Simply The Best...
The word legend gets thrown around far too easily these days but in Tony Turner, I couldn't think of a more fitting word to describe a truly remarkable and unique human being.
An obviously talented marksman on the oche, Turner contributed more than most to the landscape of Plymouth darts.
Not only with his achievements but also his unique character and generous nature that saw him become everybody's friend off of it.
Tony, at 28-years-old was a late starter but took up 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 who played from the Weston Mill Oak Villa in the final of the Captain’s Cup.
This success was quickly followed by success in the Captain's Cup on two occasions when turning out for the Crown and Column in the Halls League in the 1986-87 seasons.
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.
Individually, Tony also made the finals of the Captain’s and Singles that season but lost out in both to Bob Tate who represented Commercial.
The following season Tony avenged that night as his Nottingham A once again won the Division A title and on a personal note, he claimed another Captain’s title when defeating Marty Bray from the Cambridge B team.
To add the icing on the cake, Turner was also successful in the singles final when he defeated his conqueror from the previous season, Commercial’s Bob Tate.
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 to the 1987 Champion of Champions.
Turner however made amends in the Captain’s final and ran out a 2-0 winner against Tiger’s Jock Smith.
Further success followed as Turner partnered Martin Guther in the doubles final when they faced the challenge of Crown and Column’s Charlie Fradgley and Paul Jefferis.
Turner checked out at the first time of asking when requiring 101 for a win in 15 darts and with it another famous title.
The 90s ticked over and in the 1990-91 season of the now re-branded Ansells League, formerly Halls League, Turner claimed yet another Captain’s title for the Crown and Column.
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.
Turner's darts calendar became more and more saturated as he was played 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.
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 win over The Albert, Turner threw what was the second best game in history of the league when he won his 1001 singles in just 27, scoring 140-140-100-180-81-60-140-100 before checking 60 in three.
In the same match, he hit another maximum in his doubles game, which was won with Tommy Kendall in 30.
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 who turned out for the Steam Packet at the time and Des Stabb of the Melbourne.
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.
That campaign he posted a finish of 164 while playing for the Greenbank side against Lord Beresford in the Whitbread League.
The following year, 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.
That included another Captain’s Cup for Turner in the best performance of final’s night against Post Office's Simon Smith in which Turner took the opening leg in 20 when he checked out in two from 100.
In the second leg he was even more devastating with Smith doing his best to stay in the match to no avail as Turner threw 95, 85, 125, 140 before finishing in two from 56 in a 14-darter for a 29.47 single dart average overall.
Throughout any sporting career as littered with titles and accomplishments as Turner's, there is usually a very special occasion to remember.
For one of the most popular darts players within Plymouth, that occasion came for Tony Turner on Sunday December 7, 1997, when he became only the ninth player to win the much coveted Champion of Champions.
It was a formidable line-up which included the three-times champion John Goves and Ian Norman who was to win the title two years later in 1999.
Alan Norris, who has recently competed within the professional ranks on the PDC circuit and the reigning champion Ralph Lancaster, were also in Turner's way.
Turner’s first opponent was Norris who won the opener in 15 with a 101 checkout to put Turner on the ropes a little bit.
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 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.
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 to check out in 19 to deny Lancaster a Champion of Champions double.
When asked about that night in 1997, Turner said: “A lot of people thought I was going to play my first game and lose, 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."
Up until 2002, The Clifton boasted very strong teams due mainly to the popularity of the licensees George and Gloria Rosevear and Turner was something of a linchpin in that success.
However, when the couple decided to retire in 2002, a lot of the established players moved to other teams with the better sides beginning to disband.
Tony was one 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 emerged as runner-up in the singles, which was mainly his last year when he took the game seriously.
Since then, on occasion, he turned out for The Fawn in the Plymouth City Super League, Steve Chapman 501 League and in the Greenbank Friendly League on a Monday.
But these were very much rare appearances up until his recent passing, darts was just a bit of fun.
On the county scene, the talented 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. Turner played for the Brunel from 1994 through to 2003 with his best performance giving him a 3-0 victory for a 31.39 average. That type of form earned a spot in the Cornwall team but he could not convert his dominance in the Plymouth leagues to wins on the county stage. In the 2003-04 season he played, Turner managed just one win from eight starts but said of the experience, "I was so nervous but did manage to eventually get a win on stage that nobody can take away from me."
Turner did return to the County stage a few times between 2018-2020 as Cornwall Darts Organisation required an MC for the Cornwall team home games.
Turner's prowess and general flair with the microphone was well-known throughout the Plymouth darts leagues having been caller for various Final's nights, including the Champion of Champions.
In fact, from its inauguration in 1985 right through to 2013, Tony Turner was MC on finals night with the exception of 1997 as for that was his night to show his true talent.
With this unique skill of compering, Turner contributed heavily to raising tens of thousands of pounds for a number of causes.
Despite the fact that Turner was now riddled with cancer, Turner returned to the stage one more time on 2021 Champion of Champions Final's Night.
It was his wish to return to the position he made his own for twenty-nine years to call another final for the charitable cause, which was greeted by a rapturous applause and admiration from the crowd.
"One Tony Turner" rang out from all sides of the room as he made his way to the stage and his dulcet tones perfectly accompanied arguably the greatest moment in the competition's history.
With the scores locked at 4-4 and his opponent Danny Allen sat on 97, John Mann checked out the biggest possible finish, a 170, to win the famous trophy and become a two time Champion of Champions.
Turner was elated that he'd been able to play a small part in such a historic moment that'll live long in the memory of all who saw it.
And it was fitting that someone who had played such an incredibly important role in the running of the tournament should be there to call it perfectly.
Away from the oche, Turner was well known by all as someone who lit up every room he stood in; most of which were mainly bars as he was the life and soul of any party.
I personally have the most wonderful memory which accents this from an afternoon on the Barbican whilst celebrating a mutual friend's birthday.
We were in the Admiral MacBride and after a few drinks, it was time for some food to get us through the rest of the day.
The question of what food do you serve came up from someone, which was responded to quite sensibly by the barmaid as "basket meals".
This prompts Tony to ask the poor girl behind the bar if he can have "soup in a basket", which is inevitably greeted by hysterical laughter from all who heard it in the pub.
In more recent times, Tony has suffered with ill health thanks to a couple of high profile bouts of cancer with the latest being in 2020.
When the Plymouth darting community heard of Tony's news that in 2021 the disease would end his life, this was greeted by an outpouring charity from a tight knit bunch.
Organised by Tony's brother Mark, the community put together an initial fund which topped £1500 in donations that would be given to Turner so he could enjoy his very first foreign holiday.
As well as this, an evening was organised to celebrate the life of Tony Turner at The Victory Inn with food, music and lots of beer on offer.
A further £500 was added to the fund by over one hundred attendees to the event digging deep once again for a man who gave so much to his community and friends.
After a few postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Turner was able to finally get out of the country in March 2022 with a group of darts players at the Torremolinos Open darts competition.
Whilst at this stage Turner was in no fit state to play, he did manage to enjoy the weekend of top quality darts with friends and family.
Unfortunately, the cancer became more and more aggressive which limited Tony to his flat and local pub, the Fawn, whilst being nursed by friends and his daughter Chloe until the 5th May when he left the world.
Inevitably, the news of Tony's recent death was greeted by an outpouring of grief across social media as well as hundreds of guests at his funeral who came to show their respect for one of Plymouth darts' shining lights.
The Fawn will always seem a darker place knowing that Tony Turner won't burst through the door with his wicked sense of humour and character nobody could dislike.
But, he will always remain in the minds and hearts of everyone who knew him, and has his name etched on the most famous darting trophy in the South West for eternity.
“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." - Tony Turner, 2018...