Eddie darts onwards

There is an old saying that goes every dog has its day in the sun.

With a solid performance on an international stage and an increasing presence in darts that day is now for Eddie Ballantyne.

Ballantyne saw his profile jump leaps and bounds a few weeks ago with his play at the 2009 World Cup of Darts in North Carolina.

Ballantyne advanced to the round of 64 in the men’s singles event and to the round of 32 in the men’s doubles.

The Scotsman would beat a Bermudan player 4-2 in the first round of the singles event before losing to a German player 4-0 in the second round.

From there he would team up with arguably Cayman’s most well-known darts player in Hank ‘The Hammer’ Ebanks.

The pair beat two players from Iceland 4-0 in the first round before losing to a Netherlands team 4-0.

Thanks to Ballantyne’s efforts Cayman finished 23 out of 35 countries in the men’s portion of the competition.

Among the countries Cayman beat out were Turks and Caicos, Russia and Brazil.

In addition to team captain Ballantyne the Cayman team boasted Hank Ebanks, Richard Campbell, Michelle Terry, Linda Locke and Adrian Mannouch in its first-ever trip to the World Cup.

Cayman was invited this year as it recently became an official affiliate of the World Darts Federation (the sport’s international governing body).

Ballantyne, 46, talked about the lure of playing in the World Cup.

‘What I love about the World Cup is it brings together amateurs like me and pros that make a living out of playing darts.

‘It’s one of the few times in sports where an amateur can beat a champion. If you throw good darts then you can take anyone down.

‘But it was an intense trip for me and the team. It was no holiday because we had matches back to back all day with the first game at 9:30am and the last one at around 6 or 7pm.’

Since then Ballantyne has been a give a new position in the world of darts, being nominated as Venue Inspector a few weeks ago.

Among his chief duties will be ensuring the Corner Pocket, Jillian’s and Mango Tree have their dartboards ready for the start of the local league next week.

To understand how Ballantyne rose to such status it’s necessary to look back at his beginnings.

Ballantyne is a native of Scotland and grew up during the heydays of some of the superstars of darts.

As Ballantyne explains, his affinity for the sport came from their success.

‘I learned to play darts through youth clubs in 1975 at age 12. By 16 I was playing in the Scottish pubs. I would say my love of darts came from watching stars like John Lowe and Eric Bristow (the first winner of the World Cup) in the 70’s and 80’s.’

Ballantyne would continue to play darts into adulthood in Scotland. During the days he would focus his energies on tiling and general construction work.

The years would go by and Ballantyne would continue to balance his flair for interior finishing with darts. Eventually the lure of Caribbean living brought him to Cayman in 1995.

In those days he used to play at the old West Bay Polo Club (where Fidel Murphy’s now sits).

Since then Ballantyne has been a steady face on the local scene. Most times he can be found in the local league hitting his mark as one of the sport’s most technical players.

Professionally Ballantyne has kept up his connection to tiling. These days he makes a living as a self-employed tile man who works under the company name of Davinci tiling and interior finishing.

Balatyne also found success in his personal life as he is happily married with four kids.

The youngest of which is son Luca, 18 months, who he named after Italian football star Luca Toni.

Ballantyne jokes on occasion he is known to play with one hand while holding his son in the other.

To do that takes great skill and concentration and from 2004 onwards those attributes have seen his game soar to new heights.

In 2004 he tried out for Cayman’s Caribbean Championship team and just missed making the squad.

Last season was one of Ballantyne’s best. Along with a strong performance from team-mate Mark O’Keefe, Ballantyne had over 30 tons in guiding Fidel Murphy’s to second place in the league.

As Ballantyne says his approach to the game has changed over the years.

‘When you play darts you have to picture complete silence. You have to just focus on where you’re throwing.

‘These days, when it gets later in the game, I’m also thinking of how I’m going to finish. I’m always looking to be down to a score of 200 in 12 darts.

‘I’m always aware of what the other guy is doing. In the World Cup I had to block out how well my opponent was doing else I would become flustered.’

Ballantyne went on talk about how finishing the game has become a sign of how good a player is.

‘I finish games on average in 18 to 20 darts. The pros finish in 12 darts and in the World Cup the team was looking to get down to 15 darts.

‘It’s only now I know the counts and the ways to finish. It took me years to get to this point.’

In his 14 years on-island Ballantyne has developed a great bond with the sport and its enthusiasts.

One of his latest passions is seeing more players climb the ranks of darts and emulate its best young talent in multi-sport star Richard Campbell.

‘Richard is a good player and an excellent prospect,’ Ballantyne said. ‘He went to the Caribbean Championship last year and helped us do well in North Carolina.

‘He’s still learning the game. He’s a very good scorer and it’s just that he has to work on his finishing. The experience he had at the World Cup will do a world of good.’

Campbell is revered in darts circles for his impressive win of the men’s single and overall title at the 2008 Vivian Rankine Memorial darts tournament.

It is that success that older heads like Ballantyne want in greater supply among more young players.

‘We’re looking for more young players in darts like Richard. We also need more women to play.

‘The aim at this point is to go to the Caribbean Championship next summer in Jamaica and win it.

‘To that end the darts association plans to do a training clinic for people to learn the game and allow us to bring more players through the ranks.’

A date, venue and other particulars on the training session were not known at press time.

As many readers might know, such positive steps forward come at a time when the sport needs to heal from a big loss.

This summer local darts aficionado Phillip Parsons, 46, passed away from a heart attack in his home.

Many local players were left reeling by the abrupt passing of the local association’s vice president, including Ballantyne.

In spite of his grief Ballantyne said he pressed on to play in the World Cup to honour Phillip.

‘Phillip was the same age as me and he was great for the game of darts. His passing hugely affected everyone and it was such a loss to me.

‘He was so gracious to people, so enthusiastic. It was sad he passed away so suddenly.

‘Me and Phillip organized the idea of a team going to the World Cup. In fact Phillip was going to come with us.

‘I’m sure he would have helped us up there and I hope he’s looking down smiling at us.’