by Dan Cavanagh
Saturday 16th October saw forty-seven entrants into the Birtley Charity Open, a wonderful event organised and hosted by Ali Patton to raise money for the Young Lives vs Cancer charity. The field was bolstered by thirteen MAD members all eager to gain valuable ranking points. With several big names on show, the tightly packed players enjoyed a jovial atmosphere during the preliminary rounds of play.
MAD certified Jack Male came through a difficult draw against PDC Q-school hopeful, Geoff Murray. After screaming to an early lead with help from a fourteen-darter which paced him 3-1 up, Geoff Murray somehow held on and stretched the game out to a deciding leg. Notably for Murray, cries of ‘He’s too good’ were heard as he accidentally hit two bulls with his first two darts when going for a 125 finish. In the end, having started with the throw, Male was too good for Murray on the day; a 180 in the final leg ensured he got to a finish first and he did not miss with the three darts he had on double 10.
Not resting on this vein of good form, Jack rushed out of the gates in his board final against Lee Walton putting in a dominant 4-1 display and confirming his spot into the semi-finals.
Elsewhere, an early favourite for the tournament, Kevin McDine ran riot on his side of the draw. Amassing four 180s and a 4-1 win against the organiser Ali Patton, nobody could say Ali fixed the draw in his favour (although some hold their reservations around the football scratch-card he ran and managed to win). McDine backed up this performance with another solid game against John Purcell, who was a fraction of a millimetre away from sending the game to a deciding leg with a sumptuous 152 effort. Showing his minerals, McDine pinned tops in the next visit, sealing a 4-2 victory. A whitewash against Keith Cresser followed in the next round which confirmed a semi-final match up against Jack Male.
As a result of consistently good scoring, Stephen Mallams was making a rather loud statement on board 3, reaching his board final and dropping only one leg in the process. This side of the draw also saw the ‘MAD members from the Northeast named Paul’ derby in a battle between Lawson and Nesbitt, with the latter proceeding to face off against Stephen Mallams in the board final. In what appeared an evenly contested match, Mallams ran Nesbitt close but could not capitalise on the rare chances offered by Nesbitt and received his marching order courtesy of a 4-2 victory.
After pulling through a last-leg decider against Craige Nixon in the previous round, Ian Cullen ran into fellow mad member Scott Hunt in this round-of-sixteen tie. Hunt, feeling inspired from his Mad Dash victory at Felling CC the prior weekend, was in fine form and demonstrated this in a 4-2 victory. With three out of four semi-final positions occupied by MAD members, it was up to Scott Hunt to complete the perfect sweep. He did this was a 4-2 victory over Andrew Testo and in doing so; silenced the echoing cries of ‘How are you still in’.
Unsurprising considering their strong early performances, Kevin McDine and Jack Male faced off in the first semi-final of the evening. It is often the case that semi-final games are better than the actual final and this line-up showed no indication of being an exception. Having gone blow for blow in the opening two legs, McDine having missed four darts at double already in the third, capitalised on two missed darts at tops from Male sealing the leg with last dart in hand. McDine proceeded his good scoring form by hitting two maximums in three visits in the fourth leg. However, showing some clear frailty on the double, McDine missed five more darts to win this leg allowing Male to steal the leg in fifteen darts.
Back on throw, both players remained consistent enough on their legs to trade blows once again. Finally, with a degree of momentum swinging in his favour, Male broke the throw of McDine and left him literally questioning his darts as to why they won’t behave. With a near silent venue offering little comfort for the players, Male started with a 140 in what would prove to be the final leg of the match. Following the theme of the game, McDine missed two more, proving to be fatal, match darts.
Paul Nesbitt steamed in front in the second semi and would’ve been three-nil up if it weren’t for Scott Hunt’s rallying efforts and success in nicking a scrappy third leg. With Hunt back in the room starting with a good tonne-forty, Nesbitt was staring down the barrel of a slight capitulation and the game moved into 2-2 without much fuss. Nesbitt, refusing to allow Scott to take the initiative, fired in his first maximum of the game after breaking Hunt’s throw. The leg ended with Hunt sat on 25 after wiring the bull on a 167 attempt and Nesbitt clearing up 18 to go within one of the final.
Momentum ebbed and flowed so much in this game, and the seventh was no exception. With Nesbitt sat on a makeable shot for the title, Scott cast out his 5/10 circle hook and reeled in a roof raising, skin saving Goliath 170 check out. Despite these heroics and much to the disgust of the learned darts community, moments like these are seldom built upon and Hunt managed to follow up with a 26. Punishment ensued from Nesbitt who clinched the game with a twenty-three-dart leg.
Much to the surprise of everyone at Birtley this Saturday, the final was a one-sided display ending in a 6-0 drubbing. Congratulations to the winner Jack Male, a nineteen-year-old who plays the game with a maturity far beyond his years.
Special mention goes to Tom Smith, veteran of the 1980s professional circuit who was also in attendance. Thank you for sharing some of your stories!
Jack Male 8th: 5 points to 69 points.
Paul Nesbitt 5th: 68 points to 100 points.
Kev McDine 3rd: 106 points to 122 points.
Scott Hunt 11th: 32 points to 48 points.