Tony Sontag was a long-time member of London County darts and was selected a number of times to play for England during the 1970s and 1980s. He was described by Derek Brown, darts journalist of the Daily Mirror, in 1981 as a ‘curly-haired, muscular young man’ whose ‘biceps…suggest that he hurls something much heavier than darts’. Brown also said that Tony ‘forced his way on to the [darts] scene with a long, unbeaten run with London, mixed with tournament success.’

According to Roger Nickson’s book The History of the Greater London Darts Organisation 1966-1991 in the late 1970s Tony played for the highly successful London ‘A’ County darts team which included such luminaries as Eric Bristow, Tony Brown and Charlie Ellix. He played 62 times for London, winning on 39 occasions.

During the late 1970s success followed success for Tony. He won the Herts Open and Middlesex Open during 1977. In 1978 he was a losing semi-finalist in the British Open men’s singles but won the British Open Pairs and the California Golden Gate Fours; his team mates in the latter win being Eric Bristow, Leighton Rees and Bobby George.

That same year Tony made it through to the semi-finals of the WINMAU World Masters. Of the semi-final Darts World reported that Tony looked all set to win against Kent and England starTony Brown as he took the first set 2-0 and the first game in the second set. (The Masters semi-final was played the best of three sets, each set comprising three games of 501.) But it was not to be. Darts World reported

Brown’s facility for dragging himself out of tight corners was not lost. Sontag allowed himself the luxury of three 40 scores and Brown didn’t miss the opportunity to draw level in the second set. A 14-dart game…gave Brown the second set.

Tony at the WINMAU World Masters

The deciding set was a tale of near-misses. Needing 136 in the first game Sontag hit two 60s only to miss double eight. Brown finished the game before Sontag had another chance.

So close yet so far…

Tony Sontag’s performance in the WINMAU World Masters was followed by selection for England and that same year (1978) he won the first BBC2 Bullseye tournament (not to be confused with the later Central TV quiz show of the same name). 1979 saw Tony’s successes continuing with a win in the Essex Open Pairs and a great run in the Butlins/MY Darts tournaments winning in the Triples and Pairs and being runner-up in the Men’s singles. This on-going success found Tony on the front page of the November 1979 issue of Darts World.

Tony also won the 1980 Swedish Open but, according to Derek Brown, the BDO made him forfeit his world-ranking points ‘because he had used what they adjudged to be a non-standard dart.’ However, Brown added, ‘by then Sontag was part of the darts scene and there were no hard feelings.’

Tony Sontag continued to be part of the darts scene into the 1980s after which he continued with his full-time job; his own roofing business. He had property in Spain and spent much of his spare time there with his wife and family.

I first received the news of Tony’s death from Bobby George. Tony was a great friend of the George family. Tony had died of cancer on 24th July 2018 at the age of only 62.

After hearing of Tony’s death Bobby George told me

“Tony and me were great mates and enjoyed many wins playing pairs together in the States. He was a very gentle and caring person and a wind-up merchant! I’ll never forget Tony’s ‘Cheshire Cat’ grin especially when, some years ago, he saved me from drowning. After a few drinks we both jumped into a swimming pool fully clothed and we laughed so much that I started drinking the water!” 

Back in 2008 Bobby had commented “Tony can still throw a mean dart. He should be in the Legends.” Unfortunately Tony didn’t make the League of Legends but to many players he remains a legend of English darts.

Tony Sontag (b. 2nd March 1956 d. 24th July 2018) leaves his wife Maura and three sons, Richard, Martin and Jake.

© 2018 Patrick Chaplin

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