Reigning BDO World Champion Glen Durrant won the 2018 St Andrews Darts Masters, beating James Wilson 3-2 in the final after a night of high excitement and entertainment in Club 601.
A dark cloud threatened to hamper the event in the hours leading up to the start following the news of star attraction Phil “The Power” Taylor’s short-notice withdrawal. This provoked a frantic effort from the organisers to seek out suitable replacements. Thankfully, these were found, but they triggered something of a reshuffle in proceedings. In place of Taylor came former BDO World Champion Ted Hankey, three-times Lakeside runner-up Tony O’Shea and current PDC World Number 26 James Wilson, a recent quarter-finalist at the World Grand Prix.
There was no trace of this complication as people funneled in to the building, as the crowd (admittedly not your typical ensemble for a Saturday night in 601!) chatted amicably amongst themselves while trying to seek out the optimal viewing vantage point. Players mingled amongst the fans, posing for pictures and enjoying a drink, whilst timeless bangers emanated from the speakers.
The additional players brought the field to ten, with two preliminary contests taking place before the quarter-finals.
One of these preliminaries involved Wilson, who told The Saint before the event that his aim was nothing short of victory and that he’d ‘jumped in his car and flown up’ to St Andrews, such was his excitement. These fixtures resulted in comfortable victories for Wilson and latterly Peter Manley over their respective opponents from the local area, meaning the quarters could proceed with the full compliment of star attractions.
The first of these matchups included Ted Hankey, who eased through following a 3-0 win over hometown favourite Billy Suttie. Hankey also spoke with us before the event, saying that exhibition tournaments like these are becoming closer and closer to the standards of ranking events.
He said, “These exhibition tournaments are becoming more serious because players want to beat each other so you prepare the same way. You make sure you’ve had enough to eat, got your drink right, got your concentration right. It’s the same as when you’re in the major tournaments, you’ve got to get things right.”
Nicknamed ‘The Count’, Hankey has had a difficult 2018 after a number of personal issues, but he was bullish about his chances of victory, commenting that his game was as good as anybody else’s in the tournament and he rather ominously stated that when he walks out “it’s me they’ve got to worry about, not me worrying about them”. Judging by his opening performance, his claims didn’t look far off the mark.
Tony O’Shea then saw off Stuart Rattray 3-1 in the first game that resembled a genuine contest, even if the overall quality was still somewhat lacking. Glen Durrant then took to the stage and whitewashed Dave Laing, who was by no means a pushover.
Durrant was also confident before the tournament and perhaps rightfully so. Despite saying that the disappointment of losing in the World Masters final last weekend was ‘still very real’, he won a similar exhibition tournament in Bo’ness the night before, averaging 111 in the final.
When asked about his future, Durrant was very open and clear about what 2019 will bring.
“I made the decision that I was BDO for life as I was sick of the PDC questions. But, the announcement has come out that we face no restrictions now, and if that’s the case I will be going to Q-School” (the qualifying competition to gain a two-year tour card for the PDC).
It’s a decision that’s somewhat overdue, but Durrant will be right at home with the stars of the PDC if his performances over the last few years are anything to go by.
The first real eye-catching match of the tournament was the last of the quarters between Wilson and Manley and so it proved with an enjoyable back-and-forth contest that Wilson would eventually snatch in the deciding leg to book the final spot in the semi-finals. A high point of the match was Manley wiring a 164 checkout that could easily have swung the match in his favour.
Following an auction period, which provided the organisers with a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of the well-oiled crowd by extracting maximum value for various items of Darts memorabilia, the semis began in earnest. The first, between Wilson and Hankey proved something of an anti-climax. Although Hankey took the first leg, the incredibly popular Wilson stormed back with three consecutive legs to comfortably seal his place in the final. By the look of it however, Hankey seemed far from distraught at his defeat, as he sipped a pint throughout the match and joked with the fans and the commentator, emphasising the laidback, enjoyment-first ethos of the night.
The second semi saw perhaps the game of the evening between Durrant and O’Shea. The latter claimed the opening leg before Durrant hit back in the second. In the third, O’Shea recorded an impressive 78 checkout before once again Durrant stormed back in the fourth to force a decider. This proved a closely fought affair with the difference ultimately being a missed attempt at double 20 by O’Shea that handed a spot in the final to Durrant.
By now the well-boozed crowd was bubbling to saturation point (with arguably yours truly included!) just in time for the climax of the evening. This was perhaps most evident with the gusto that both players’ walk-on music was greeted with and the competitors were all too eager to entertain the overtures of the loving crowd. Undoubtedly, there were a fair few headaches and pledges to embark on a belated sober October on Sunday morning.
— James Wilson (@biscuit180) October 13, 2018
Ultimately it was Durrant who won the tournament, seeing off Wilson by 3 legs to 2 in a cracking game. Although this victory may not be up there in the annals of his various major triumphs, the contest, and indeed the overall night itself, proved excellent Saturday night entertainment. Durrant himself said after the event that the St Andrews crowd were the best he’s played in front of in a tournament like this, and it’s hard to disagree after a night full of darts, singing and boatloads of merriment.