After years of working in construction in Florida and participating in not particularly lucrative dart events in the United States, Danny Baggish finally made his big breakthrough earlier this month. At 37, he qualified for the PDC Pro Tour, the highest level of darts in the world.
Although a few Americans played on tour ten years ago, Baggish is the first player from the United States to earn his place through the school qualifying tournament. He has now qualified to play against the best players in the world for the next two years, mainly in Great Britain.
Baggish, of Winter Haven, Fla., Will make his Player’s Championship debut Thursday in Bolton, England. He spoke to the New York Times about his recent success, the importance of micro-grooves, and what happens when he walks to the carnival dart booth.
The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
How did you get involved in darts?
I was 11 years old. My dad was really into darts. Every time I came home from school, instead of going out and playing soccer or basketball with my friends, I would hurry with my homework and sit in the living room and play darts with my dad for hours. hours. It was more just for fun. I didn’t participate in tournaments until I was 15, 16.
What was it like when you realized you had done the Tour?
I did not know the situation. You advance on a points system or if you win the tournament outright. I thought I had to win outright, because I had zero points after three days. So when I lost 6-2 in the final, I didn’t think I was there. I kept my head down and shook hands. Then I looked and saw my manager smile. At that point, I knew I was in it.
I wear my emotions on my sleeve, I am a very moving player. I kind of started to tear myself apart and let go.
What are your goals now that you are on tour?
I want to stay on the Tour. I have to finish in the top 64 after two years.
I wouldn’t say I have high expectations because I know it’s going to be a battle – you play with the best in the world. My expectations are to compete and stay with them, and maybe have the chance to win one.
You have participated in two world championships. The atmosphere at a big darts event, at least before the pandemic, is remarkable. At major events in Britain, fans are loud and many drink. How does it feel to throw darts in front of a crowd like that?
It’s an incredible feeling. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of. They love their darts there.
How much do you practice?
Before I took darts seriously, I sort of relied on my natural hand-eye coordination. When I started to take it seriously, that’s when I started training. It has gone from 30 minutes a day to an hour so far, from two to four hours a day.
I focus in practice on scoring power. I try to run as many trip-20, trip-19, trip 18 as possible. This is my philosophy.
Does each player have a different style, how he holds himself, how he throws? What is your?
Techniques are everywhere. There is no correct answer. I stand up straight, I could lean a bit. I am stable and do not move my body. I hold the dart more forward. I have a lot more micro-grooves on my dart.
They drill grooves in the barrel of the dart, towards the front. I have more micro-grooves than others. The groove where I hold my dart is right where the thumb is. If there aren’t any grooves there, like some players have, I feel like it slips on my thumb where I rest the dart. The grooves grab my thumb so it doesn’t move and I have more control over it.
Many of the best darts have nicknames, like The power, the ice man and Snake bite. Have you a?
I am the player. Growing up, I loved to make crazy bets. flip a coin, whatever. He stayed. My father died of a heart attack in a casino, and that is in his honor, too.
What’s the difference between someone who maybe throws darts in a bar or in their occasional game room and a pro?
The drive and the amount of time you put into the game. A lot of people complain that in two, three, or four years, they’re not doing well. I tell them, it took me 26 years. It is the time and effort that you put into it.
What other sports are you a fan of and are there any athletes you particularly admire?
I’m a die-hard Chicago Bulls fan and a Mark Messier-era New York Rangers fan. I grew up watching Michael Jordan. His determination, his will to win, his ability to close inspired me.
You mentioned the closure. In darts there are times when you need to hit the double, and if you miss you’re pretty sure the other guy is going to win. Is there something different about these times?
Absolutely. You can play well, you can play on average, but at the end of the day darts are all about timing. If you have the right timing at the right times. you can win any match. These are the moments you need to seize. You can’t be nervous. You cannot be afraid. You must attack. I feel like this is one of my strongest costumes. Mentally, I have this ability to shut it down.
I have to ask: have you ever played those carnival booth darts games?
Of course! I usually try to negotiate with them. I say I’ll give you 10 dollars, I’ll take nine darts and if I hit all nine balloons I’ll get the big stuffed animal.
Do they generally agree?