|Dart players take aim at title in Laurel event|
By David Driver
"I just found that I liked it," Martin said. "The way I describe it is like a bowling league. Women can compete as much as men. It does not take strength. You just develop your skill."
Martin, of Upper Marlboro, is the treasurer of the Central Maryland Dart League. She was one of 26 females who competed Oct. 24-26 at the annual tournament of the Central Maryland Dart League in West Laurel.
The event was held at the Holiday Inn and raised money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of the Mid-Atlantic, Inc. The tourney is 18 years old but according to organizers this was the first time it was held in Laurel.
The event drew 68 male competitors. Among those on hand was
Pennsylvania resident Darin Young, the top-ranked American male. Young won a men's singles event and, along with Chris Oinkous, captured a men's doubles event. Young has qualified for the world championship slated for January in London.
Among the top players in West Laurel was Steve "Shooter" Melvin, who has lived in Laurel since 1986. He began playing at a bar in Laurel in the early 1990s when a player did not show up and he was pressed into service.
"About six months later I was the best in the bar," said Melvin, who played pool at a young age.
Melvin, who works in the security industry and graduated from High Point High in Beltsville, now plays darts about four or five nights a week. He plays in a weekly league in Glen Burnie and also plays regularly at a bar in Virginia.
The sport of darts remains very popular in Great Britain, according to Bill Villiers, the tournament fundraising director of the Central Maryland Dart League. "It is absolutely huge," said Villiers, who grew up in London but did not start playing darts until he joined a house league in Annapolis eight years ago.
Villiers, who moved to Howard County in 1990 and now lives in Annapolis, said darts is also popular in the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal and Spain. He said there are eight leagues in Maryland.
Mick Nardelli, who competed this past weekend, moved to Washington about 10 years ago and he is now the chairman of the Washington Area Darts Association.
"The dart community is pretty tight. We all travel to a lot of the same tournaments," he said. "You see the same faces."
Nardelli said his organization puts on tournaments with a total cash pay that ranges from about $5,000 to $12,500. But he said the slumping economy has taken a toll on darts as well.
He helped stage a national tournament in September near Dulles International Airport in Virginia. While the event attracted six of the top 10 men and four of the top 10 women in the country, Nardelli said rising gas prices kept away regulars who normally make the trip from as far away as North Carolina.
Nardelli began playing darts when he worked at a college in upstate New York.
"It is a lot more fun when you hit what you are aiming at," he said.