Mel focuses on rest, not beating

Mel Tagalog has every reason to be upset with himself.

He lost in the finals of the Mickey Mouse Pirates Week darts tournament. He missed a chance to win the competition for a third straight time. Yet the Filipino sensation states he is rather content.

“Jasper played really well and I’m very happy,” Tagalog said. “I’m just glad I made the doubles and singles final. From here I’m going to rest and lay low for awhile.”

Tagalog, 37, would surrender his overall and singles division crown to countryman Jasper Esguerra. Their championship match, which Esguerra won convincingly, was full of antics. The Mango Tree crowd of about 50 people cheered for Tagalog by saying ‘go Pacquiao’ (after Filipino boxing great Manny Pacquiao) while calling Esguerra ‘Marquez’ (after boxer Juan Manuel Marquez).

Originally from the city of Antipolo outside of Manila, Tagalog states the boxing comparisons were all in fun.

“I still watch the fights and I still support Pacquiao. That was fun and the crowd is always behind us (Filipino players) and we appreciate the support.”

The defeat prevented Tagalog from ending 2011 with victories in Cayman’s top two darts events for the second straight year. Week ago he claimed the Vivian Rankine memorial tournament for the second consecutive time.

Tagalog did team up with rookie Jhay Cruz to nab the Mickey Mouse doubles title ahead of runners-up Rodan Asuncion and Randy Cruz. The other big winner was Filipino newcomer Rosyl Deguzman, who snagged the ladies crown ahead of runner-up Michelle Terry.

In all 40 competitors took part in the national festival’s last sporting event on Grand Cayman. Much of the notable local players were present including Edsell Haylock, Cayman Islands Darts Association President Paul Anglin and Hank ‘The Hammer’ Ebanks.

Tagalog’s defeat might give rise to a new star. One player looking to gain from the loss is countryman Randy Cruz.

“It was good seeing those guys play well,” Cruz said. “Jasper is showing improvement, he plays everyday and practices more because he has a board in his bedroom. I knew he could beat Mel. He was so focused on his game with Mel.

“I feel I can do well next time. In the past me and Jasper were neck and neck. Now I feel I can beat Mel. I know Mel is a very competitive guy but the darts scene here is more competitive too. Guys want to be like him and they are practicing well.”

Cruz has been on the local scene for a roughly a year and earned props in the 2010 tournaments. He finished second in the singles A division of this year’s Vivian Rankine competition before getting knocked out during the Mickey Mouse event.

A growing observation in local darts is the dominance of Filipino players. Tagalog and Esguerra are only two of a talented crop of hurlers that includes Rodan Asuncion, Eugene Deguzman and Jun Lapuz. Cruz states their success has come through practice.

“Before there were only four Filipinos. Now there are more. Everyone is improving their game. Personally I need to practice more. I only play on Fridays (at the Grand Caymanian resort). I’ve been too busy.”

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