BEING world champion means little in the tough school that is the Golcar Darts League.
Huddersfield’s Scott Waites found that out on Monday evening, 24 hours after he lifted the British Darts Organisation’s Lakeside trophy for the second time.
Honouring a prior commitment, he turned up to play for the Commercial, at Golcar, near Huddersfield, in a match away to the Horse and Groom in Milnsbridge – only to discover he had been dropped, much to the amusement of his team-mates.
Waites admitted he had not fancied playing anyway after a week of intense competition at Frimley Green, in Surrey, but feared he would be accused of being a ‘big-time Charlie’ if he failed to show.
“I do feel like I need a rest,” the 38-year-old told The Yorkshire Post.
“But they have all been so good, giving me all their support, if I hadn’t gone they would have been asking questions!”
The Horse and Groom will, no doubt, have been relieved not to see Waites in the opposition line-up, but other teams in the Golcar League can expect to face the BDO’s newest champion over the next few months.
That says a lot about Waites’s down-to-earth nature, but he believes it is also one of his sport’s unique qualities.
“A lot of of them appreciate me playing and it’s a good chance for them to play against me,” he said.
“If you go to a competition you could draw, say, me in the first round. There’s no other sport you can do that.
“Even in snooker you have to go through qualifiers first. You can’t just turn up with your cue and play Ronnie O’Sullivan in your first game, but in darts, you turn up and you could play anyone.”
Waites’s victory at the Lakeside last Sunday marked his return to the top after a serious shoulder injury pushed him down the rankings.
He was not expected to be a serious contender, entering as the ninth seed and having lost at the first- and second-round stage in the two previous years since winning the title in 2013.
Waites saw off Willem Mandigers 3-0 in round one, survived a huge scare to pip Geert De Vos 4-3 in his second match and stunned bookies’ favourite and top seed Glen Durrant 5-4 in a quarter-final thriller, before qualifying for the decider with a 6-1 thrashing of Jamie Hughes.
He faced Canada’s Jeff Smith in the final and cruised to a 7-1 success.
“I did believe I could win it,” insisted Waites. “I told all my mates I was going to win it before I went down there.
“If you go back a couple of months, you could have got maybe 18-1 on me for the title.
“The bookies didn’t think I was going to win it, but I have always got a really good leg of darts in me.
“It is just a matter of putting a few legs together and I managed to do that.”
Self-belief played as big a part in his triumph as his natural ability. Though his final two matches were one-sided, he was pushed all the way earlier in the tournament and was on the verge of going out in the second round.
“Against Geert De Vos, I was 3-0 down and you have got to have a lot of belief you can come back and win these games,” he added. “A lot of people would have rolled over and died at 3-0 down, because it looks like you’ve got no chance.
“Glen Durrant has been the best player in the BDO for the last 12 months and normally, when he gets in front, he is ruthless and he finishes you off. But he gave me a chance now and again and I took them.”
It was a remarkable turnaround for Waites, after injury looked set to derail his career. He underwent surgery last February to repair a damaged rotator cuff and admitted playing pain-free has made a huge difference. “This one, I would say, was more difficult to win,” he said of his two Lakeside titles.
“The preparation was nowhere near the same. I have been trying to get my arm working well again and back up to a decent enough standard to compete with all the other top-class players.
“That has been difficult. I could play a good game of darts, but I couldn’t keep doing that, I would have a bad game in between, but now I am playing pretty much like I did before.”
Waites pocketed £100,000 for his week’s work, but this carpenter by trade has a full-time job as a housing repairs inspector and has so far resisted the lure of the rival, better-funded, PDC.
Their version of the world championship, which was broadcast on a dedicated Sky Sports darts channel, was nearing its end as the BDO’s began and champion Gary Anderson’s prize money was three times what Waites earned.
Anderson competed under the BDO banner until 2009, before crossing the sport’s bitter divide.
He never won the BDO title, but of the 16 players who have since the sport split into two governing bodies in 1994, only four have so far not at least tried to qualify for the PDC tour.
Waites is among that quartet and speculation will inevitably centre on whether he fancies a new challenge under the rival banner.
“I haven’t given it any thought yet,” said Waites, who defeated the PDC’s best to win the Grand Slam of Darts – a competition involving players from both organisations – six years ago.
“At the minute, I am quite happy doing what I am doing. Should anything change in the next few weeks, so be it.
“I have never ruled out going to the PDC, but I play darts because I love playing darts.
“When my shoulder was bad it was so frustrating because I was missing out on doing something I enjoy doing.
“I had six weeks when I could not throw a dart and that was hard.
“I enjoy going out and seeing my mates and having a chuck. I would still play if there was no money involved, like I do on Monday and Thursday nights and in Super League.
“Even for Yorkshire, there’s no money involved. We are going to Cornwall this weekend and that’s a long way for one game of darts and you fund it out of your own pocket. I play for the love of it, not the money and that’s another reason I’ve not gone to the PDC.”
Waites is among an elite group of eight players who have won the BDO championship more than once.
Eric Bristow, Raymond van Barneveld and Martin Adams have successfully defended their title and matching their feat is an obvious attraction. Staying with the BDO would also allow Waites to continue playing for Yorkshire and England.
On the other hand, the PDC offers Waites a higher profile and more opportunity to play in televised tournaments, particularly now the BBC have pulled the plug on their coverage of the Lakeside. Whatever happens over the next 12 months, Waites is determined to enjoy his time as king of the world.
“I have not been shopping yet,” he said of the hectic early days since defeating Smith in front of the live BBC and BT Sport cameras.
“Last time, I stopped in ASDA on the way home and spent an hour-and-a-half talking to people! I don’t think my girlfriend is looking forward to me going to the supermarket.”