This exclusive interview with three-time World Professional Darts Champion John Lowe by Charis Mutschler of Germany’s top darts website www.darts1.de is reproduced here with permission.
Charis Mutschler: John, you have been a professional darts player now for over 30 years. Is it true that you have really earned your living throughout that time only with your darts?
I was a carpenter when I left school. I worked in the building trade until 1975. It was then that I turned professional darts player and this has been my livelihood ever since.
Was there a lot of money to be earned with darts in the 1970s and 1980s?
The prize money in darts in the 70’s was not good, but then not bad either. The World Masters had a £3,000 first prize and the News of the World a £5,000 first prize. It may not seem a lot but we must remember that was over 30 years ago.
Nowadays everybody says that TV coverage is necessary for a sport to be recognized by the public. But when you were at your peak together with Bristow and George there was not much sport on TV but nevertheless you all were well known. How was that possible?
TV is very important to any sport. In the late 70’s and 80’s darts was on TV almost every week. All of the international games where shown, many with no prize money, just trophies. We had so much TV that Eric Bristow and I became household names. We were recognised every time we went out of the house!
What was the first televised tournament you took part in?
My first TV tournament was the Indoor League, a Yorkshire Television event. I then won the World Masters, followed a few weeks later by the British Open and then the News of the World. In fact I won fifteen major events in a row.
You were the first to throw a nine-darter on TV and that earned you a huge bonus. Would you say nine-darters were less common then?
On the 13th October 1984 I did the first televised nine-dart game. It was a huge thing to do, no one else had ever achieved it and everyone remembers the first. The prize for doing the perfect nine-dart game was also huge – £100,000 + £2000 for doing it on TV. I won the event as well and an additional prize for the highest outshot. In all I won a total of £115,000 that weekend. It was many years before the nine-dart game was achieved again; Paul Lim being the second guy to do it. He won £50,000.
Would you say players are better nowadays or is only the equipment better?
Players are scoring more consistently today but they are not a lot better than Bristow and Lowe were back then. The dartboard wiring is a lot thinner, making the double and treble area a lot bigger in size and that is the reason for more nine-dart games.
What kind of darts did you use first and what darts do you play with now?
I first played with a set of Unicorn Brass darts and great darts they were too. I progressed on to tungsten and then titanium. I have only ever worked with one darts manufacture, Unicorn and I am still with them after 37 years. Living proof of how my dart works is the fact that Phil Taylor now uses them.
How old were you when you started to play darts?
I was 21 before I ever threw a dart.
The young players nowadays have role models like you or Eric Bristow or Phil Taylor. Did you have role models yourself back then and what were the well-known names in darts when you were young?
My role models are from other sports but I did have a great friend and mentor in darts: Barry Twomlow, known as ‘The man who taught the world to play darts’. He was Unicorn’s finest representative and someone everyone could look up to.
How often did you play the News of the World tournament and would you say it is a pity the tournament doesn’t exist any more?
The News of the World was a great tournament. It was only best of three legs and the throw was 8 feet along the floor. Many of today’s players could not play from this throw and not many of them would have reached the finals of this fine event.
‘Big Cliff’ and John. Chesterfield, 2005 (Photo: Chippix)
You were one of the founder members of the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) and later secretary of the Professional Dart Players Association (PDPA). What happened that made you decide to leave the BDO?
I never thought I would leave the BDO. I was England captain for seven years during which time we never lost a match. But the BDO did not promote the game like they should have done. They stayed very much the same year after year and they got left behind. We needed new events and more prize money, so we broke away from the BDO and formed the World Darts Council (WDC) which went on to become the PDC.
The PDPA for initially formed in the mid 70’s. I later became Chairman and Secretary of the Association, keeping it going with my own money for eight years. The PDPA now has over 600 players registered and it employ’s a full time Chief Executive Officer.
And would you say you still think the PDC is a great idea after what happened to you and the other “legends”?
The PDC was, and is, a great organisation. Its primary duty is to make money. This in turn gives the players more chance to make money; the spectators have better darts to watch and the manufacturers sell more products. This is just simple business.
Do you miss being able to play PDC tournaments? You didn’t play much over the past few years but you always used to qualify for the World Championships?
I do not miss playing in PDC events. When we formed the ‘Legends of the Oche’, we knew exactly what we where doing. We were moving on, not moving out. We have the most successful Legends tour now with over 125 bookings to complete in 2009 and a diary fast filling up for 2010.
‘Dr. Darts’ and Eric Bristow helping John celebrate his 60th birthday.
Chesterfield 2005 (Photo: Moppix)
Do you think getting older somehow affected your darts or would you say darts is something you can play till in old age? Is playing darts something you still enjoy after all those years?
Getting older did not really affect my darts ability. I became fed up of having to play every weekend in qualifiers. I needed to change direction. I feel I am playing as well today as I ever did. I love playing darts, and the reason is because I can do it very well.
Do you still practice or play league or open tournaments?
I do practise but only when I have reason to. When you play darts six days a week, your game is always in good shape.
Last year during the ‘League of Legends I read that you not only practice throwing but that you think one has to prepare the mind as well. What do you do to prepare your mind?
I am a great believer in mental preparation. If you feel well you will play well. I could go on about this subject for ages but I think I will leave you with a development that is very exciting. On 28th May 2009 this year, I have a coaching manual coming out called ‘The Art of Darts.
It is to be published in London by the prestigious publishing company Hodder & Stoughton and will be sold in all major bookshops and will be available to darts players in Europe via Amazon.com. My book contains everything players need to know; from choosing the right darts to preparing mentally. The book is for beginners and professionals alike.
What for you was the most important win in your career?
The most important title I ever won, and for anyone to win, is the World Championship. If you manage to win it more than once, it means you were not lucky the first time! I won it three times in three different decades and played in the final eight times. I believe I should have won it at least five times.
Did you like the travelling?
I have always liked travelling. Darts has given me the chance to see the world,
And did you like being member of the team or would you say you are more of a loner?
I loved being part of a team but I also liked, and still like, my own company.
In those times it was common for players to share prize money. With whom did you share?
We did share prize money in the early days. I shared with Eric Bristow for many years; in fact right up to one week before I achieved the perfect nine-dart game!
Do you know whether that still happens?
I would think that players still share today but it is dangerous now bookmakers are involved.
Would you say dart players can be real friends or are the others always rivals?
Dart players can certainly be good friends. I work with Eric Bristow sometimes five days a week and yet we still go on holiday together, to Tenerife, our favourite location. Cliff Lazarenko has remained one of my closest friends for years. Rivalry should take place on the stage but, once the game is over, that should be the end of it.
Do you sometimes visit dart tournaments?
I will be at the Premier League event in Nottingham in April. This is my first visit and I hope it is everything I expect.
And who do you think is the most talented young player?
I like quite a few of the new young players. James Wade is a great player and he does have world championship qualities. Garry Robertson is also a great player. I am a little surprised that we do not seem to have many younger players coming through in the UK. The incentive is there but I have no idea why the talent is not. Hopefully my book ‘The Art of Darts’ will be the answer.
Do you believe playing darts is something one can be coached in?
I firmly believe darts can be coached otherwise I would not have written ‘The Art of Darts’. I believe players make the game more difficult than it really is. The simple things work best.
And would you think dart coaches will be the future of the sport and an aid to more professionalism?
I feel sure darts will have academies and coaches in the future. This will be the replacement for pub darts. Darts is now a registered sport in many countries and if we are to take the sport to the next level, the Olympics, then we have to make sure the youngsters have coaching available to prepare them.
I believe my book ‘The Art of Darts’ is one of the first steps to bringing new players into the sport. We have to remember that darts can be enjoyed by anyone. You do not have to be a professional player to get satisfaction from playing a social, friendly game with your friends or family.
How important is alcohol in darts and could darts exist without alcohol at all?
Darts could quite easily exist without alcohol. That may surprise a few people but it is a fact. I would not be surprised to see alcohol banned completely from the sport sometime in the next ten years.
What would be your advice for an adamant beginner on the brink of becoming professional?
My advice for any would-be professional is simple. Read ‘The Art of Darts’ and keep it with you at all times. I believe my book will always be owned and never loaned. If anyone who buys my book has questions to raise or wants to give me feedback or if they think there is something I have not covered then or if there are any unanswered questions, then I encourage them to write to me via the Legends of Darts website www.legendsofdarts.com and I will do my best to help.
©2009 Charis Mutschler (www.darts1.de.)
Thanks to Charis and all at www.darts1.de for allowing this interview to be reproduced on my website.
© Patrick Chaplin 2009