What a score for Timaru darts fans

DARTS MAN: Rob Szabo hopes to turn his sport into more than just a pub game in New Zealand.
DARTS MAN: Rob Szabo hopes to turn his sport into more than just a pub game in New Zealand.

Timaru darts fans are in for a treat with Rob Szabo the feature attraction at this weekend's national qualifying tournament.

The 48-year-old Upper Hutt builder is the star attraction at the Timaru South Cosmopolitan Club hosted Dart Players New Zealand event.

The Kiwi shot to prominence when he gave the sport's legend Phil ''the Power'' Taylor a big fright at the World Darts Championships in England, late last year at its mecca ''Ally Pally''.

For a while Szabo had the world's greatest darts thrower on the run before eventually losing 3-1.

It was the first world champs for Szabo, who is ranked 189th by the World Darts Federation, but he hopes it won't be his last.

In fact Szabo hopes to have a crack at the professional tour in Europe next year if he can get enough sponsorship. To do that he has to go through qualifying school, much like the aspiring golf pros, in January.

''I'd love to have a go but it will depend on my finances.''

His next big tournaments are the Sydney Open, then June's World Cup of Darts pairs in Germany.

''I am doing the pairs with Craig (Caldwell) and we are both keen on q-school. If we do well we might be able to attract some European sponsorship which would be great.''

While most of the sports top guns have nicknames, Szabo said he hadn't got one yet.

''Maybe with some more success or perhaps no-ones telling me.''

More seriously Szabo said one of the lessons he had learned was a meaner attitude towards his game and to stamp his authority early.

With darts getting more media attention Szabo said while he wasn't recognised, many people had heard of him and what he had done in England.

''They say you are that guy who played in England and that has got to be good for the sport.''

He grew up around darts and started throwing seriously as a 22-year-old, when he began playing for the Wellington Working Men's Club.

Szabo then took a 12-year break before making a return.

His success is no fluke as Szabo can practice up to six hours a night.

Szabo hopes the sport will grow past just being a pub sport in New Zealand. He has noticed an upswing in the game with younger players coming on board.

The competition and others involved kept him passionate about the game.

''The thing I really enjoy about darts without a doubt is the people, there are some fantastic ones out there.''

Other players ranked in New Zealand's top 16 attending the Timaru tournament are Craig Caldwell (Wellington), Keith Shephard, Warren French (Canterbury), Tony Carmichael (Otago) and Warren Parry (Southland).

The Timaru Herald