IF THE darts won’t come to Bridlington – take Bridlington to the darts.
The Winmau World Masters may have left the town last autumn, but Steve Rice ensured Bridlington has stayed firmly on the darts map.
The Rattler won the John Smith’s People’s Darts tournament at the home of darts – the Lakeside Club in Surrey – beating Swindon’s Johnny Haines 3-2.
Having fallen behind, Rice produced a maximum 170 checkout, hitting two treble 20s and his one shot at the bull, to stun his opponent.
And he followed that up in the fifth and final leg, taking just 15 darts to take the title.
He said: “I’m absolutely delighted to have won this fantastic tournament.
“I was nervous before going up onto the stage but both Johnny and I played some good darts and hopefully the crowd enjoyed it.
“It was amazing to play in front of the BBC cameras, the sell-out crowd and my family and friends.
“It’s great for amateur players to get the chance to do something extraordinary.”
Rice won £15,000 for his chosen charity Help For Heroes and he can now look forward to being sponsored by John Smith’s for 2011 and playing in three BDO events including the Dutch Open in February.
But he didn’t get things all his own way in the final.
Haines started strongly in the five-leg match, hitting a quickfire 140 and 180 to kick off proceedings and he finished with double four to go 1-0 up.
Rice put the pressure on Haines in the second leg starting with scores of 100 and 125 with his first six darts, before checking out on double 10 to level the match.
The Bridlington man continued to make Haines work and started the third leg with scores of 140, 100 and 100. but the Bridlington man missed two opportunities to take the lead and Haines battled back to check out on 81.
Rice needed something big in the fourth leg and he didn’t disappoint as he wowed the Lakeside crowd with a phenomenal 170 check out to make it 2-2 in the contest.
To put that achievement into context, only one of the professionals, Gary Robson, had matched it at the Lakeside during World Championship week.
A high scoring deciding leg ended with Rice checking out on 61 following scores of 100, 100, 140 and 100 to win the match 3-2.
Newly crowned 2011 BDO World Professional Darts Champion Martin “Wolfie” Adams, added: “I would have loved to have this tournament around when I was an amateur, it gives the guys playing darts in the pubs and clubs all over the country a chance to get up on the biggest stage in world darts and show what they can do.
“The standard this year was exceptional and the boys put on a real show for the crowd before we came on to play.”
Rice, who won the Bridlington Premier Darts title last month, has also won £1,000 worth of sports equipment for his local pub, the Coachman in Hilderthorpe Road.
The 44-year-old engineer had won his place at Sunday’s final by winning two rounds at the Lakeside last Tuesday.
Representing Yorkshire after winning the regional finals in Leeds in November, he was drawn against the South West’s Barry Brewer.
Rice immediately settled on the big stage, hitting a 140 with his first three darts and taking the first leg with a 76 outshot.
A closely contested match saw the game level at 2-2, taking the match to a deciding leg.
Both players scored well and it was Brewer who had the chance to steal the victory but failed with three darts to check out on double 16.
The Yorkshireman seized the opportunity and hit double 20 to seal his place in the semi finals later in the afternoon.
Michael Doyle, from The Pennsylvania pub in South Wales, awaited Rice in the semi final.
Rice, now into the swing of things was on fine form and was scoring well and finishing ruthlessly.
Although Doyle managed to take the second leg, Rice rode out a 3-1 victory and completed his route to the final.
His debut preformance at the Lakeside had prompted his mentor and 2001 BDO World Champion John Walton to say: “Steve played fantastically well.
“He came up against two excellent opponents and held his nerve when things weren’t always going his way.
“It would be great to see a Yorkshireman win after three years of the competition. Let’s hope Steve can do it.”
Five days later, Rice proved he could do it, by holding his nerve in front of a 2,500 crowd who were waiting for the World final between Adams and another Yorkshireman, number three seed Dean Winstanley.
Rice had worn Walton’s lucky Yorkshire Rose on his shirt as he lifted the John Smith’s title before passing the emblem on to Winstanley.
But the luck could not rub off on the 29-year-old, as Adams staged a remarkable fightback to retain his title 7-5.