A Chilliwack darts player is set to test himself against the world’s best when he represents Canada at the 2018 Winmau World Masters.
The international event will be held Oct. 3-7 in Bridlington, England.
Wood, 18, qualified with a stellar performance at the 2018 Canadian Youth Nationals, which were held May 17-20 in Drummondville, Quebec.
He teamed with Victoria’s Devon Abbott, grinding through 36-odd placement matches plus playoffs to take the senior male doubles title. Wood returned for the senior male singles competition, fighting through a similar gauntlet.
In the final he played on an elevated stage with the spotlights shining bright, but the pressure didn’t get to him.
“Because I was up there the day before for the doubles final, it wasn’t a big deal, but my opponent hadn’t been up there before and he was really nervous,” Wood recalled. “It was a best-of-seven final and I won in six.
“It was the happiest moment I’ve had since I started playing darts. I don’t jump around or anything like that, but I was definitely smiling a lot.”
Wood credits his grandfather, Robert, for getting him into the sport when he was around eight years old.
“He was doing it and I thought, ‘Why can’t I do it too?’” Wood said. “I started playing and it just stuck.”
Learning to chuck a dart at the board was the easy part, something Wood picked up quickly.
From his grandfather he learned the technical nuances of the game, and the situational awareness that separates the top level guy or girl from the average pub player.
“Anybody can throw them, but learning the math and what to go for when is the hard part,” he said, walking over to the board in his basement.
Darts isn’t just about hitting the bullseye, although that is often the goal on the last shot.
Players start with 501 points and must work their way down to exactly zero by hitting certain numbers on the board.
“The main numbers are 20, 19 and 18,” Wood explained. “And you can’t win unless you hit the red bullseye in the middle or the double score (outer) ring on your last shot.”
Wood started getting animated as he talked about scoring scenarios.
“Say you’re down to 81 points,” he said. “I would go for 19 on the triple score (inner) ring for 57 points and then 12 on the double score ring for 24 points.”
There are enough scenarios in a high-level darts match to make your head spin, which is why Wood puts in three hours a day practicing all the shots.
He watches the pros on TV, trying to pick up tips.
“I’ve seen a perfect game in the last two weeks, where the guy went from 501 to zero in nine shots,” Wood said. “I haven’t come close to doing that.”
He refines his game further competing with the Fraser Valley Youth Darts Club, which meets Wednesday nights (6:30 to 9 p.m.) at the Eagles Hall in Abbotsford (33868 Essendene Avenue).
The Chilliwack secondary school grad was at his best in Drummondville, soaking up the atmosphere at the biggest event, by far, that he’s ever competed in.
“It was fun meeting all these other youth players from the other provinces, and they were all pretty cool,” he said. “Being able to win was cool too, because no one from B.C. has done that before.
“It felt like I didn’t just do it for me. I did it for the whole province.”
Now he gets to do it for his country.
Darts may be a fringy sport in western Canada, but England is the homeland of the game and its people are passionate about the sport.
It’s a whole different atmosphere that Wood is excited to experience.
He knows the field will be a lot tougher, but he’s confident he can hang with that crowd.
“It’s fair to say they’ll be a lot better, but I know that if I just play the way I normally play I’ll have a good chance of winning,” he said. “Coming away with that win is the main goal, but my first goal is to make it past the first round.
“I’m not just going there to play one or two matches and lose.”
Wood hopes his journey inspires local youths to pick up a dart.
“Our coaches are really nice people, you get to meet a lot of youth players and if you get good enough you can compete at provincials or nationals,” he said. “It’s just a lot of fun.”
For info on the Fraser Valley Youth Darts Club, phone coach Kari Roberts at 604-819-5875 or coach Bob Rousselle at 604-866-5925.
An in-person registration session will be held at Eagles Hall Sept. 26 starting at 6:30 p.m.