In this final part of my tribute to Mike Gregory, I take a look at his other victories and important matches he appeared in over the years.
The excellent website www.dartsdatabase.co.uk provides this list of Mike’s ‘Best Major Results’. This includes his appearance in the 1992 Embassy World final, his two World Master finals in 1983 and 1992 and his News of the World wins in 1987 and 1988 plus these major victories (with runner-up English unless stated):
British Matchplay 1984 (Runner-up Keith Deller) (To make the Final Mike had beaten Jocky Wilson (Scotland) in the quarterfinal and Eric Bristow in the semi-final.)
British Professional 1984 (R/up – John Lowe)
Butlins Grand Masters 1984 (R/up – Bob Anderson)
MFI World Matchplay 1986 (R/up – Jocky Wilson (Scotland))
WDF Europe Cup Singles 1988 (R/up – Trevor Nurse (Scotland))
Embassy Gold Cup 1994 – (R/up Fran Lynch (England)
adding these other titles (in date order) with each runner-up shown (England unless stated):
Finnish Open 1984 (Runner-up – Colin Baker) and 1987 (R/up – Bob Anderson)
(Mike told me in 2011, that until the Finnish Open, he had never flown before. He sat between Dave Lee and Cliff Lazarenko on the plane and roomed with Dave Lee. “And I won it.”)
Australian Grand Masters 1986 (R/up – Horrie Sedan (Australia) and 1992 (Runner-up Brian Bigham (Australia))
Dry Blackthorn Cider Masters 1988 – (R/up – Mike Manning)
Swedish Open 1989 (R/up – Eric Bristow) and 1992 (Dennis Priestley)
British Open 1991 (R/up – John Lowe)
Canadian Open 1991 (R/up – Bob Anderson)
PDC Lada UK Masters 1992 (R/up – Dennis Priestley and 1993 (R/up – Bob Anderson)
Antwerp Open 1993 (R/up – Jozef Scheyltjens (Belgium))
Norway Open 1994 (R/up – Stefan Eeckelaert (Belgium))
Belgium Open 1994 (R/up – Stefan Eeckelaert (Belgium) and 1995 (R/up – Pascal Rabu (Belgium))
Swiss Open 1995 (R/up – Andy Fordham)
Unipart European Darts Masters 1995 (R/up – Peter Manley)
In my interview with Mike in 2011 he told me that he hadbeen able to make a full-time living out of darts up until 1995 but then his personal life changed. He recalled that his last BDO title was the Unipart European Masters against Peter Manley at Lakeside in 1995. His victory is pictured here on the front page of Darts World (issue 275, October 1995).
For that tournament Darts World magazine (Issue 274, September 1995) reported that Mike was the 6-1 third favourite behind Steve Beaton (England) (5-1) and Ritchie Burnett (Wales) (5-2 favourite).
In addition, Mike succeeded in winning the Legrand WDF Europe Grand Prix in 1995. Over the season a total of 107 men from 13 countries earned Grand Prix points and it was Mike who narrowly won the top prize of £900, with 28 points, with his England colleagues Andy Fordham and Colin Monk sharing joint runner-up place and prize money of £450 each. (England’s Deta Hedman won the Ladies’ title.)
Any top darts player would be proud of a record like this.
Of course, in addition to winning many titles, Mike played in hundreds of exhibition events over the years in pubs, clubs and other venues up and down the nation. In 2011 he recalled the Embassy Roadshows and Bass nights:
“The Embassy Road Show (with Tony Green) were forty nights (for nine years). Involved ten challenges from players and then Tony did a ‘Bullseye’ quiz. Bass was 250 nights (for 12 years). I only ever failed to turn out for one exhibition. It was at the Trinity Club, Dorchester. Four foot of snow!” He added “I still do a few [exhibitions] but am planning to do more.”
Did Mike ever hit a perfect nine-dart 501?
He told me
“Not in a tournament. During my period with Bass one of the 20-night head-to-heads against Steve Beaton (Bass/Daily Star). On the first leg back after a 45 minutes break I got a nine-darter. The ‘Yuppies’ from Bass were there and were very pleased.”
It should not be forgotten that Mike was selected to play for England. He told me
“Something like 28 caps. It was a strange feeling playing for your country. The first time I had to follow Bristow. “You ain’t world number four for nothing,” he told me, “Go out there and win” and I did.”
[In fact, Mike’s record for England was played 27: won 18.]
And, of course, the whole world of darts was sent into chaos when the World Darts Council (WDC) (later the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC)) and its sixteen ‘rebel’ professionals broke away from the BDO (British Darts Organisation). Mike told me that he was unaware of what was happening. He said “I wasn’t there when the WDC badges were worn at the Embassy.” But Mike knew that there had been ‘a big row’ led mainly by the fact that “There was not enough money” in darts at that time.
Mike agreed to stand up and be counted (see signature on WDC statement (left) and joined the WDC and, to begin with everything went well, although the WDC was in ongoing legal battles with the BDO.
To begin with, everything went well for him. Mike won the first, PDC (the name had been changed from WDC) major, the Lada UK Masters1992, held in Norwich played under ‘equal darts’ rules, beating Dennis Priestley in the final.
Mike then returned in 1993 to regain his title, defeating Bob Anderson in the final.
But then things changed for Mike.
In 1994, Mike returned to the BDO, his main reason being that he feared the potential negative financial impact on him and his family if the legal processes of ‘The Split’ went against the PDC and its members.
He told me
“I sat down with my wife Carol and we agreed that it wasn’t worth the risk. We had a mortgage and, at that time, two children.”
Looking back at those times, I asked Mike in 2011 whether he had any regrets. He replied
“If I’d have known what was going to happen, I would have stayed with the WDC. I think the PDC has done it really good but I think the BDO should have taken up Barry Hearn’s offer. Everything in one house. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I’m still enjoying life.”
As for the future, at the end of our interview in 2011, Mike (pictured here in 2011) said
“I’m quite happy as I am. I passed my motorbike test in 2006 and have had numerous bikes including a 2.3 engine Triumph Rocket. Always loved motorbikes but you couldn’t whilst playing. I’m very happy. That’s all I want to be. I’m enjoying life with San. No stress.”
Mike passed away on 19th April 2022 having finally lost his brave battle against dementia.
In addition, darts fans may know that Paul Starr included a chat with Mike with Steve Brown and Peter Manley in Paul’s feature Behind the Bar which can be found at this link:
© Patrick Chaplin
Images as credited.