We spoke to Canadian, Sky Sports Pundit and three-times World Champion, John Part, to see how he feels the North American representatives will fare at the Lakeside World Darts Championship this January.
Jeff Smith, David Cameron and Larry Butler will all represent North America in a few short weeks at Lakeside. We take a look at each players recent form, how they earned the right to play in the World Championships and Dart Maple’s view on each of their chances.
Canadian, Jeff Smith will be at the World Championship courtesy of his run to the semi-final last year, where he lost 6-0 to eventual champion, Scott Mitchell.
Jeff was recently in the UK to play the World Masters, where he lost 3-2 to Scotsman Alan Soutar in the last 80. Jeff also used his trip to the UK in October, to enter the BDO’s qualifying tournament for the Grand Slam of Darts, losing in the last 32 to eventual qualifier Andy Fordham.
Shortly after his World Championship semi-final defeat, Jeff won the Las Vegas Open before reaching the semi-finals of the BDO World Trophy in March. He also lost in the final of the Canadian National Championship (to Dave Cameron) and reached the Last 16 of the Canadian Open – both in June.
Hi John. Was Jeff’s march to the semi-finals in 2015, beating Wesley Harms (3-2), Gary Robson (4-3) and Robbie Green (5-1) along the way, a surprise to you?
“Yes, it was a pleasant surprise as he had a tough draw. I knew already that he had the ability to stand and play against any opponent and get the best out of himself. He was excellent punishing errors and very good not to make many mistakes himself.
In the end, I see his drop in form in the semi [where Jeff lost 6-0 to eventual champion, Scott Mitchell] as a result of playing the situation more than the opponent or the game. Call it a missing piece of experience – something which he can draw on in the future.”
Jeff’s first opponent in January will be the relatively unknown Dutchman, Matthew Medhurst. Matthew has had very little success since reaching the last 32 in 2015’s World Masters, so on paper he shouldn’t cause Jeff too much aggravation – would you agree?
“Not really. Jeff now has the world of expectation on him and a world of pressure to live up to after last years success – a pressure which will only be enhanced by having a relatively good draw. Medhurst has nothing to lose and may prove to be quite difficult for Jeff to dismiss.”
Unfortunately for Jeff, it would get a bit trickier in the next round, with a match against Martin Adams – will Jeff’s 2016 Lakeside Adventure be ending there?
“Jeff would, conversely to my last point, thrive on the underdog status with which he proved himself very confident last year. Martin Adams would have to be quite sharp, as we know he can be, to get by Jeff.”
Jeff Smith’s fellow Canadian, David Cameron has been at Lakeside in each of the last two years, losing on both occasions in the Preliminary Round to Martin Adams (3-1 in 2014) and Michael van der Horst (3-2 in 2015). He earned his place in the 2016 tournament by topping the Canadian Regional ranking table.
Dave’s first visit to Lakeside in 2014 ended in a 3-0 Preliminary Round defeat to Martin Adams. Once again in 2015, Dave lost in the preliminary round, this time to Michel van der Horst (3-2). This year he’s been handed a pretty tough draw against the enigmatic Ted Hankey.
Do you think David would be able to handle the histrionics that could well accompany a Hankey match-up?
“We have quite a few characters in Canada which Dave would be able to cope with as he has many years experience, but, when combined with the pressure of the television audience and big time stage, it’s hard to say how someone will react. I certainly don’t think Ted can beat Dave on tactics alone, but he may just edge a close, well played match because of his stage presence.”
If Dave is able to see off The Count, then it’s a First Round tie with number ten seed, Martin Phillips, then maybe Darryl Fitton followed by Martin Adams in the Quarter Final – that is a pretty tricky tournament! Realistically, how far can he go?
“I would like to see a Cameron-Smith quarter final. While Dave’s draw features very experienced quality players, his litmus test is Ted, and if he handles that, the rest will all just be dart matches.”
American Larry Butler was also at the Grand Slam qualifiers in October, but had considerably more success than Jeff Smith, eventually qualifying alongside Fordham and most notably beating World Number One, Glen Durrant, 5-4 in the last 16 along the way. Larry was also at the World Masters, enjoying even more success, this time progressing to the final, where Durrant exacted his revenge, beating the American 7-3.
Despite that defeat, Larry was in fine form and didn’t disgrace himself in the Grand Slam, finishing third in his group, beating the PDC’s Andy Boulton 5-4 and giving Raymond van Barneveld a scare in their group match.
This will only be Larry’s second appearance in the BDO World Championship – his first was 24 years ago in 1992 when he reached the last 32. Larry also appeared in the PDC World Championship on four consecutive occasions between 1994 and 1997. His best showing was a quarter-final appearance against Jamie Harvey, where his journey ended in a 4-0 defeat.
After qualifying for Lakeside, the Grand Slam of Darts and reaching the final of the Winmau World Masters, Larry Butler appears to be enjoying a darting renaissance in his late fifties – can he get past James Hurrell in the preliminary round?
“Yes, of course – if you can reach a major final [The World Masters] you can win a prelim match! Larry has had a steady string of performances over the course of this year. His head is in the right place for winning matches and although he is in many close matches, he finds ways to grind out the wins.”
If Larry can build up a head of steam by beating Hurrell and then Ryan de Vreede in the First Round, I believe he would be a Lakeside crowd favourite in 2016 – could Larry be this years Jeff Smith?
“With the Grand Slam first, a bigger and more prestigious title in itself, Larry’s confidence for Lakeside will be forged or shattered in Wolverhampton. He is riding a good high but needs to do himself justice in the group stages, and hopefully beyond, to set the stage for a dominant Lakeside.”
We spoke to John just before the Grand Slam, and as previously mentioned, Larry bowed out in the group stage, but certainly didn’t disgrace himself.
My final question is… of the three North American representatives, who do you feel can progress the furthest into Lakeside 2016?
“I think Larry has the hot hand, or the momentum if you will, to have the best chance at taking the title. That said, Jeff will be out to go those two steps further, and Dave will be forced to just get on playing darts by his draw which could help him to have blinders to the occasion.”
I’d like to thank John most sincerely for taking the time and effort to contribute to this article – it makes running this site so much more satisfying and enjoyable.
Why not read our Lakeside Darts World Championship Armchair Fans Guide to the tournament, including full draw and schedule.