Adams writes his name into darts history

Winner Lerenco Adams.

Lerenco Adams, 32, from Beacon Valley, collected an early Christmas bonus and wrote his name into the darts history books by winning the inaugural Falcon Royal Falcon Darts Invitational at the weekend. Like the mythical half eagle, half lion creature emblazoned on his shirt and from which he derives his nickname, Adams aka “The Griffin”, swooped down to win the R50 000 prize money on offer.

But he was made to sweat as he came up against a formidable opponent in Vernon Bouwers, 37, from Woodlands, in a tense, winner-takes-all final, played at the Signature Lux Hotel, on Cape Town’s Waterfront in front of a small group of spectators that included their wives.

Adams dedicated his victory to his mother, Annette, an accomplished player in her own right, who died earlier this year and his baby daughter Aria, who celebrated her second birthday on Sunday.

Introduced to the game at an early age, darts had always been a big deal in the Adams household, with the newly-crowned champion’s mother having represented Mitchell’s Plain at national level and winning major titles on numerous occasions.

What made Sunday’s big win even more special was that it was his first major victory, Adams said.

The road to the finals was a tricky one and he had his work cut out every step of the way, beating Grant Sampson 4-3 in the quarter-finals and Charles Losper 5-4 in the semis. As expected, his semi-final clash against Losper, whom he considers a role model, was a dress-rehearsal for the main event. Trailing 3-0, Adams hit back with four in a row to put him in the lead.

“The win against Charlie ’The Sensation’ in the semi-final was a huge victory for me,” said Adams, a member of U-Nix Dart Club.

“We had a decider leg which was played in high intensity. I managed to get that crucial leg with a 64 close. He is a player I admired when I was coming up through the youth ranks and I still do. In South Africa he’s considered a legend in this game. His famous words are always ’enjoy the game, the results will follow’.”

Losper was due to travel to England in mid-December to compete at the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) world championship after winning last month’s Last Man Standing competition in Goodwood.

“He has won it all in South Africa,” said Adams, “He’s an inspiration to me in this sport because he’s always passive, relaxed and easy. For me to have won Charles is a feeling I can’t explain.”

Although happy with the win, the work was not done as Bouwers was waiting in the wings, having beaten Dameon Steffens 5-1 in the other semi-final. Like Adams, Bouwers also has the pedigree to rise to any occasion and was also introduced to the game by his mother, Carlene, who lives in Tafelsig, and an uncle who has passed on.

Bouwers, a member of the Mitchell’s Plain Recreational Association (MPRA)-affiliated Young Eagles Dart Club, also recently started playing at Athlone-based SPRA Union’s Worcestershire Dart Club as a C-division player.

Sunday’s final was a match made in darts heaven as the two opponents were evenly matched in terms of skill. In the end, it became a battle of nerves with Bouwers getting off to a shaky start, trailing 4-1 at some point during the match.

Bouwers staged a strong comeback and the final outcome remained a lottery until the end after his sterling comeback made for a 5-all stalemate and nail-biting finish. Adams held his nerve to edge Bouwers in the end as he tightened the screws with steady scoring to lift the whooping R50K prize with a 6-5 margin.

After landing the winning dart, Adams slumped to the ground as he was overwhelmed by his accomplishment. It sparked a great round of applause as Andy Daniel, the MC, announced that Adams had written his name into the annals of national darts history.

First to congratulate him was Bouwers himself. “The final was unexpected, even if I say so myself. I knew what I needed to do and who I was up against but Lerenco threw everything at me. I had to dig deep to just keep up when normally it’s the other way around. However I’m pleased with the result considering I’m coming out of a bad slump and for Lerenco to win after being in such a tough draw to the finals. It was well-deserved,” he said.

“It’s hard work climbing the ladder but dedication, self-belief and confidence is key,” he said.

“Like one of my friends once said, be humble in victory and gracious in defeat – it is something I live by. So practice hard and with a purpose but learn to lose before you learn to win.

“For now, I’m taking a break due to us nearing the festive season and want to spend time with the family but as soon as the new year starts it’s back to the drawing board. I still have lots to learn, not just about the game but about myself as a player and a person.”

Graham Stark, the president of Darts South Africa, said the event will awaken national sports’ “sleeping giant” after the pandemic led to many months of inactivity. Before the coronavirus outbreak, several SA players were campaigning in international events and World Cup tournaments over the last decade.

“Today was a watershed moment for darts in this country,” said Stark. “The hope, possibility and excitement in the darts community have been significantly boosted,” he said, thanking their name brand sponsor “for breathing new life into our sport.”

The event was held under the auspices of Darts South Africa, an affiliate of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).

Daniel said the television broadcast and live-streaming of the event attracted a global audience, and he was pleased that the standard of darts was right up there with the rest of the world.

“The future of this event is bright and in future, there will be a greater prize pot plus more regional qualifiers across the nation,” said Daniel. “This will enhance the attraction of the competition’s draw and give hope to darts players nationwide that the sport is finally being taken seriously in the country.”

The event started out with 90 players participating in the qualifying rounds in Grassy Park.

• Additional reporting by Herman Gibbs