Game on – Clickimin crowd cheers Aussie Whitlock to Masters victory
It was bouncing in the Clickimin Leisure Complex last night as some of the world’s best darts players returned to Shetland vying for the SRT/Simpson & Ward Shetland Masters title.
Among the big names battling it out were last year’s winner Raymond Van Barneveld and Michael Van Gerwen. But it was Aussie Simon Whitlock who was thrilled to go one better than last year and claim the 2013 prize.
And he promised to return in 2014 to defend his title.
The atmosphere had been building through the day – helped somewhat by the quantity of Magners and Tennents that had been consumed – and reached a crescendo as Whitlock and seven-times major winner James “The Machine” Wade reached the final.
There were a few spare seats at the back of the hall, but those who were there more than made up for the missing handful. There were Aussie-style hats and inflatable kangaroo from fans of the “Wizard of Oz”, dozens of 180 placards and some truly horrible shirts on show as the crowd got fully into the spirit of the event.
It is the fourth year the Shetland Masters has been staged at Clickimin and prior to the event complex manager Robert Geddes told The Shetland Times the tournament was fast becoming one of the players’ favourites. And with such a bristling atmosphere it’s easy to see why.
They were dancing on the chairs for a stirring rendition of The Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond which rang around the hall as a warm-up to the final.
“Are you ready for the final?” asked compere Steve Mottershead. He needn’t have bothered – the noise in the hall should have provided the only answer he needed.
First throw went to Whitlock who duly claimed the opening leg. But Wade struck back, claiming the next two before Whitlock replied as the match remained tight and neither player was able to build a significant lead.
At four-three down Wade had four chances to level the scores in the last leg before the interval, but each time he missed the double allowing Whitlock to steal a five-three lead.
The break gave just enough time for a blast of Flower of Scotland that had the crowd on their feet and in fine voice again. Then it was back to business.
It was the long-haired Aussie who kept the momentum, claiming leg nine with a 116 checkout. Wade would have more chances to add to his tally but it was the high-scoring Whitlock who was finishing better and took the title by eight legs to three.
After lifting the trophy aloft he told the crowd: “I am really proud to have won this after coming runner-up last year. It’s always a joy to be back here in the Shetlands. You people are fantastic.
“What a great tournament. It’s been a joy to come back and I’m going to be back next year hopefully.”
Mr Geddes was pleased with the faboulous atmosphere and with the way the night had gone. He said: “It was excellent. There were a lot of close games and I think the crowd enjoyed themselves.”
He said he hoped the event would be back again in 2014.
• Full report and photographs in Friday’s Shetland Times