Daniels, Conrad

Conrad Daniels

Career base: Hamilton New Jersey

 

Accomplishments:

1970, Southern California Darts Association (SCDA) Grand: 1st – Doubles;

North American Open: 1st – doubles;

Far West Shootout: 1st – singles;

1971, North American Open: 1st – team;

SCDA Grand: 1st – Doubles, 1st – singles;

Far West Shootout: 2nd – singles, 1st – team;

1972, Tri-county Open: 1st – doubles; 2nd – singles; 3rd – team;

St. Patrick’s Open: 1st – singles;

Far West Shootout: 1st – doubles, 3rd – team;

1973, North American Open: 3rd – doubles; 3rd – team;

Schmidt’s Darting Classic: 1st – team;

St. Patrick’s Open: 1st – doubles;

1974, Schmidt’s Darting Classic: 1st – doubles;

Golden Gate Classic: 1st – doubles;

1975, Unicorn World Darts Championship eastern finals (Philadelphia): 1st – National Finals (NY, NY): 3rd;

Central Jersey Open (Colonial): 1st – singles; 3rd – doubles;

Brokers Open: 1st – singles, 3rd – doubles;

News of the World (England): Finalist;

Indoor League (England): 1st- singles;

Old Smuggler Open: 2nd luck of the draw doubles, 4th – singles;

Michigan Open: 1st – doubles, 2nd singles;

North American Open: 1st – singles, 3rd – team,

US Open: 1st – Singles, 2nd – team;

Cleveland Dart Extravaganza: 3rd – singles, 3rd – doubles;

1976, Brokers Open: 1st – singles,

Champion of Champions (Leeds, England): Semi- Finalist;

US Masters representative in England‘s World Master’s;

Elkdart Triple Crown Championship (London England): 2nd – singles;

North American Open: 1st – team, 2nd – doubles;

1977, North American Open: 4th – doubles;

US Open: 2nd – singles, 3rd – team;

Cleveland Dart Extravaganza: 1st – singles;

North Carolina Open: 2nd – singles, 1st – doubles, 1st – team;

Unicorn US Championship (eastern regional): 1st- singles;

Dallas Open: 2nd – singles, 1st – team, 2nd – doubles;

American Darts Organization All Star Team (eastern region): 1st;

World Cup I (London England): US Representative;

1978, Elkdart Nations Cup (England): 2nd – team (3 man with Nick Verachkul and Cam Melchiore);

World Masters (England): Top 8;

World Embassy Professional Darts Championship (first): top 32 (beat Eric Bristow, then world champion – 1st round, 6 games to 3 games);

Guinness Golden Dart Tournament (London, England): doubles with Cam Melchiore;

1979, St. Patrick’s San Diego Open: MVP of tournament;

RBDL: 1st – singles;

World Cup II (Las Vegas): 2nd – team, 4th – singles;

World Embassy Professional Darts Championship: top 32;

1980, British Pentathlon (Kent, England): Top 8;

World Team Match Play with Jerry Umberger and Nick Verachkul;

1981, New York Open: 1st – singles;

New Jersey Open: 1st – singles;

1982, New Jersey Open: 1st – singles;

Champion of Champions (Boston): 1st – singles;

1983, World Cup IV (Scotland);

Bulls eye Lucky Strike 301 Singles: 1st – singles;

Washington Pro Singles: 1st – team;

1984, Washington Open: 1st – singles;

New York Open: 1st – singles;

1985, Washington Pro Singles: 1st place.

 

“I lived in Princeton New Jersey from 1958 to 1964 and had a job tending bar part time in a place where college people went. There was an American dart board in there, and that was the only activity available so I started throwing darts for something to do in my off hours. I seemed to get good very quickly and I’ve always been an action guy, so I got to playing for drinks, then some money. It didn’t matter whether it was for fifty cents or a dollar; I loved to play when there was something at stake. Then I joined the National Guard during the Viet Nam thing and I got to playing a little bit at Fort Dix and played the best guy around, who was a beer salesman, and beat him for $150 one night. That was a lot of money in those days. That really got me hooked on thinking I was really good.

My then future wife and I both worked for the same company when I lived in Princeton and in 1964 they offered two transfers to California which we both accepted. After moving to California I looked for a place to play darts but could not find one. The day after my daughter was born some of the guys from where I worked took me out for some drinks and we walked into a tavern in Laguna Beach, which has just won the local championship, this was in English darts, which I’d never seen. There was only one board in the place and there about twenty of them, all playing darts. I had no idea how to play the game but asked if I could play anyway. They asked if I knew how, and I told them no, but they said throw some money in the pot and you can play. The winner was going to get a bottle of Chevas Regal. One of the guys was playing with American darts and used those. There was one guy who was telling what to shoot at and I blew them all off the board. They were all wondering, who the heck was this guy? They’d just won a championship I beat ’em all. I hadn’t played in a while but going from the American game to the English game is very easy when you first do it, before you start to think about out shots, and what you are doing.

I played two or three years there then I dropped out for a while, my wife and I were in a workaholic thing at that time. Then, one of the guys from the team called to tell me there was going to be a tournament put on by some dart association and people from all over the states were going to come to this thing, and I had to go to it too. There were going to be prizes and the first prize was a black and white TV and I won the thing. Now darts became an ego thing. I played on a stage; I got my photo in the LA Times and all that stuff, so the ego thing started. I’d won the Far West Shoot-out, or the Laguna Open, or whatever it was called, which was the first tournament held in California, to my knowledge. I really got hooked because we found out the English darts was in more places than in California and there was a tournament in New York called the US Open, put on by Bob McLoed.

Then the concept of the North American Open started from there and was held in 1973, where we in California, were first exposed to the players from Philadelphia, who were supposed to be the best in the country. I thought I was the best player in English darts. I had played around the Philadelphia area when I lived in Princeton, but not with the people from Philly. I was the big favorite in California and I lost in the top sixteen or something like that. I watched Bob Theide play in that tournament, and he didn’t know his out shots. He had forty left and shot for a single eight to leave thirty two because someone had told him that was the double it was best to go out on. In the finals, when the other person had a double left he did that, instead of shooting for the double twenty. Bob won that tournament! It was absolutely amazing. The players from Philly dominated that tournament and were all playing with wooden darts.

Then, in 1975, I moved back to New Jersey, to Hamilton, where I still live. I played in the US Open that year and beat Nick Verachkul in the finals. That was the big start on my dart career. Black and White Scotch sponsored it, they wrote an article in Sports Illustrated magazine, with my picture and everything. That kind of thing sort of blows your mind, it was a big deal. That same year I went back and won the North American Open.

In 1973, I had a pencil thin, brass dart made for me that probably weighted 16 grams and I put a little, solid plastic flight on them. I used those until 1977. I found that tournament conditions were getting so that, with wind and such, you had to get to a heavier dart. I ended up with a twenty three to twenty five gram dart. I switched around trying different things thinking the dart would be a factor, but it didn’t. I tried different things to find out why different players used different things, but I never stayed with a particular dart. I always believed that you had to be on board with the transition of things and find what worked best for you. There were pencil thin darts made with tungsten that were 28 grams and you had to find what made them fly true for you. We checked the actual weight of darts against what they were said to weight and found up to two grams difference. My dart had more of a loop to it than the way the English players threw theirs. We looked at a dart’s flight in slow motion and found out the dart actually leaves your hand almost perpendicular to the floor, and then levels out in flight. I tried every kind of shaft, but ended up with a nylon shaft because it was more durable. I don’t think the dart made much difference in my play, even when I was experimenting like I did.

I watched basketball players shooting fouls and thought about the comparison to my dart stroke. I wondered why a great basket ball player stand at the line and bounce the ball a few times before he shoots it? These are the guys that are the best, the ones who do that. The ones who just go up there and throw it aren’t. I started a rhythm to my stroke by pumping my hand, slowly so I was already in my rhythm by the time I started to draw the dart back, rather than hold the dart out there and watch my hand shake. I saw that the biggest mistake that most dart players made was not enough extension of the arm, not enough follow though. I made sure my arm and hand ended up pointing at the target. When you watch a great basket ball player that is exactly the way they do. There was one guy, up in New Jersey who had a short follow through, a herky jerky motion and, he was a nice guy and all, but he was always a contributor when it came to playing for money. Because didn’t have any inconsistency. One time he’d throw a ton eighty and then a couple of thirties, or what ever it was. I stood in exactly the same position every time I shot a dart and repeated the same motion drawing the dart back so it just touched my cheek, every time, and that gave me tremendous consistency. I never thought I was blessed with a lot of talent but I was blessed with a little bit more ability to adjust to conditions.

Group shooting is for American darts and spot shooting is for English darts. I was definitely a spot shooter.

I made sure I held the dart the same way, in the same place every time. I even had a little piece of tape on the darts to mark the place for my fingers.

I hated loosing, just hated it. After a loss I’d shake their hand and think, all right, I’ll get you! I guess it was not as bad loosing to real good players as it was to poor players, and it wasn’t as hard on you when you truly got beat and somebody went up there and threw superior darts and you were still throwing good.

One thing I did during practice was discover what my dart was doing that particular throw. I looked for a pattern to get to a point where my tendencies were, which was to throw a little low, off the target, especially when I was in trouble, so I’d aim to compensate for hitting low. Most dart players have no concept of what their dart does. I would cover my dart board down in the basement with newspaper then throw at a place where a double or triple would be, then take the paper down and hold it up to light to where the holes told me my tendency was for the shot. Up or down, left or right then what are you going to do to correct that? I’d hold that paper up and think, OK now I’ve thrown fifty darts at the double four and where are my misses? There is always a pattern; your dart might be going side to side or up and down. Guaranteed there players who don’t have clue about where his darts are going, because he’s a natural talent at playing darts. I didn’t think I was a natural talent so I had to work on all these odds and ends.

I could get into tunnel vision to where, if I was looking at the triple twenty I could blow the size of that up to three or four times. When I was really focused and really on, I thought nothing else. I was playing in the finals of a tournament in California and the bleachers fell over and fifty people fell and crashed. I was asked afterward if that bothered me and I told them, I never heard it. At one point in my career all I saw was that one small target, not people walking around or talking or anything else. I practiced with a dog jumping around down in the basement and as far as I was concerned the dog didn’t exist. You have to do that in order to play good tournament darts.

I practiced probably a little every day but mostly I did a lot of experimenting, rather than practice. I’d play a true game, my favorite game was 301 double on double off because of the confidence I had in doubles. I knew, with out any doubt, that if I had three darts in my hands I was going to hit the double. I didn’t think the big score between the doubles was all that important. If I hit a couple of triple twenties and it was a little blocked, I’d play for the triple nineteen. Why loose a dart trying for a blocked shot when another inning is completely open? I’d be perfectly happy with a 139, those things never bothered me. I always played American bounce darts, try to get the best angle you could for a clear shot and if it wasn’t in the twenty then I’d find it in another inning. Rather than lose the dart into the one or five, I’d take the 19 if I missed that triple, and be ahead of the game. This became really important in a long money match where you had to be very, very consistent. That was the biggest asset to my game, being consistent and why I won money matches. I could loose four or five games and not worry about it because I knew, if I played my game the other player would have his ups and downs and I’d be ahead at the end.

I set up Fridays as my night for money matches and that was the best practice sessions. A tough match over three or fours hours where you have to do it, it’s a dollar and cents thing. You no longer feared people watching you, since as we all know this game can be very humbling and even very, very good players can look very, very bad at times. Good players can mess up on a double a whole bunch of times. I played John Lowe in the London Cup tournament, in 1976 or something like that, and in the second leg of our match he missed twelve shots on the double. I pressed him to the last game and almost won the thing. I played Rick Wobensmith in the US Open once and I missed all kinds of shots at a double until finally he took it out. There was another time I lost in the finals, after I missed a bunch of shots at a double, to a guy who never won another tournament. I wanted to commit suicide after those two tournaments.

One thing about getting really good is the level of play where you are. If you’re not stretched to a higher level, you don’t play to a higher level. Good play breeds good play. Good players make everyone around them better.

I thought about the game more than most players and that helped me become as good as I was. I fine tuned the things that most people don’t pay attention to. Like the shoes I wore. They were dress shoes with hard soles and always the same size edge and always laced tightly. The edge of a shoe can put you another ½ ” from the board. I locked my knee and stood a certain way. What ever I did I made sure I did it the same way every time. Darts is a repetition game but once you get past that part it becomes a mind game. It’s like throwing a 180. If you’ve never done it in practice, you probably will never do it competition, but once you do it in practice, it’ll come in competition.

My greatest coach was my wife in how she safe guarded me from drinking too much. I learned that three scotches was my limit and Rosalie made sure I didn’t have more than one every forty five minutes after the initial three. I always controlled my drinking, even in money matches. Frank Horvath was my best coach as far as how I was playing, if I was doing something different that was hurting my game.

There are a couple of different types of tournaments. The American style of tournament where there open entry is by far the most difficult because you never know when you’re going to play. I always stayed close to the scorer’s table so I could see when I would be called in ten or fifteen minutes so I could mentally prepare myself, other than that it was very difficult preparing yourself, or trying to peak. In addition to that you never knew how good a player you would be drawn against, it might be the worse player in the world or some one really good. I’d rather play some one good. I’ve probably gotten beaten by poor players more often than good ones because they’d play better than they had in their life just because it was me and they could go off and talk about how they beat me a leg or whatever.

A lot of the time I would pass the time at a tournament being sort of antisocial and being off by myself in a corner somewhere just trying to relax. Every so often I’d get up and throw a few just to stay warm and so forth.

I had a routine I went through to begin a match and no one was going to force me to go any faster than that. When they called my name on a board I knew I was going to throw 15 to 21 darts and I didn’t care if the other guy was there starring at me or what. I was going to do what I was going to do. I was a very slow methodical player and I played English darts with a rhythm that was different than 95% of the players. I went through a routine each and every time at the board and it was positioning my foot on the toe board so my arm was aligned with my target.

I’d get into gamesmanship on occasion. I wanted to control the tempo of the game. I was a methodical, slow player. I would ensure the position of my foot on the toe line, there were times when I actually marked the toe line with chalk. I always looked down at my foot, up at the board, fixed the dart the way I wanted it in my hand I would walk English dart players off the line when I retrieved my darts, after a turn, by walking straight back at them. I was deliberately a slow player, like when taking my darts from the board I wouldn’t take them all at once, I’d take them one at a time. Then there was a Frank Ennis trick, of brushing the board a little before strolling back off. There was another great advantage to being so slow, I was never a great mathematician even though I knew my out shot combinations, so I had loads of time to subtract the score between shots. I’ve seen some of the best counters in the game mess up because they were calculating so fast. A lot of players already had a turn planned out by considering what they would do with the last two darts if they missed with the first one, but I only calculated for one dart. There were times when I’d ask someone if they were leaning a little more than usual, or shooting the dart a little harder than they usually did, just to get a guy thinking more about how they were playing and there were certain players you could do that with more easily than others. There were times when, just before a match, when the player was chomping at the bit to play, I’d excuse myself and go to the bathroom and sit there for five minutes then come back. One guy did that to me, just as were ready to play he said, I have to go get a hot dog. When he came back I said I had to go to the bathroom and left for five minutes. People have tried those kinds of things with me but I blocked it out.

The best tournament I’ve played in my life was in 1977, when I won the Cleveland Extravaganza. I don’t think I lost a leg in the whole tournament and I honestly felt I could beat anyone. My partner Frank Horvath was there, and I told him I want good players every time, I don’t care who he his I’m blowing them off the board today. I felt that good about myself. It was one of those days that comes one in a thousand. Some times you get that feeling in a game or two but I’m talking about all day long. I felt that tournament was mine from the very first player I drew.

England

I went to England to play darts, probably fifteen times. I played in what was then the News of the World, world championship. Al Lippman had won the US Championship the year before that, and was the first American to play in it. After I lost in that tournament I spent at least two hours signing autographs. I thought, what happens when you win? I was proud, I had the USA shirt on and all that, you know?

I was invited back to England to play in the Champion of Champions tournament later in the same year. I was a 100 to 1 underdog in that and I had a couple drinks to calm me down, I was so nervous. These were the thirty two players from all over the world and except for the News of the World, I didn’t have any experience. In the first round I drew some kid who was the co-favorite to win the thing. Well, on my first shot I threw a 180 at him and when I walked back from the board I looked over and saw his hand shaking. Well, by that time I was calmed enough to just blow him off the board. I went down through the rest of my competition until I was in the finals, then I watched the match between the two people playing to be my opponent. One was Cliff Engles, the reigning Masters champion and the other was Allen Glazier, and I was thinking, well your run is over, these guys are going to destroy me. I was tinkled pink just to be there, I had no expectations of being in the finals. I did the same thing to Cliff in the finals that I did in the first round match, I started with 180, and Cliff literally fell apart. He was throwing threes and fives and I beat him. We were playing the best of five, 501. He said that was the most devastating loss of his career, and quit playing for a couple of years after that. There was a big article in the newspaper about my win and I was ranked third in the world, which is the highest ranking for an American I’m aware of, and I just went over there for one day? I was invited to play in another tournament a few days later but I said no thank, I had my heyday, and I’m out’a here, I’m going back home. I knew those guys were awesome. I was getting out of that country before those guys killed [me on the dart board].

I played a lot with a local guy named Frank Horvath. We practiced together, played money matches together and played league together so it was logical for us to play tournaments together. I disappointed other people who were better players than Frank, by not playing with them as partners, but that was the way it was. I did play with a lot of different partners, but I guess overall I’d say Frank Horvath was a good partner for me because I knew what I had to do with him, and even after a bad turn Frank would come up with a big shot when we needed it, he was that kind of guy.

After I moved back from California the Philly boys would come to a place named Joe T’s before I had my own place and we’d play matches there. If some one showed up you’d play, if they didn’t, you didn’t. Then I got tired of that because once you started playing, especially in my own place, and you were ahead, how could you quit with the guy’s money? So we ended up playing until the place closed. Then I thought, how do I know how much money they had? I had some money but was I risking what I had against very little? There was one guy from Philly who was famous for a fat roll of cash and we’d play but he really didn’t have much of a chance. I’d win maybe $500, but he’d be loosing more from the side bets he’d be taking with other people in the bar. It’s hard to tell a guy, it’s not your night, why not try again another night. So I started pre arranged matches where we knew what we were doing, no one had any excuses and knew what they were getting into. You knew you were mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared to loose $500 or $1000.

I remember some historical matches. Frank Horvath and I were playing Nikki and Joe Baltadonis. Now, on paper they should win. We got down to the last game, it was 25 games, to 25 games I’m sitting on 152 and Nikki was playing for double four. He hit single four, single two and Joe tells him to bust it, being afraid to be left with double one. Frank said, if you ever put out 152, now’s the time, well, I go up and finish the 152 to win a $1000 match. Nikki said, I will never, never bust a shot again. These were times when things like that were done. You didn’t expect someone to take out a 152.

I was sponsored by Kwiz darts after I won the 1975 US Open. Bob McLeod approached me with the offer of a signature dart with royalties, and other stuff and who wouldn’t want a dart with their name on it? So I became sponsored by them. The only other person with a dart named after them was Theide. The dart was not only sold here in the United States, it was sold around the world. I was a novelty. I was someone other than a British player who won something, so I was know around the world.

Bob McLoed got me a Marlboro commercial that was done in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and paid $1000 a day, plus all other expenses. It was done with the top female model from Spain and made for the European market because cigarettes were banned from American. It had a beautiful, sexy girl in a long white dress who posed as a customer, who walked into a beach bar to play darts where there was a guy sitting at the bar with a drink, reading a newspaper. I had to make three shots: one into the newspaper he was reading, the next into the coaster in front of him and the third into the bulls eye to show the woman was only messing with him and really was a good dart player.

I like having played on the US team which went to England a few times as a memory of my career. I went to England fifteen times and that was good too. I played in the inaugural World Embassy Championship, where there were only thirty two guys from around the world competing for the title. I played the number one player in the world, Eric Bristow, in the first round who I found liked to banter as much as me, but I wasn’t intimidated by him, I knew he was a better player than me, but I wouldn’t back down, I’d challenge him in a heart beat. He told me I’d better have a TV guide because I’d be watching television early that day. Well I smoked him off the board, six to three. I not only beat him, I beat him soundly. He remarked about that match in his book, saying he’d never underestimate me again (chuckle). That is a most memorable event, to beat the best player in the world.

I have a hard time going back playing and not being good. I don’t like playing at a mediocre level. I retired due to several things. My wife and I started a real estate business, I started playing golf, and I sold my bar. I got into a different social circle and my life style changed. I’m in two halls of fame: darts and real estate. Right now I play a lot of golf and enjoy it. I still love darts and when I retire I’ll probably do something with darts, but I don’t know what.”

 

Interviewed Oct. 2003

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