THROUGHOUT one’s sporting career, there is usually a very special occasion to remember and for one of the most popular darts players within the Plymouth leagues, that occasion came for Tony Turner on Sunday December 7, 1997, when he became only the ninth player in 13 years to win the Champion of Champions.
Tony, at 28-years-old, was a late starter, but be began league darts in the 1983-84 season at the City Social, playing in the Plymouth and District Social Clubs League on a Monday night.
Within two seasons he had won his first individual trophy when he defeated Eddie Hopkins (WMOV) in the final of the Captain’s Cup.
This followed with two seasons at Stuart Road Social Club and Friary Social Club respectively before, in the season of 1986-87, he began playing in the Halls League for the Crown and Column, winning the Captain’s Cup on two occasions.
WOTTA LOTTA MONEY: The successful Clifton team that won the Plymouth and District Friday League in 1991-92, going through the campaign undefeated. The winning squad, who won over £1,100 in prizemoney included (from left to right): Steve Plumley, Flynn Jones, Mike Miles, Steve Chapman, Tony Turner, Tommy Kendall and Ernie Toms.
The former licensees of The Nottingham, Dave and Pam Guther took over the reins of the Lyneham Inn in 1985 and Turner played one season for them in the Les Best Wednesday League.
His best performance in that season saw him win a doubles game with Martin Guther in 34, before going on to take his singles in the same match also in 34 with a checkout of 153.
In the season of 1987-88, Turner captained a Nottingham side that won the Dawes Mixed League, but they were thwarted in their double bid when they lost the Knockout Cup final 5-4 to Cambridge B.
Tony also made the finals of both the Captain’s and Singles that season but lost out to Bob Tate (Commercial) in both. There were no excuses on the oche, but it emerged after the evening that Turner was seriously threatened with assault by the husband of one of the Nottingham’s lady players after she was dropped for the Knockout Cup final.
Not the best scenario to be confronted with just 10 minutes before you are to play on a finals night.
But the following season Tony avenged that night.
Nottingham A once again won the division A title and on a personal note, he claimed another Captain’s title when defeating Marty Bray (Cambridge B).
To add the icing on the cake, Turner was also successful in the single’s final when he defeated his conqueror from the previous season, Commercial’s Bob Tate.
Also, in the season of 1988-89, Turner was now competing on Mondays in the Halls Men’s League for The Nottingham and as well as finishing as division B champions, he also appeared in three end of season finals.
He came up against an in-form Ivor Newman in the final of the Superchamps and bowed out 2-1 but made amends in the Captain’s final and ran out a 2-0 winner against Tiger’s Jock Smith.
Turner then partnered Martin Guther in the doubles final when they faced the challenge of Crown and Column’s Charlie Fradgley and Paul Jefferis.
The Column’s two opening throws were 140 and 100 but Turner’s last eight darts were 100, 180 before checking out on 44.
Once again, the Column pairing started well with two consecutive tons, but the Nottingham duo were formidable.
They hit 60-140-100-100 before Turner checked out at the first time of asking when requiring 101 for a win in 15.
He competed for Crown and Column in the Ansells League (formerly Halls League) in 1990-91 claiming yet another Captain’s title and for the same Devonport side in the Plymouth and District Friday League where he went undefeated in the singles for the first 16 weeks of the campaign.
In 1991 Tony had one season in the Les Best Wednesday League playing for the Royal Albert Bridge Inn and finished joint top of the singles table with Robbie Williams who both had 16 victories from 18 starts.
On a Tuesday he was playing for The Clifton in the Men’s Whitbread League where they won the division B title in their first season.
In the 1991-92 campaign, Clifton played in the Bass Open League for the first time and clinched the title, aided by two victories over reigning champions The Brunel.
In their second match, played in January 1992, the Cornish side led 3-2 and 4-3 but Clifton got it back to 4-4 before Turner won the ninth and deciding game which virtually confirmed The Clifton as league champions.
Around the same time, Tony was an integral member of the Clifton side who entered a team in the Plymouth and District Friday League for the first time and won the title with an unblemished record, winning all 26 matches.
In an 8-5 victory against The Albert, Turner threw what was then the second best game in the history of the league when he won in 27, scoring 140-140-100-180-81-60-140-100 before checking out in three from 60.
In the same match, he hit another maximum in his doubles game, which was won with Tommy Kendall in 30.
Early in 1992 Tony played one season at The Mermaid in the Les Best Wednesday League and registered the highest checkout of the season with a mark of 157.
In July 1992, Turner was still playing in the Les Best Wednesday League, but now registered for The Clifton and in the first match of the season, set a mark for the season’s best game and top checkout when he won his singles in 30, finishing with an outshot of 130.
With brother Mark, they finished joint top of the individual table with Tug Wilson (Steam Packet) and Des Stabb (Melbourne).
JUST CHAMPION: Tony Turner proudly holds aloft the Champion of Champions trophy which he won in 1997, only the ninth winner in 13 years.
Turner was still playing for the Clifton at the start of the 1993-94 season and was the first player to win the Evening Herald Highest Checkout of the Month award for that campaign when he posted a finish of 164 while playing for the Greenbank side against Lord Beresford in the Whitbread League.
The following campaign, Clifton were still the top side in the Whitbread Men’s Independent League and as well as winning the Division A title, they claimed a further four titles which included the Captain’s Cup for Turner, in the best performance of final’s night.
Against Simon Smith (Post Office) Turner took the opening leg in 20 when he checked out in two from 100 and in the second leg he was even more devastating.
Smith did his best to stay in the match but to no avail as Turner threw 95, 85, 125, 140 before finishing in two from 56 for a 14-darter, finishing with the night’s highest average of 29.47.
For most of the 27 years that I organised the Champions of Champions, from its inauguration in 1985 right through to 2011, Tony Turner was my MC on finals night.
But not on the evening of December 7, 1997.
For that was the night he lifted the famous trophy for himself.
It was a formidable line-up which included the three-times champion John Goves, Ian Norman who was to win the title two years later in 1999, Alan Norris, now highly ranked on the PDC circuit and the reigning champion Ralph Lancaster, who was bidding to become only the third player, behind Goves and Flynn Jones, to successfully defend the title.
In the last eight, Lancaster defeated Goves 3-2, before taking his place in the final after beating Andy Bates 3-1 in the first semi-final.
Turner’s first opponent was Norris who won the opener in 15 with a 101 checkout. Turner won two of the next three to tie at 2-2 and aided by a maximum 180, clinched the decider in 18, before going on to defeat Frank Beresford in the semi-final, with his best leg coming in 14.
In the best of seven final, Turner began well and opened up a 3-1 lead, only for the defending champion to take the fifth leg in 15, when finishing from 116 and then levelled with a checkout of 130 for yet another 15-darter.
All was set for a do or die final leg and it was Turner who made the most of his chances and checked out in 19 to deny Lancaster a unique Champion of Champions double.
The Plymouth marksman had a brief spell in the early 90s playing in the Devon Super League for Ker St Social Club but also ventured into the Cornwall Super League and played for the Brunel from 1994 through to 2003 his best performance giving him a 3-0 victory for a 31.39 average.
In the season of 1998-99 Tony was playing in the Booker Cash and Carry League and caught the eye in arguably the best encounter of the season when Clifton B hosted Lion and Column.
Sixty-six scores of a ton were scored, and five legs were claimed in 16 or less as Column came from 4-2 down to win 5-4.
Against Peter Cornish who took the opener in 16, Turner levelled in 15 with a checkout of 116 before taking the decider in another 15.
The Clifton boasted very strong teams, due mainly to the popularity of the licensees George and Gloria Rosevear, but when they decided to retire in 2002, a lot of the established players moved to other teams.
Tony was oe of the players that stayed for a while but just three years later, and now working for the Civil Service Sports Association, he was eligible to compete in their darts leagues.
He only played for two seasons, but his team were runners-up in the 2005-2006 campaign and went one better in the following campaign.
They made it a league and cup double in 2006-2007 and that season, Tony (pictured left playing in the Civil Service Darts League) emerged as runner-up in the singles.
That was mainly his last year when he played serious darts.
On occasions he turns out for The Fawn in the Porters Function Room 501 Top 20 League and in the Greenbank friendly league on a Monday, but these days the darts are just for fun.
When asked what his best memories were, he not surprisingly returned to the Champion of Champions finals night of 1997 and said: “A lot of people thought I was going to play my first game, lose, and then take up my usual position, standing at the side of the board with microphone in hand, so to prove them all wrong was very rewarding.
“But throughout the years I have been playing I cherish more than anything, the friendships that I have made . . . friendships that will last a lifetime away from the darts oche.