A new event for the St Andrews social calendar, the St Andrews Darts Masters takes place on Saturday 13 October in Club 601. The event will draw together five players from the local darts leagues and three current and former professionals, namely Phil Taylor, Peter Manley and Glen Durrant, in a knockout competition played over the course of a boisterous evening.
In order to find out a bit more about the event, the motivation behind organising it and the history of darts competitions in St Andrews, Andrew Sinclair went to meet the organisers, local couple Martin and Laura Brand.
The Saint: So how long have you been organising exhibition tournaments like these?
Laura Brand: In 2004 we did our first ever darts exhibition and it’s been an annual event ever since.
Martin Brand: It’s got so much bigger.
LB: It has, it’s got bigger and bigger as time’s gone on. We first started out in a pub with about 60 people and now we’re up to the Union with about 300, so it’s definitely getting bigger!
TS: What made you want to organise darts competitions in the first place?
MB: I’m just a massive darts fan, that’s where it started. It actually started when me and one of my friends were sitting in my house just having a couple of cans of beer and watching darts and then we went online and booked Bobby George (a two-time BDO World Championship finalist) there and then.
LB: How Martin got into darts in the first place was through a man who used to run the Union, Sandy McKenzie. He used to drink in a local pub where Martin drank and one night he says “Oh Martin, we need an extra dart player tonight.” Martin said “I’ve never played darts in my life” but Sandy took him along and he’s been hooked ever since.
MB: It’s just a pity he’s not here to see what’s happening, he’d have loved it.
TS: You brought Gary Anderson and James Wade here a couple of years ago but it was a slightly different format.
MB: We started off doing them as we’re doing the format this year, but then someone pointed out to me – “What happens if your professional gets knocked out?” It’s unlikely but it’s happened and that’s what made me opt for Team Anderson against Team Wade, so everyone who qualified got to play against a professional. We’ve decided to go back to the original format this time as it’s Phil Taylor, and whilst he’s not professional anymore, he’s still great.
LB: Of course he is, he’s a legend! You don’t become a bad player because you’ve retired but regardless he’ll always be 16-time champion of the world and, as far as we’re concerned, the best player ever.
TS: Darts is quite big here in St Andrews, with most pubs having teams.
MB: I think it’s one of the biggest leagues in Fife. There’s 11 or 12 in the league, which is not bad.
LB: It ranges from St Andrews to Balmullo and Leuchars. Clayton used to have a team too.
TS: Obviously he’s a legend as you’ve said, but was there anything in particular that made you pick Phil Taylor. Was it that he’s now retired and doing regular exhibitions?
LB: I think it’s because he’s a player we’ve never had before. We’ve had pretty much most of the PDC and a few BDO players. We’ve had Gary Anderson three times and it helped when we had him last time because he was the current World Champion. As I said though, I think with Phil, it was just the opportunity to bring him here and we’ve got Peter Manley too. We’ve had him before.
MB: He’s a great guy.
LB: He’s fabulous, really good. Phil Taylor is the household darts name and to get him here in St Andrews is just fantastic.
MB: We added Glen Durrant (two-time reigning BDO World Champion) because he’s playing somewhere else the night before and the package for his travel was too good a deal to refuse and he’s a great player too.
TS: Why should people be excited for the tournament in a couple of weeks?
MB: It’s the atmosphere, the people – it’s quite impressive to get 300 darts fans, and it’s not just darts fans mind, from St Andrews and the surrounding area into the Union for the event. With all the music you get, it’s just like a miniature version of what you get on the telly. The Union’s facilities are great with the big screens as well. It’s not on the regular stage though, they’re building another stage at the other end of the hall so we can get all the tables in.
LB: You’ll get in really close proximity to the players themselves. If you’re at the Premier League you’re in tiers and you can only see tiny dots on the stage. This is your darts players walking past you, giving you high fives, talking on the stage. There’s opportunities for meet and greet and getting your photos with them (meet and greets will cost an extra £10). You’re meeting Phil Taylor, Peter Manley, Glen Durrant – as darts fans how can you not be excited about that?
TS: Have you still got some tickets available? If so, how can people get them?
MB: We’ve got a handful left. To buy them they can get in touch with me on Facebook personally or through the page; my phone number is on the poster. The best way to get in touch with me is Messenger though.
LB: As far as I know, you can get them through the Union as well, either on the website or in the building.
TS: Is it specifically students you’re trying to reach?
LB: Well, I think where we’ve had events before, students have been a bit wary because they thought it was a local event and they didn’t feel included or wanted. But, because it’s in your own venue, students should feel more than welcome and we want them to come along and enjoy themselves. It’s another thing for students to enjoy here and with the new students, if they enjoy what they see, maybe they’ll go into the pubs and want to play darts there.
MB: It’s a really good thing, I think, to have more mixing between the students and the locals. Darts is just a fabulous game and everyone’s there to have a good time, there’s no trouble. Last time there were about a dozen people in fancy dress. We had superman, a banana costume, one bloke was dressed as a jockey.
LB: We had the Blues Brothers, Wonder Woman, all sorts!
MB: As I said though, it’s like a miniature version of the TV. We’ve got the music, the walk-ons, an MC announcing the players and walk-on girls.
LB: And a walk-on boy!
MB: Aye, we have. There’s a guy actually, a local guy, a friend of Laura’s and mine. We pick a player to play every year and we picked him but he’s not getting a walk-on girl, he’s getting a walk-on boy. The walk-on boy is another friend of ours, he’s about 60, but just for a laugh he’s wearing a kilt and stuff like that.
LB: The walk-on guy actually started off being our MC back in the day in the pubs and he’s been a part of this journey with us since 2004. As it’s started getting bigger and better, professional MCs and referees have come in, but he’s still a part of it and we always give him something to do.
Tickets for the event can be found by contacting Martin Brand on Facebook. The doors open at 6:30 pm on the day.
Glen ‘Duzza’ Durrant vs ‘Deadly’ Dave Laing
Stuart ‘Rats’ Rattray vs Mark ‘The Nutter’ Smith
Peter ‘One Dart’ Manley vs Alex ‘Smudge’ Smith
Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor vs Billy ‘Baldylocks’ Suttie