The girl from Wales who became the only female player to hit a 170 checkout in Devon Super League
TRISH Merry was born in Pembrokeshire, South West Wales in 1955, but was destined to make her name on the dartboards around Devon and beyond some 26 years later.
She was inspired by her father, William “Billy” Merry, who not only was a useful darts player himself, having represented his county in the News of the World darts championships, but he was also a professional footballer and was a member of the Manchester United team that won the division two title in the 1935-36 season which took them back to the top flight.
Trish moved to Plymouth in 1973 and by 1975 she had attained the famous Cornish surname of Penberthy when she married husband Gordon, hence her nickname of “Denzil” that was bestowed on her by her county team mates.
Her first foray into the world of darts was at the St Levan Inn, Plymouth, and Trish has stayed loyal to that hostelry ever since.
PLYMOUTH WINNERS: Trish Penberthy (far right), Kath Roulston (first left) and Patsy Fletcher who were half of the Devon Ladies' B team in the 2000-2001 campaign who topped the final league table as champions.
She began playing in 1981 in the Halls Ladies’ League and in her first season the team won through to the final of the Knockout Cup before being edged out. They won the division two crown in the season of 1986-87 and on promotion to the top division secured runners-up the following season.
As well as playing in the ladies’ league on a Thursday, Trish also got into mixed darts and was part of the successful side at the First and Last that played in the inaugural Autobar Mixed Darts League.
The team moved to the Woodside in 1992 and the following season they won the Knockout Cup and Trish won the mixed doubles title with Flynn Jones, a title that the successful pairing also claimed in 1996-97.
The years that laid ahead were arguably the best for Trish. Now playing on a Thursday evening in the Bass Ladies League, she won the Jean Bickerton Cup in 1997-98 and the same season she lifted the prestigious individual title.
The campaign in 1998-99 saw the St Levan Inn win the division A league title and Trish also retained her individual crown and added the doubles title at the finals and presentation evening, staged at the Prince Regent in Plymouth.
Penberthy partnered Heather Escott to take the doubles title 2-1 but were pushed the full distance by the Tap and Spile partnership of Kathy Morris and Hazel Jones, who also had a chance of winning after pulling back from a leg down.
Debbie Lake (Indian B) stood between Trish achieving a successive individual crown, but Lake’s previous good form deserted her.
Penberthy was always in command and helped by three tons never looked like losing her title. She checked out confidently in both legs to emerge a 2-0 winner and retain the Bass Ladies’ League individual title.
In the 1999-2000 campaign, Trish won an award for hitting four maximums throughout the season and at the turn of the Millennium the Woodside won the mixed league title with Trish claiming another singles title when winning the ladies’ individual crown.
Trish was now playing in the Ladies’ Independent League, arguably the top ladies’ league in the city at the time and her St Levan Inn side won the Knockout Cup of division A in 2002-03.
Throughout her darting years, Trish has always shown a fondness for Super League and county.
She has played for the St Levan in the Plymouth City Super League and the Levy Ladies have won the Devon County Super League title on five occasions, the latest being 2018-19.
In the 2011-12 campaign Trish earned the plaudits with a 3-0 victory, aided by a checkout of 118, to finish with a 20.59 average, inspiring the Levy Ladies to a 6-1 victory over The Kings (Crediton).
But one of her proudest moments in Super League came against Tivvy Ladies. Trish was playing Lyn Cottrell who had left herself 32 to win the match only for Trish to step up to the oche with three darts in hand and finish on 170.
This was and still is, the only occasion when the highest possible checkout has been achieved by a lady darts player in Devon County Super League.
Trish represented Devon in the British Inter County Championships on no fewer than 132 occasions, winning 64 for a win ratio of 48.48 per cent.
She made her Devon debut against Berkshire in February 1997 and not only was she a 3-0 winner but also claimed the lady-of-the-match award.
Trish was picked for Devon A in January 1999 against Shropshire and was the only Devon lady player to win in three straight legs when defeating Pat Marsh, a valuable point that went towards Devon winning by the narrowest of margins at 19-17.
Further lady of the match awards came in March 2001 away at Tyne and Wear (22.43), February 2002 away at Bedfordshire (19.03), November 2005 home to Derbyshire (19.52) and February 2006 away to Northamptonshire (19.52). All of these matches were won in three straight legs.
Devon ladies did themselves proud in the 2000-2001campaign and defeated Northamptonshire in the penultimate fixture of the season to win the division four title.
Plymouth provided three of the six-player team which included Patsy Fletcher and Kath Roulston, and all played in the B side that won 6-0.
Penberthy won her match 3-0 with a 17.90 average and that performance clinched her place back in the A team for the final match of the campaign against Cleveland.
One of Trish’s proudest moments in a Devon shirt came in July 2006 when partnered with her St Levan Inn team-mate, Chrissie Kinnaird, (pictured left), the duo surpassed even their own expectations when they reached the semi-finals of the BDO Gold Cup Ladies’ Pairs at the famous Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green.
The duo had previously battled through a tough play-off in order to represent Devon before facing the cream of British darts.
More than 55 counties from England, Scotland and Wales were represented and participants included numerous international players including the World’s No.1 player at that time, Trina Gulliver.
Kinnaird and Penberthy started well with a 3-1 victory over Pam Hind and Sue Burnett (Cumbria) and repeated the scoreline in round two when they put out Rita Brownless and Kathy Ovens from Hertfordshire.
They then overcame Wiltshire’s Carol Bowers and Sue Handscombe with another 3-1 victory to take their place in the quarter-finals against the Scottish Ladies’ captain Ann Kirk and her international team-mate Margaret Ferguson.
This was unquestionably their toughest test to date, but the reputation of their illustrious opponents counted for nothing as the Devon pair pulled off a brilliant 3-2 victory.
Kinnaird and Penberthy were now just one win away from a place in the final, but alas it was one match too far as they went out 3-1 to Welsh international Julie Gore and her Pembrokeshire partner Coralie Jones who went on to lose in the final to Trina Gulliver and Clair Bywaters.
However, just to get to the semi-finals of such a high calibre tournament was a marvellous feat and the two players won deserved accolades for their achievement.
In 2011-12, Devon won promotion to the premier division of the BICC and Trish had the distinction of winning the county’s first premier point when in their opening match of the Ladies B away at Surrey, she defeated Jane Biggs 3-2. Devon went on to clinch the fixture 21-15.
Trish also played in the Cornwall Super League for Brunel B and as well as taking the Premier East title for numerous years, were overall county champions in 2004.
And playing for her beloved St Levan Inn, in the Bruce Harrison Builders Ltd 501 Top 20 League in 2009 she hit the top checkout of the season by a lady with a mark of 153.
Mo Mortimer, who was Devon County secretary for 20 years, probably knows Trish as well as anybody and told me that she brought some much-needed stability to the team when she was appointed Devon County ladies’ team manager in 2006.
She successfully held the post for eight years before stepping down in 2014 following a near fatal brain trauma concerning her husband Gordon who then had to be looked after 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
England International Maria O’Brien picked up the reins of team manager following Trish’s resignation and has played alongside her both locally and for Devon for many years, so it is right and fitting that she has the last word.
Maria said: “Above all Trish has been a fantastic captain of the Levy Ladies’ Super League team and a great manager for many years for Devon. Trish has also been an inspiration for a lot of younger lady players in Plymouth that have also gone on to represent the county of Devon.
“For me personally, throughout my professional career both in tournaments oversees and representing England, Trish’s support has been unwavering and the fact that she texts every single player in our super league team, whether they are playing on a Saturday or Sunday for Devon shows the true dedication of the lady.
After play is over, it is another text to offer congratulations or commiserations, but she never forgets. For me Trish is and always will be one in a million”.
When she can, Trish still likes to make an appearance in the Plymouth City Super League on a Friday night and still keeps her hand in playing occasionally in the Devon County Super League.