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National Darts Hall of Fame 2001 and West Virginia State Championships Tournament

Jason Lucas
Jason Lucas

The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.

--"A Shropshire Lad" "To an Athlete Dying Young"
A.E. Housman

"Tucked away in the hills of north central West Virginia, Clarksburg enjoys the amenities of the largest city in the region with the advantages of a small hometown community. A rich mix of retail, industry, and government services, with a thriving business community exist along with an abundance of recreational facilities, and one of the best preserved historic downtowns in the state."

Well, I made it…white knuckles and all. But, I'll get to that later. The paragraph above is how the official website describes it. The website also boasts another primary claim to fame-the FBI National Fingerprint Identification Center. Could this by why certain players shy away from this part of the country? Who knows?

It is also the home of Clarksburg Area Darts and the site of the 2001 National Darts Hall of Fame tournament, parade, Banquet and Awards ceremony.

As many of you readers will recall, my fellow columnist, Dartoid, recently wrote an article on Jim Poliquin and the National Darts Hall of Fame. His piece, in his usual style, inspired me to learn more about the subject. After a little Internet surfing-I discovered the NDHoF website…and what a bounty it was.

A few e-mails to tournament director and NDHoF founder, Jim Poliquin and his tournament staff convinced me-this was an event I had to attend.

Arriving Friday afternoon-my connecting flight from Pittsburgh was something akin to a crop duster-befitting the "rustic" setting I was bound for. Benedum Airport is located on the eastern side of nearby Bridgeport; with trusty maps in hand-I made my way to Clarksburg and my weekend accommodations, The Greenbrier Restaurant and Motel. Not exactly the Ritz, but more than adequate for the weekend needs. Upon checking in, I was informed none other than 1988 Hall of Fame inductee, Jerry Umberger, occupied the adjoining room. Competition could be real tough… It was now time to attend to the remainder of my usual chores: locate the venue that was off-site, and my favorite-the three "B's" - Boss, boards, and Bar.

Finding the Movie Café was pretty easy. Located in the heart of Clarksburg, the street banners pointed the way. The Movie Café, like its name, was once a movie theater; and it resides next to the building claiming to be the approximate location where the birthplace of General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson once existed. Upon entering the venue, I was introduced to the man himself, James Poliquin. At 73 years of age, the retired plumber doesn't appear to be slowing down. He said he has been approached to run a tournament in Dayton, Ohio, the Bill Nicoll Memorial. Planning will begin shortly after the completion of this event. Back in the Movie Café, the lobby had been converted into the registration area and bar and café area, the theater section-gutted of the usual seating-became the venue. See, I told you I'd find it. A comment from one of the committee, "three days ago-this place was a mess. Now it's looking pretty good." Not bad for a building that had been vacant for over a year. Manning the microphone at the control desk was Jim Wall, a Clarksburg local and former (you never call them ex-) Marine. The venue was set up with 25 boards, enough to keep the action going, and a row of tables for darters to rest at between matches.

With the initial blind draw signup nearing a close, Matt McGowan, from Martinsburg, WV, threw out the ceremonial first dart to start the 2001 National Hall of Fame Dart Tournament. Matt is the 2001 poster child for the Hall of Fame and suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. Jerry Umberger presented Matt with the medals he won at the 2000 National Hall of Fame Tournament. Joe Brocato, WDTV Channel 5 Sports Director, and Brian Gerring, WBOY Channel 12 Sports Director were on hand to provide local television coverage.

Scanning the rapidly expanding crowd-I spot a few notables-Wade Wilcox, Alan Matthews and Howard Grimm to name a few. On the distaff side-Chantel Webb, Deb Lewis and Jennifer Elhert have made their appearance. Things could get pretty serious here. And we are underway.

While Wade Wilcox was attempting to advance to the finals, his wife, Lydia and I spent a time reminiscing about one of our favorite places-Paul Lim's homeland-Singapore. Paul was probably down at the Houston Open this weekend-preparing for the upcoming World Matchplay in Blackpool, no doubt. Meanwhile, back in Clarksburg, the results of the Blind Draw Doubles 501 are in and John Martin and Tom Stewart laid claim to the $200 top prize with their victory over Keith Roberts and Mike Pitt.

Passing the time, observing the darts-I had the opportunity to meet the extension of the Poliquin family. Granddaughter Michelle and family friend, Tom Hill of Ridley Park, PA, stopped by to regale me with tales of "Grandpa" that are, of course, unfit to print. Needless to say, the conversation was truly a classic in the annals of darts-befitting the Hall of Fame. Tom and Jim have "been there-done that" on more occasions than some people can count.

The next event was the Blind Draw Doubles Cricket. In a memorable final-Jennifer Ehlert and Tom Stewart defeated Doug Watkins and Ashley Holgate to claim the top prize.

The events of the day concluded-it was time to return to my accommodations and summarize the day's events…one for the road and it's off to dreamland, that is, after a stop in the "Poliquin Suite" at the Greenbrier. But that's another story all in itself…

Saturday morning and the NDHoF parade arrived too early as usual-but this would be an event not to miss. What other U.S. darting events can claim to have a full-blown parade through the center of town? Dragging my weary bones from the comfort of my bed-it's off to the parade site. Not knowing the exact location-I had to trek a few miles to find its' origin-but I found it. Yours truly was invited to ride along-by personal invitation of Jim Poliquin-how could I refuse? Boarding the official Trolley, we are underway-we had Shriners, a Fire Truck, Police cars and band-you name it. The City of Clarksburg is out-well, at least part of it-everybody loves a parade. Off we went-right down Main Street. Following the Parade, Clarksburg Mayor Terry J. Greaver read his proclamation before the assembled crowd and declared every dart player a citizen of West Virginia and July, Dart Month. It just don't get no better than this…

The parade completed-it was back to the Movie Café-venue for the tournament. Fortunately, the Movie Café was located right on Main Street-so it wasn't much of a trudge afterward. The morning's events start with Doubles Cricket. Assuming my reporting position-I floated between matches eyeing the competition. It was evident that the best doubles in the region had come to test their metal against each other-and test it they did. When the final dart was thrown, the duo of Ed Rebstock and Tom Stewart claimed the Men's title over Gary Stone and Darren Parzow. Chantel Webb and Jennifer Ehlert bested Deb Lewis and Lydia Wilcox to claim the Women's crown.

Next came the Men and Women's 501 Singles. The final pairings were Jerry Umberger and Barry Dudley, with Jerry Umberger throwing an impressive 15 darter in the third leg to capture the $240 top prize. The women's finals paired Deb Lewis against Moncel Petitto. Claiming the $120 and first place was Deb Lewis.

The Mixed Doubles 501 event is now underway. In a hard-fought final, the duo of Milan Savic and Chantel Webb defeated Steve Oberti and Julia Gillum to claim the top spot.

There is now a pause in the action for the National Hall of Fame Banquet and Awards Ceremony. Master of Ceremonies, Jim Poliquin toasted the assembled crowd and dinner was served. Following dinner and the entertainment, "the Blues Brother's Road Show," the Awards presentation commenced.

Ladies and Gentlemen--The National Darts Hall of Fame Class of 2001:

    Men-Jason Lucas, Tom Stewart, Dan "Cujo" Lauby, Luis Martinez and Dan Pucillo.
    Women-Carolyn Mars, Debby Stewart, and Mischelle Johnson.
    Sponsor-Nalley.
    Behind the Scenes-Catherine Haycock.
    Promoter-Sandi Cain, Bob Lanctot.
    Youth-Charity Corrigan, Kari Stevenson, Kevin Luke and Kirt Johnson.

A special tribute to the late Jason Lucas and presentation of his Hall of Fame induction plaque to his parents and brother was met with a standing ovation. For those inductees that were not present, Jim Poliquin announced that he had been invited to the Cleveland Extravaganza in August to make those presentations.

With the formal presentations completed, hearty congratulations were extended to the new Hall of Fame members that were present-and the cry of, "Game On" rang out for the competitors. It was now time for the 501 Doubles for both Men and Women. In an impressive display of form, the team of Milan Savic and Tim Hopkins defeated Rickie "Truck" Davis and Steve Oberti to claim the Men's title, while Chantel Webb and Jennifer Ehlert out shot Lori Poliquin and Debra "Nutty" Peterson in the women's event.

The sexes were paired off again for the Mixed Doubles Cricket event. This time, it was the couple of Wade and Lydia Wilcox pipped the pair of Milan Savic and Chantel Webb to claim the $240 top prize.

The final event of the evening was the "Almost Heaven Luck." Having spent the majority of the day in a non-throwing position, propelling containers of amber liquid inward with impeccable agility; your humble reporter was in no condition to attempt to propel pointy objects away from his body with any respectable degree of accuracy. Nevertheless, undeterred by this basic obstacle, I once again made my contribution. It wasn't that I got a bad draw in the "luck," I had Frank Straiton from Annapolis, Maryland. Much to my surprise, Frank is only 15. Frank had been throwing all day and given the hour of the "morning"-he shot damn well-it was just his partner (e.g. yours truly) that fell on his Southeasterly: the potential was there for a lethal combination. However, I can only claim so many tax deductions for my charitable contributions and once again-I'm back at the keyboard rather than the dartboard. Regardless, the mind being sharp as ever-I anxiously watched and waited for the final pairing. The survivors played on and there was no disappointment there-the duo of Doug Watkins and Woody Reese prevailed over Tom Rowe and Gary Stone.

With the days events completed-it was time to arrange transportation to my weekend abode; engage fingers to keyboard for some notes; and dream of triple 20's and double bulls.

As with all Sunday events, they start way to early-nevertheless, I dragged myself into the upright position, knocked back a pot of java and headed to the Movie Café for the final events of the tournament.

Claudene Cross and Lori Poliquin stood ready with another bucket of coffee upon my arrival, bless their hearts! The overbearing sounds of practice darts thudding into the boards as players warmed up lessened as the caffeine kicked in. The names were soon called out and the serious competition began. Men's and Ladies' Singles Cricket was the event-Game On! As the respective brackets dwindled to the final pairs, we were left with only two men and two women. For the Men, it was Jerry Umberger and Bruce Cotrell; representing the ladies, Christina Campbell and Moncel Petitto. After the last bull was thrown, Jerry Umberger and Moncel Petitto reigned supreme and claimed their titles as NDHoF Tournament Cricket Singles Champions.

The Mixed Triples event was next on the schedule. The trio of Tom Stewart/Deb Stewart/Ed Rebstock displayed their prowess at the o'che with their hard fought victory over Jim Schmuck/Wilma Schmuck/Tom Hill.

The final event of the weekend was the "States Men's/Ladies." Laying claim to bragging rights for 2001 was Tom Bell of Morgantown, WV with a brilliant finish over local Bill Gouer of Clarksburg, WV. The ladies final brought together the lively duo of Terri Stromer of Clarksburg, WV and Debra Peterson of Martinsburg, WV. The 2001 Ladies champion is Debra "Nutty" Peterson.

Under normal circumstances, I would be rushing off about now to start an extended commute-back to my little corner of Michigan. For those who don't know-hold up your right hand-palm facing you. You see that spot where your one life line crosses your sex drive line; or is that your wealth line…damn, I keep forgetting-anyway-draw a straight line down from your ring finger and stop opposite your thumb. "Honey, I'm home!" Thus ends Michigan Geography 101. Only Florida can claim a similar human/geographic capability-however, that only works with males and always starts out, "first you pull down your zipper…" But, we won't go there…

This weekend, however, had been envisioned with some forethought-and the blessing of my boss-so it was a leisurely 'white knuckle' hop back to Pittsburgh to catch the flight for my return home on Monday. Kind of like I did last year at the "late" North American Open, only a different boss. I knew my new little red truck would be patiently waiting for me at the airport.

This relaxing pace provided me the opportunity to delve further into the National Darts Hall of Fame with founder Jim Poliquin and his hard working staff. This is what I found out.

The 2001 tournament was dedicated to the memory of Pennsylvanian Jason Lucas, an up-and-coming darter who was living in Delaware. Jason died in a tragic car accident in 1999. Many are all too familiar with Jason's famous, "Boom, Baby" cry upon hitting the winning dart. It was Jerry Umberger that convinced Jason to switch from soft-tip to steel tip darts. And the rest they say "is history." Jason had an impressive resume at the o'che-finishing in the ADO Top 10 in points and money standings in 1996 and 1997. He was also a member of the 1997 Men's World Cup Team that finished 11th in a field of 26 teams. Jason won the 1997 Buckeye Open Singles Cricket title, and with his mentor, Jerry Umberger, swept the Doubles title also. He was also the 1998 Grant-A-Wish & MD State 501 Singles Champion. He claimed numerous other titles in singles and doubles competition. The world of darts truly lost a rising star with his passing.

The 2001 edition of this tournament is the 15th year of its' existence, making it one of the oldest continuous tournaments in the United States.

The web site (http://members.boo.net/~tdi/cds/cds.htm) provides a brief, but informative background on the Hall of Fame and their goals and aspirations. However, it doesn't tell you much about the man-Jim Poliquin. Who could imagine by looking at this great grandfather and Navy veteran-was once a member of back-to-back NIT Basketball finalist teams in the early 1950's?

As my nemesis, Dartoid, pointed out in his article (02/2001 BEN), Jim Poliquin is a man on a mission-he just needs some help. Jim informed me that they have submitted the required paperwork to incorporate the National Darts Hall of Fame, obtain 501(c)3 Non-profit status, and trademark the NDHoF name. His next mission-get a permanent home-a building to house American dart history in. The NDHoF committee has already been contacted regarding several potential sites-it's just a matter of time and money now. In an effort to raise funds for the building, the National Darts Hall of Fame Luck of the Draw Invitational Tournament is scheduled for September 29, 2001 in Jane Lew, WV. The invitational is limited to the first 48 men and 24 women-so get your entries in early! If you miss the entry-go ahead-attend anyway to support the NDHoF.

My missions now complete here-it's time to board that crop duster and head home. To the NDHoF staff and tournament committee: Mike McLaurin, Robyn Bishop, Doug Manuel, Amy Gartrell, Jim Wall, Jim Poliquin, Lori Poliquin, Sandi Lawless, Lori Bauernschub, Jim Popham, Michelle Poliquin, Madeline Manuel, and Larry Smith-a hearty "Job Well Done!" I'll see you next year!

Reporting from the Movie Café, Clarksburg, West Virginia-Bruce Gerber.

© Copyright 2001. Bruce W Gerber. All Rights Reserved.

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