn’t be able to make it, being at a tournament over 9 hours away… but I managed to get back in time just before they closed registration. There were 8 of our best local shooters ready to compete…but as I entered the room, I felt the excitement and hope of those players leave it. I played 24 games that day, and dropped only 1 leg, to win my spot for the Nationals…but I never felt so awful about a win. It was such a rare occurrence to have so many women participate; it was such a great start to the future of our local dart scene for the women, it was what I helped grow through the qualifiers I held as our local rep; it was new players who were quite good and had a future if they continued to play…. and I haven’t seen half of them ever again. Was it just because of me? Was it the cost of the event? Was it that other things in their lives became more important? I hazard a guess that it was probably a combination of all those things.
Whatever the case, we have not had a full regional for the ladies since. That was 4 years ago. How can we grow the participation of darts, if the only way even the top players can play a national is to attend regionals that I always felt should be exclusively for the local player who doesn’t have the sponsors and can’t afford to attend distant tournaments. My point is, keep the regionals/qualifiers for the “up-and-comers” to get the opportunities they otherwise may not have had. As for those top players, give the top 8 or top 16 in the country (or even just those that make the US National Team) an invite to play the Nationals. If money is an issue, have the top players pay a qualifying fee to enter. Either way, in order to have a National Championship, shouldn’t the best players in the nation be there? Otherwise how can you call it a National championship?
I see that in the letter to the members at the beginning of this year, the ADO president hinted on some much needed changes…
“…The current ADO board, which I believe is filled with the right people who all have a vision on how to move the ADO forward, will be constantly working together to achieve the goals of giving back more to the players.  We are looking to increase National Championship payouts, give added benefits and awards to US National Team members and past National Champions, provide more opportunities for players to represent the USA overseas and provide more opportunities for all players to participate in ADO National Finals….”
I am hoping these changes happen soon, as we are in what i would call a spiraling decline in participation. Players are losing interest in the game, and I can’t say I blame them. If we want darts to grow, we have to not only reward the players who put everything they have into the game but also find ways to start enticing and encouraging the new player as well.

October 21, 2015

Let’s Talk Turkey
So there has been much debate about sending a team to the World Cup this year in Kemer, Turkey. Is it safe? Do we really have any business going there, amongst all the terrorism in bordering Syria, as well as political unrest in Turkey? But in the end, the USA, along with 38 other teams from around the world have decided to accept the invite and attend this years’ WDF event; many teams even bringing youth to compete.

I have decided to keep a “travel-log”  during my trip, to keep everyone updated.  My wording may not be as polished as I would like it, so please excuse grammatical errors and the like during this series of entries, as it will mostly be ‘on-the-fly’ writing.
Right now, I am at Pearson International Airport, (YYZ for Rush fans) having a beverage or two before I board a plane to Istanbul, continuing on to Antalya, Turkey. I am liking the airport, and the way I can order drinks from an ever-so convenient tablet at our table to calm my nerves as I wait for my flight to board. I’m not a big fan of flying, really. I’ll drive anywhere, in any weather, but flying is another story. At this point, I am just hoping I can watch the Mets clinch the NLDS this evening on the lovely tv’s they have on Air Canada flights. With travel to New Hampshire last weekend and last night as well, to Toronto from Syracuse… Originally, the plan was to get to our hotel before the first pitch, but thanks to a 2 1/2 hour traffic jam on the QEW, all I could do was  listen to AM radio for the play by play.. In case you haven’t noticed, I am a die hard Mets fan, and this kind of performance doesn’t come along every season…so it’s kind of a big deal to me.But back to darts. I am looking forward to representing the US for a third consecutive world cup. I haven’t had the best results, I think in the last World Cup in Newfoundland, Canada,  I made it to top 8 for singles as well as ladies doubles with Brenda Roush. I also look forward to the new format for the World Cup, where the women now have the same amount of players as the men – 4. Up until now, World Cup teams consisted of 2 female players and 4 men.

So here is hoping with all the extra practice, as well as my experience with the CDC play (which certainly seems to have worked for Larry Butler, making it to the finals of the World Masters!) I will make the USA proud.
So, until my next post,  Godspeed and LETS GO METS !!

Part ll

After a few drinks, it was time to board our flight to Istanbul; but as we approach the gate, we hear the announcement that there will be a delay for this flight. As we hear the news, disappointment on our faces, we see another gentleman, who acknowledges the dejection. He strikes up a conversation with me about the t-shirt I was wearing; a hockey shirt which I thought would be appropriate for a Canadian airport..

He says to Robin and I, “Well, since we have an hour to kill, let’s go to the lounge!” At first, I am thinking he means where we had just come from, and I was all in for another beverage or two… but no, he means the American Express Lounge. He says “come with me, it’s free drinks and food!” As we take the elevator up, I am asking him lots of questions; trying to figure out his angle. He’s a businessman from Toronto, originally from South Africa. His company sells or manufactures antibacterial soap or something, and he is meeting with potential clients in Istanbul. His name is Neville.

I’m still a bit skeptical as he invites us into the lounge as his guests; but to my surprise he says he’s going to sit up there around the corner and he would leave us to enjoy the food and drink. Well, now I am just flat- out puzzled. As we watch the Blue jays game drinking Guiness and having yummy finger foods, I am still wondering why a complete stranger would be so nice. About an hour later. which seems like only 10 minutes with everything at our disposal, they announce our flight is ready to board. We meet up with Neville again, as I finish a Bailey’s on ice. I also had an incredibly smooth glass of Shiraz wine (my good friends Sky and Deena would be proud, as they always try to expose this beer-drinking  working-class girl to the world of fine wines).

Neville asked how we enjoyed our experience. I ask why he did this. He says “you’re good people, I could tell right away.” That was it. No ulterior motives, no scheme. Just a good guy in first class. We walked with him to our gate, he made us follow him to preferred boarding, we got on the plane, ahead of everyone. As Neville settled into his seat in first class I thanked him again, before we headed to the back of the plane. He said “enjoy your flight”. I smiled and muttered to myself, “not as much as you will in first class!”

So far, this trip to Turkey was on the right track!

Part lll

Our flight to Istanbul was about 10 hours. I’ve never been on a plane quite that long, and no matter how many movies are at my fingertips, I am less than comfortable in the ever-shrinking seat in economy. I finally just put my headphones on, start a loop of the 4 Nine Inch Nails albums on my phone and try to think of anything besides this plane. I drift in and out of sleep until breakfast service.

We arrive in Istanbul late morning. We wait an hour or two there until our next flight to Antalya. As we sit in the airport waiting to board, I realize that we basically lost an entire night, gaining 7 hours on the flight here. I have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, just like I used to get working the night shift during college. For some reason, lack of sleep only affects my stomach.

I sleep on the next plane, without even realizing there was a drink and food service on the flight… slept through the whole thing. The steward wakes me to put my seat up for landing.

Waiting for our luggage, I am just hoping it got on the same plane we did. Our first event is ladies pairs tomorrow, and I’d rather not play against world class competition with borrowed darts!

Our baggage seemingly enjoys the suspense of being one of the last bags to come onto the luggage carousel. We head towards the exit and look for someone holding a sign that says world cup or Limra Resort.. We find the guy with the sign after a few minutes of slight panic and travel to the resort along with team Romania. We are riding on a highway following the southern coast of Turkey. It is beautiful, with rugged mountains on one side, the Mediterranean on the other. The weather is overcast, lots of low clouds and a big storm coming, so we miss a lot of the view of the sweeping mountain range surrounding the resort. Not that it matters, as hard as I try, I am losing the fight to keep my eyes open. I am jarred awake by a honking horn as we are suddenly in 3 lanes of traffic, entering a huge 4 lane traffic circle. It’s like rush hour and I am just glad I’m not the one trying to negotiate this shuttle bus through it all…The ride takes about 45 minutes and finally we are in Kemer and at the gate to the resort.

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. After checking in, we have to be sure we stay awake until registration for our first event in the turkish open which is at 9:30. I’m seeing double as we stumble to find the dart hall and registration table. We get back to the room and just crash.. and by that I mean I sleep for 15 hours straight! It’s not like me to sleep like that.. I can hardly sleep 6 hours without getting restless, but the jet lag really hit me hard.

After all that rest, and something to eat, we are ready to play darts…maybe. We head down to the dart hall and start warming up. I still don’t feel like myself but I push through, best I can the first round against 2 ladies from Australia. We win 4-2. We play a more convincing 2nd round and move on to the 3rd and 4th round. Now we are in a top 8 matchup against none other than Deta Hedman and Rachel Brooks.

We lose a close match, and I feel bad. I know I haven’t played my best darts, and we really could have used some good ones against them, but we are out. I still feel like I am in quicksand. We go back for a late bite to eat and head to bed. Singles is tomorrow.

After another 10 hours of sleep, I still don’t feel rested, but we get up and try to see what the resort has to offer before we have to get ready for darts again. The weather is still pretty overcast and dreary, which doesn’t help my energy level. After a tour around the resort and some early dinner, we head down to the hall for singles. I play a very tough first round against a player from Turkey: Emine Erkan, she is on the national team and although she has only been playing for a few years, she plays very well. I have to pull together some great shots to beat her. It was really a great match. Robin wins her first too…we both win the second round as well. I get by the third round and am on to top 16. Now I have to play Deta Hedman again; a recurring theme of the Turkish Open for me. I am wishing I had an opponent not quite as ominous.. but I am shooting well and figure anything can happen in a best of 7 match.

She wins the first game in about 14 darts. OK I think, I am NOT going down like that. I put together a great second game and tie it up. It goes back and forth, and I am seeing even when she wins, I am right there with her the whole time. She’s up 3-2 and it is a close 6th leg. She is sitting at a double and after hitting a nice set up shot I have one dart at tops..but just miss the double and she takes it out for the win 4-2. I know I played well. She even says that was the first time she was nervous all day.. To play against the best in the world and hold your own is pretty good, but I am still disappointed. I go to cheer on Robin who is still winning. She goes on to win all her matches that night. She will play the semi’s on stage tomorrow around 11. We are done for the night.

Robin sets the alarm on her phone to wake us at 8 so we have time for some breakfast before her match. As the sun starts lighting up the room, Robin stirs and glances at her watch. It says 9 o’clock! She bolts up, grabbing for her phone, wondering why the alarm didn’t go off. The phone says 8 o’clock; what the…? She wakes me and tells me about the time difference. I get online and check what time it should be in Turkey…no, it says 8. We’re a little puzzled, but it appears this weekend the clocks are to turn back in Europe, so we’re good. We head down for breakfast and as I go back for seconds, I notice they are breaking down the buffet….which should only be happening if it is close to 10 am. I hurry back to the table to bring this to Robin’s attention. She says “oh my God, it’s 10:00; it must be!”

As we rush out, I tell her I’ll run down to the hall and see what’s happening there, while she gets ready. As I approach the hall, there are people there, but I look at the stage and there’s nothing going on yet. I ask a lady for the time and she says it’s after 10. I mention that my phone says it’s after 9 and she shrugs her shoulders at me. By the time I get back to the room, Robin is ready to go, so we head back over, in a slight panic. You see, it’s not just being ready physically to start a match at 11am, but there is a whole mental preparation that goes into it… and of course that luxury of the extra hour she had planned on, is gone.

Luckily, the first event is running long, so she has a little time to settle down before stage play. I’m still a bit miffed that the time change on our phones is somehow incorrect and that no one seemed to think it would be important to maybe mention this time change, or lack thereof, when they told her what time to be here today.

As she goes on stage, I am joined by Bette and Ed Cunningham to cheer her on. Robin starts off well, and leaves herself 170 in the first game.. but just as she goes up to shoot, the monitor with the scoreboard goes out. The caller halts play, goes over to it and after some fuss, gets it to come back on. I won’t blame the break in concentration for her missing the 170, but it seemed after that, she wasn’t quite shooting the same.  I’m holding my breath with every double she goes for…I swear, its easier to be up there myself than to watch…She is hanging in there, but still not quite the usual performance I know she is capable of..

She narrowly loses the match 4-3. I’m as bummed as she is, after all, first place is 1600 Euro. But instead she goes home with a nice bronze medal and €340.00. Not bad for an international event. I’m still proud of her accomplishment.

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Now we have all of tomorrow during the day to enjoy the resort. Supposedly the weather is clearing up and it should be a great day for the pool and or the beach. This resort is right on the Mediterranean and with beach access, that is probably where I will spend my time. I love the beach, even if it is rocky, and not like the sandy beaches of Long Island where I grew up,  that I still miss.

June 14, 2015

Part I
I wonder what would’ve happened if Billie Jean King played darts instead of tennis?


As you may know, I have recently accepted a CDC tour card, along with the challenge of playing in the first ever Championship Darts Circuit 

I think there are a lot of people out there curious as to how a woman will do in a predominantly male event…hey, I’m one of them!

So, I will be giving an account of how it all goes, from a woman’s point of view. Everything from how the event was run, to reactions in the hall and my overall experience. Maybe even a few matchplay highlights…although I will keep that brief…nothing worse than listening to a long drawn-out re-cap, blow by blow…”and then I shot a ton, and then he shot an 81 and so I had 73 left and I hit the trip 19, ya know, and, well I was right on the wire, but, I don’t know how it didn’t go in!!”

I will start at the beginning… Not of the event, but as to how I came to the conclusion that I would accept a tour card. It wasn’t an easy decision after all; a substantial financial commitment, with absolutely no guarantee on getting any real return on my investment. But maybe for once, it wasn’t about the money. It was about something bigger than that.

Months before the inaugural event in Miamisburg, Ohio, I got an email from the CDC offering me a tour card for this new and exciting pro tour series. My initial reaction, when seeing the format, the rules and the people running it was “awesome! I want to do this!!!” I discussed this with my long time partner Robin, who was also offered a tour card. She quelled my enthusiasm. Her initial reaction was fairly hesitant; said she didn’t know if she wanted to be seen as the Billie Jean King of darts. I thought about that comment for awhile… like days.

Maybe she was right (let’s face it, she usually is). Although we didn’t yet know exactly who else had accepted a tour card, it was pretty clear this was primarily a men’s event, with most of the top men in North America being our competition. A daunting challenge, for sure.

The funny thing is that when I first saw the invite, I really didn’t think of it as a men’s event. I just saw it as a ‘pro event’. After all, we were ‘pros’; we were offered an invite. It really didn’t cross my mind that it might become a “battle of the sexes” kind of thing. Anyway, why should that stop me, even if it was? I mean, I’ve spent my whole life competing against the opposite sex. Growing up, it was basketball, softball, skateboarding, video games…(I may have been a bit of a tomboy). Why should this be any different? In fact, when I first started playing darts, I thought it was strange that men and women were separated. There is obviously no physical advantage. It’s not like I have to shoot at double twenty while being closely guarded by someone a foot taller than me!

I just resented the idea that I might not be taken seriously. Like I would be labeled as “just a girl”, like it was the 7th grade all over again.

I wanted to play basketball on the school team. I practiced every day after school; foul shots, jumpers from the top of the key, dribbling with my eyes closed, passing to a spot on the concrete block wall of the back of our garage. I was so focused on making the school team, that I didn’t even realize there was only a boy’s team in the 7th grade. The girls just had JV and Varsity over at the high school. When I saw there was a poster for tryouts for boys basketball only, I was surprised…and mad. I got up the nerve to talk to the coach of the boys team to get to the bottom of this. I knocked on his office door, my heart in my throat. He was an imposing figure, especially to me as I was about 5’4”, maybe 98 lbs.. and 11 years old. I asked him about the poster and if there was going to be a girls’ tryouts later, or something. He looks at me, almost shocked I would ask, and says “well, no, there is no girls’ team” as if to say why on earth would there be?? I was shocked, and incredibly disappointed. I had been practicing after all. I reply, still in disbelief “so I can’t play? I mean, that doesn’t sound fair to me” A smile comes across his face as he let out a bellowing laugh. “well, since there is no girls team, you can by law, try out for the boys team…if you think you’re good enough” I just sat there, feeling like I was just punched in the gut. I left his office, absolutely enraged about the inequality of this. I may have had the guts to go into his office that day, but at the juncture between child and adolescent, I just couldn’t bring myself to enter the boys’ gym the day of tryouts. I walked back home dejected.

No. Not this time, I said to myself. I am entering this event and I am going to do what I didn’t have the strength to at 11. Whether I beat the guys and get labeled Billie Jean King or get beat out the first round, I am not letting another opportunity to better my game pass me by. I accepted the tour card and started preparing for a trip to Miamisburg, Ohio, the first stop on the CDC tour.

caliback

Part ll

In the weeks leading up to the first CDC event, my emotions are mixed. I am truly eager to see how I will do against the guys, but I am also questioning my decision. What initially seemed like a great idea, was increasingly becoming a daunting task in my mind. I realize I won’t be playing just any group of guys that happen to wander into the hall that day. I will be playing some of the best dart players on the continent; World Champions even!
I decide to set up a calculated practice schedule that is sure to get me ready for this challenge. But even the most deliberate practice schedule can be overrun by all the day to day stuff. Like most American “pro” dart players, I also have a full time job. This makes it pretty difficult to do any significant practicing. If I can get in an hour a night, it’s a lot; because it’s not just your job getting in the way of darts and that very important practice schedule, but all of life’s other obligations: dinners, dishes, groceries, yard work, trying to figure out why the lawn mower won’t start, or why the garage door suddenly won’t close or why the bathroom light stopped working…. all of which seem to take up the better part of any evening.
So I am trying like hell to squeeze in time on that practice board, but before I know it, we are packing up the car for Miamisburg, Ohio. That unprepared feeling is creeping in, so I throw our travel board on top of the luggage, thinking somehow this will help. I close the trunk, feeling only slightly better.
After a long 8 1/2 hour drive we arrive at our home for the weekend, the Super8 around 1:30 in the morning. Thankfully, the first event doesn’t start until 2pm the next day. We fall into bed completely exhausted after an 8 hour work day and the even longer drive.
The next day is a warm one and as we pull into the parking lot of the Moose Lodge, (my practice board still rolling around in the trunk), there is a knot in my stomach. I chuckle to myself as a memory pops into my head.
It was a hot summer day and I was on my way to a local basketball camp. I was 13, and had finished my first year on the JV team at school. I was so excited to be in this camp so I could work on my game and see my teammates. But as I walk into the gym, my elation turns into panic, as I realize the entire gym is full of boys.
I stop in my tracks, only a few feet from the door. I think about turning around and leaving before anyone notices me. But where to go? Mom had dropped me off and wouldn’t be back until noon. It’s 8am. There’s only one thing to do. I gather myself and muster the courage to approach the check-in table. Maybe I’m in the wrong place, and they’ll tell me where I need to go; where the girls gym is or that I have the date wrong. I go up to the guys at the desk and ask if I’m in the right place. They ask my name, and to my dismay, it is on the list. Yep, it’s the right place. They tell me to get a ball off the rack and warm up; they’ll be starting in a few minutes.
I pick a basket to shoot at and keep to myself, but I feel like I’m being watched. One of the boys grabs a long rebound of one of my shots and tosses it back to me. I dribble to the corner and sink it. He says, “nice shot…I’m Tim”
Hmm. Maybe this will work out after all.
I smile as we are gathering our stuff to go in. I ask Robin if she’s ready, and she asks what I am smiling about. “ah, nothing. I’m just ready to play darts!”
We get checked in and start warming up on a board with some of the guys. There was an undercurrent in the room; maybe nerves, maybe a bit uneasiness… was it because of us or just that this was a new event and none of us knew what to expect?
Peter Citera, one of the founders and organizers of the CDC, kicks off the main event with a welcoming speech and a quick review of the rules.
The CDC is different from most other tournaments in America. There is a dress code. There is no drinking during match play (only water). The brackets are laid out so each section stays on one board, which takes the guesswork out of where, when and who you will be playing next. You play on the same board until the “board final” (top 16). Even though it’s long format (best of 9, then best of 11 in later brackets), the event moves along at a good pace, with the help of a very small, but efficient and dedicated crew.
I’m one of the first matches called, so I go to board and throw a few, wondering who I will be playing. I feel pretty good. I’m the name on top in bracket so I shoot bull first. I love this bull rule; It’s like the PDC rule. No matter where your dart lands, you take it out of the board for the next player to shoot. Its either single, double or outside. As Peter says, You must be in the bull, to win the bull. What I love about it is there is no measuring who is closer, when both darts are outside the bull, which means no disagreements. It’s very matter of fact and quick, especially with the skill level in the room.
Matter of fact it is, as my very first dart lands in the double bull. My opponent doesn’t match it, so I start odd legs, he even. No re-bulling in last leg. The first round has assigned markers, and after that, the loser marks the next match, so there is no hunting around for someone to mark your game… Also a great improvement from other tournaments.
Since I really don’t know what to expect from my opponent, I tell myself to start as strong as possible. My first three darts? 180!!! Strong start, CHECK! I am definitely in the zone and really score well, but I hit a next door double, which leaves me on a double I obviously didn’t like… since it took me 10 darts to hit it! Thank God for that 180 to start off!
The second game, I didn’t start quite as strong, but hit my double on the first try. Overall, my scoring is very consistent and I end up winning the first round 5-2. Now I am in top 32. Robin wins her first match as well, so we  have some time before the next round.
My next match is against someone I know, who is from my area. I have lost to him many times. He is a good shot, usually winning our regionals. He has even gone on to win the trip to England to play in the World Masters: Greg Von Lienen. I win the bull and we start our match. I’m scoring well and I take the first and second legs. He comes back in the third leg with a 12 darter, and I am reminded of what he is capable of. I put the hammer down and win three more legs, only dropping one. So I am on to the board final, with another 5-2 victory.
As I keep winning, I notice the warm up boards are getting less and less congested. I was feeling pretty good to be one of the few still standing! Especially in this room of talented and accomplished darters.
My board final is against D.J. Sayre. The first game we both have a slow start. I have a shot at my double and miss. He then takes the first leg. I’m mad at myself for missing, but try to forget it and start the second leg. As the match progresses, I realize my scoring is just not as consistent as earlier, and I am in trouble. The further we get into the match, the more DJ starts gaining momentum. My momentum at this point seems to be going in the opposite direction. I get trounced, 0-5. I suppose I shouldn’t feel too bad, making it to my board final, but I know I could have played better.
Since I’ve lost, I now chalk for DJ in his next match vs. Chris White. What a match that was! Both players were scoring as good as any PDC match I have ever watched. The match was incredibly entertaining and a joy to mark. DJ pulls out the win in a really close battle. He wins again and makes it to the finals. So I lost to the eventual finalist that day.
At dinner I think of all the great darts I saw and feel quite accomplished that I made it as far as I did. But as with most true competitors, I am not satisfied. Not even close. The good thing is we get to do this all over again the next day. I seriously can’t wait.

Part lll

Day 2 in Miamisburg, OH

So I am feeling pretty good about yesterday’s event, and I am more than ready to get at it today. I really want to improve on yesterday’s performance. So much so, in fact, that my attempt at a good nights’ sleep ends up feeling more like a restless nap. Unlike the night before, I now know what to expect. I know all the details of the event; no longer is it a mystery what the place will look like, or exactly how the event will run. Along with that, I also have expectations now; the ruiner of good performances.

So, I am back at the Moose Lodge, ready to go. One of the women not playing, wishes me good luck; says I played really well yesterday and everyone is rooting for me. I’m a little surprised by this comment. I guess it was like that basketball camp so long ago… I just kind of did my thing, not realizing anyone was watching or even cared to.

My first match is against Joe Devanti. Another player I do not know, but I figure I’ll go with the same game plan as yesterday: Start as strong as I can, because I don’t know the player well. The entire match goes nothing like the yesterday’s. I lose the bull, I lose the first game, win the second, and it goes back and forth. I feel I should be up 3-0, but missed opportunities give him the chance at the games I should have won. I battle back and end up bringing it even again, but in the last game my scoring wasn’t quite as strong and his was. As we got about 12 darts in, I know unless I hit a big score in the next round, I’m in trouble. I’m trying too hard now and fail to get the score I was hoping for. I get that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach as I realize, unless he miraculously misses his double with the next 6 darts, I won’t be advancing. It’s an awful feeling. We have all been there. I start preparing myself for the loss, but it hurts just the same. I wanna spit nails as he hits that double and turns to shake my hand. He is a gracious winner, and I try ever so hard to be an equally gracious loser.

I thank our scorekeeper, and turn to leave the playing area. I don’t know where to go or what to do with myself. I have to score the next match on my board, but I need a few minutes to swallow this loss, without getting too caught up in it. Don’t get me wrong, Joe played well, and deserved to win. I had opportunities that I did not seize. I just had such grand expectations today; so many goals I had set my sights on…and now the disappointment was setting in, realizing that all that was left to do was mark the next match, and start packing for the long drive home.

I did stick around for awhile. I did some cool promo stuff with L. David Irete and then enjoyed a few conversations with players I normally wouldn’t get a chance to talk to. I found myself not wanting to leave; not wanting this event to end. As I watch the semi-finals and finals, I realize that this type of event is what I have been hoping for in darts.

This is everything I think darts should be.

Long format, seeded brackets, alternate start, assigned markers…It is a truly organized and professionally run event. There is a sense of seriousness in the room, and yet it is still fun. There are plenty of laughs on the warm up boards and stories to share between matches.  I even picked up a few valuable gems of advice, hanging around some of the best darters on the continent. One of the secrets to my success has been simply to listen to what’s going on around me. There is plenty of advice floating around the room, if you care to hear it.

I reflect on what is before me. This organization could be the change in darts many of us have been waiting for. If nothing else, I think it is a big step in the right direction. I applaud the efforts of the guys running the show. It is a huge undertaking, trying to create a new way to showcase the game of darts in North America.

I know I will have to play better than I did if I want to advance further in this very tough room; That’s ok by me. I love a challenge. Besides, I did not become the dart player I am, by playing easy games against average shooters. I got this way by playing the best players I could find… and in tournaments, it seemed I found them every first round when I first started out! People forget the losses one has to endure before they become that top player.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” —Michael Jordan

So I set my sights to the next CDC event, in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Stay tuned… as the saga continues in Michigan, with some very interesting first round draws…such as the opinionated and sometimes controversial Mike Patterson. 😉

Part lV

Michigan

The Michigan CDC event is pretty much on the heels of the Ohio shoot, so I once again do not feel I have the preparation time I would like. I do get in a few more practice sessions but overall, I am still not satisfied with the amount of time I get to work on my game.

Practice is really important to me. A lot of top players I know don’t practice the way I do. (at least from what they tell me.) I guess everyone is different in that respect. I am just one of those players that feels the need to have a practice routine in place. I guess practicing has always been a part of my life, not always darts but other things…well the only two other things that really ever mattered to me: basketball and music.

Not many people know of my musical background, since it was practically a lifetime ago when it was such a huge part of my life. I started out playing violin in the 3rd grade, but that was short lived. Although my instructor said I was the best in my lesson group, I only played for one year; It seemed that every time I tried to practice at home, my brother, who was only a baby at the time, would cry. It was quite the spectacle actually. I would pick up the instrument and start to drag the bow across the strings. Almost instantly, the corners of my brother’s mouth would turn downward, his brow furrowed and then his mouth would slowly open and he would start to wail. I couldn’t bear to put him through this. I decided quitting violin was in everyone’s best interest.

So I joined the band the next year. I initially wanted to play drums, but my parents weren’t sold on that idea, so mom suggested I try one of the woodwinds instruments. Not quite as loud as drums…or trumpet, and certainly not as grating as beginner violin. I picked that up right away and was quite good at it as well. By 7th grade I was first chair in the band and was playing NYSSMA solos. I enjoyed it so much, I would practice every night, after I got home from basketball practice. When I got older I played tougher and more advanced solo pieces; Mozart was my favorite composer because of it’s difficult technical passages that I loved learning to master. My favorite piece was Flute Concerto in G Major. Incredibly difficult piece. I played it my Junior year in high school for my state solo competition. I had piano accompaniment and got an A;  Even made the All-State Band..

So when I started playing darts more seriously in a league 16 years ago, it only seemed natural to set aside time each night to practice. I guess practice to me isn’t just this monotonous drill to complete, like some kind of chore. To me, it’s like a form of meditation. Sometimes, it’s even a sort of therapy; a way to let go of the day’s frustrations. Either way, it’s just a part of my every day routine, and when I don’t get that practice time in, I feel robbed.

So, a few short weeks after Ohio, we are on the road again to Michigan. I am relieved this trip is only a 6 hours from Syracuse. I actually enjoy driving, which is a good thing since we drive to 95% of the tournaments we attend. I feel more mentally prepared for this event. I know what to expect now and feel confident that I have the ability to go further than in the first two events.

The event starts at 2, but we are there before check-in at 1, so there is plenty of time to prepare. Robin and I are warming up on one board and slowly, the practice boards fill up as more and more guys check in to the event. As I take my turn at the board, I hear an elevation in conversation behind me. I grab my darts after my throw and as I turn around, I see that a new player has joined us on the practice boards; Mike Patterson.

I feel the tension at the practice boards rise ever so slightly. I attribute this to a lively debate on Facebook (where most dart players in America air their grievances) following the first CDC shoot  about how the events have been seeded. Mike asked the question why the women in the event were seeded so high. I don’t know that he meant anything by it, but it did turn into quite the argument, with many voicing their opinions on the matter; either for or against us being seeded so high in a predominantly male event.

I know there are those out there who say, ‘well she may have won more money than I did, but I had to play the guys!’ Yes, but who is to say that every guy you played was so much better than every woman I played? I would ask any of the guys to challenge the women we have had to beat: Paula Murphy, Trish Grzesik, Kim Whaley-Hilts, Cindy Hayhurst just to name a few. These women are as tough to beat as many of the top men out there. The fact of the matter is, there are tough rounds against good shooters, and there are “easier” rounds against the newer, less experienced players. You can not justify your success and not mine by rummaging through the list of players we each played.

Also, since the payouts for women’s events are usually half of what the men win (or even less), then she must have been incredibly dominating in her events, having to win twice as often to get a ranking total higher than most of the men.

I greet Mike as I come back from my throw at the board and we chat a bit. A few jokes are thrown around, and the tension lifts. I hold no grudges…or at least I think I don’t.

It’s almost 2 pm, so we start to file into the main room for the opening announcements. Peter Citera welcomes us and quickly explains that there will be a few bye rounds, since some who registered, couldn’t make it. There will be three byes in the brackets and those will be given to the three top seeds. I am currently the 3-seed, behind Robin the 2-seed and Bob Sinnaeve the #1-seed. Since I am just hearing of this, I am caught off guard. As a seasoned dart player, I follow a fairly specific warm up routine, and plan that routine according to when I presume game time will be. So I am really geared up to play and now have to wait.

Not only do I have to wait to play my match, but since I am on the bye, I will be marking one of the first matches; Mike Patterson’s match. I find it a little funny, maybe even ironic. The winner of this match is who I will be playing my first round. He wins quite handily and I begin to realize just how fitting this is.

After all the debate on Facebook, stemming from Mike’s comments about why Robin and I are seeded so high, I now have to play against him. It’s almost too perfect of a script. It’s the exact reason I wanted to play this tournament; to make a statement about women’s darts; to draw attention to our abilities…and I have to admit, a part of me relishes opportunities like this. In the back of my mind, I can’t help but to draw the parallel of Billie Jean King playing the chauvinistic, loud, opinionated and crass Bobby Riggs in that historic 1973 battle of the sexes exhibition tennis match.

I wish I could give the play by play on this match, but I find when I am at my most focused level, I seem to have little recall of what happened during the match. I know I started out with impressive, steady scoring. I think I even hit my double right away. My scoring continued to be consistent; Tons, ton-forties; I was really focused…but so was my opponent. Once he settled in, he started matching my score or very close to it and if I missed a double, he was right on my heels. It was such a close match, but a missed opportunity on a double I should have had in one game, suddenly turned into another the next game. I started to dig myself a hole.

As I see the match coming to an end, I find my mind wandering. In stark contrast to my intense focus in the beginning of the match, I start having this internal dialog with myself and then I know yes, certainly we are done here. As many dart players know, as soon as all that chatter in your head starts going, you are surely in trouble. I want so badly for this to go a different way. I want to write about how I pulled this match from the jaws of defeat; How I came back and stunned this guy who thought he already won… but one thing I am not is a liar, and this blog is not an exercise in fiction. It’s the truth, and in this instance, the truth hurts. I lose 2-5. I see Mike’s next round is a tough one. he loses 1-5 to an on form Jason Brandon. Jason went on to win the event that day. Still, it’s little consolation. I expected so much more.

Day two of Michigan, there is no bye for me. The #1 seed, Bob Sinnaeve is back from the Canadian Nationals to play today’s event so I will have to play my first match. I’m ok with that. I’m ready. This time I have the pleasure of DartConnect scoring my match. This really makes a big difference; if for no other reason, just to accurately document what happens during the game. You know yourself when you think back to how you played, you often have a different recall of what actually happened… Most times it ends up being just another  “fishing” story, with exaggerations abound.

For those who don’t know about DartConnect, it is simply the game-changer for steel tip darts. You can load it onto any tablet. It has easy to use graphics that are just like a chalkboard; anyone who has ever chalked a dart game, can keep score using this program (probably because it was created by a dart player). The best part isn’t the ease with which you can score a game, but the feedback you get from it all: points per dart, marks per round, high out of the match, how long the match took, how many darts each leg was, the total match average, your match average, your opponents’ match average…. It is truly innovative and will change the face of darts in the US for sure. If you haven’t used it yet, check it out. The membership (only $2 a month) is a must have. It is a great practice tool for anyone that likes to practice against someone, and not just by themselves. You can play the computer (10 skill levels to choose from) or a friend in another state.

So, with that, I have a screen shot of my first match of the day against Trevor Buboltz. I have to say, I had some impressive games. Lets face it, when I shoot a 92 avg, and lose the game because he shoots a 107 avg, I can’t be too upset. It’s just great darts. Again, I am glad DartConnect recorded my match, cause I certainly wouldn’t have been able to pull those stats out of thin air, to illustrate just how good we were playing.

dcimage1

The next chart shows the match breakdown, game by game, dart by dart. This is where you can really dissect the game. Reviewing this, I remember now I jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead. The third game, I had darts at 40, but it clicked into the double 1, or I would’ve been up 3-0. I stumble through the next game in 24 darts, to take the fourth leg. In the fifth leg, my scoring starts out bad, but I follow it up with a 138 and 140 to leave myself a shot at 118, with him at 40. I just miss tops with my last dart and he takes it out. After that my scoring is average at best. A few tons or a 140 sprinkled in amongst abysmal 45’s and 60’s.

dc23

In looking back at this match, I realize I have the darts to win these kind of games. I also analyze that my scoring can be inconsistent; and a few key doubles let me down. All stuff to work on in practice. The breakdown also gives you that peek inside your opponents head. Where did he falter? What were his strengths? It gives you insight for the next matchup against this person. Now you see just how vital this program can be to your play and to your potential.

So with Michigan behind us, both Robin and I wonder with our lack of advancing far both days, if we will even qualify for the CDC Matchplay in Nashville, Tennessee next month. I curse those doubles I missed and just hope somehow, we will make the cut. A few weeks later, we get the email that we are #21 and #23 in the top 32 and qualify to play. Phew!

Part V

With the CDC Finals: The Continental Cup wrapping up this weekend, here is the conclusion of my blog on the Championship Dart Circuit.

Making it into the CDC Matchplay event in Nashville was one thing. Making it past the first round was entirely another. No longer would I be playing a guy who just qualified for the event that morning. In most likelihood, I would be playing a very accomplished player. The draw is made up before we get there, and it is seeded, according to performance so far. Whoever I get, I know it will be a tough match, and I will have to be on my game. There really weren’t any easy rounds before, now they are just downright difficult!

I draw the #12 seed, Dan Olson from Canada. I am #21. I know I am in for a battle, but I have faith that if I just play my game, I will at the very least, be good competition. I know Dan well, and know how good he is. What I am hoping is that he is not quite sure just how good I am and maybe I can surprise him. That’s the game plan anyway.

The first game, I play well, shooting an 87.8 average, but he shoots a 93.9 and hits his double with me sitting at 62; not a bad start. The important thing is I am keeping it close; if he misses, I have the shot.

The second game, I average a 79.1 and hit my out on the first dart, with him sitting on 60. Nice. We are tied 1-1.

I’m not sure what happened after that; but thanks to DartConnect, I can refresh my memory…sometimes that’s a good thing; sometimes not so much. Reviewing the remaining games, I see that although I was still at an out (a high out) when Dan took out the game, it was not my best effort. His dart count was at 17,17, 21 and 15. Insert where i was averaging in the 50’s.

I can honestly say it was some of the worst darts I have thrown in this competition. Not a proud moment. I couldn’t get out of the hall fast enough once I lost; unfortunately I didn’t have that luxury, as I had to score the next match. Sometimes scoring right after you lose is a blessing though; you don’t have to talk to anyone, you don’t have to even face anyone. You are standing there with your back to the room, and you don’t have to answer questions about how you played or why you lost. You can just let it “simmer”.

As it turns out, that was the last CDC event I would play in; certainly a letdown. I wish I could have played more, but the locations of the events, in conjunction with the lack of time off from my day job made it impossible to attend. I wish I could have; the top 16 in total points were invited for the finals – the Continental Cup – this weekend (sept 19-20), where the HUGE payoff is.

I know there are many out there that wanted me to do better; but no one more than myself. I wanted to prove something, and I feel I fell short. But in reflecting on my play over the course of the 5 events I attended, I threw some really great darts. I also threw some amateurish ones. As I first said in my opening blog, I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to better my game. Without a doubt, my game improved. I learned so much on the finer points of the game, playing next to so many ultra-successful players. I learned more about concentration, about digging out a tough win, and overall, I learned a lot about myself.

A few short weeks after the Nashville Matchplay, I won my very first 501 National Title in Stamford, Connecticut. Do I attribute this win to my CDC play? Absolutely.

I hope more players will think about entering next years’ CDC events and supporting this new organization. No, this event is not for everybody; but for the players who want to improve their game, or take it to the next level, or even players who are just curious as to where their game is at vs. the big guns, it’s important to take that chance. Who knows the potential you can unleash? It’s certainly a waste to sit back and watch others get this experience, this opportunity. As with most things in life, it can be a gamble; not a guarantee. But more than that, more than one day of darts, good or bad, it is an investment. An investment not only in the future of darts in North America….

It is an investment in yourself.

22 Comments on “

  1. You are truly an ambassador of this sport we all love and a role model to us all! I wish you nothing but the best, and few 180’s, during this journey!

  2. You and Robin have every right to be there as top players. There is not a man that plays against either of you that does not have total respect in your ability and dedication to the sport. This commitment for all players is a big one and I think the fact that you and Robin have done this has made many people rethink their attitudes to the game. Thanks for being positive role models to all Dart players female or male.

  3. Good for you Cali. I’m proud of you and you have my full support and cheers from afar in all that you do. Much love to you and good luck! I’m pulling for you!! xoxo

  4. Go gettem Cali. You will do well. You definitely have a lot of support. My motto is to never miss an opportunity to do something you love. Now is your time to shine.

  5. Not only do you have every right but you are not to be taken lightly. I don’t believe anyone there would think of it. Great story, looking forward to more.

  6. Play hard and take no prisoners…male or female…but in a totally classy, professional “I don’t care who you are” kind of way! And do it while being positive ambassadors for the sport of darts. That’s the kind of players we love to sponsor!!! I have both you and Robin on my Dream Team and never gave either selection a second thought. You are both great shooters and, as my late husband used to tell me, everyone can be beaten! No matter the outcome, we’re proud of you every step of the way. Have fun, ladies, and show them what you’re made of…grit! ;>

    1. And I should add, since it might not be evident above…Cali is one of those totally classy, professional ambassadors!!! Now go kick arse! ;>

  7. That was a very awesome read for me. As someone who doesnt really enjoy reading that kept me interested. You are a talented writer as well as dart shooter.
    I have always enjoyed watching or scoring matches for you at tournaments. Usually Mixed trip with Jeff and Jim haha. Anyways Good Luck in the future.

  8. Your enthusiasm is a strong point for sure. Nobody wins all the time but consistency is the trick. It’s never over till it’s over. So a few bad shots can be made up for, hopefully. Every pro has had off days and doesn’t always score. Just learn from the mistakes and they will happen less. God bless and go gettum, girl, you are a winner in my book!

  9. This design is steller! You definitely know how to keep a reader
    entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was
    almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great
    job. I really loved what yyou had to say, and moore than that,
    how you presented it. Too cool!

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