Hamilton welder loses first-round match at World Darts Championship in London

LONDON — Matt Campbell, the lone Canadian in the field, lost his first-round match to England's Mark (The Gladiator) McGeeney on Saturday at the William Hill World Darts Championship in London.

Campbell went down two sets but raised his game to win the third before losing the fourth to exit 3-1.

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The 30-year-old Hamilton welder qualified as the top-ranking Canadian on the 2019 Championship Darts Corporation circuit, the Professional Darts Corporation's North American affiliate.

The 47-year-old McGeeney was runner-up at the 2018 BDO World Championship, a rival world championships.

The match was played before a festive crowd, some wearing fancy dress, at the 3,000-capacity Alexandra Palace. Organizers estimate 750,000 pints will be consumed by spectators over the 28 sessions.

The tournament, which runs through Jan. 1, features a 96-man field with a purse of 2.5 million pounds ($4.39 million). The last man standing collects 500,000 pounds ($877,800) with 200,000 pounds ($351,115) to the runner-up.

The Canadian took the first leg with 15 darts, only to see McGeeney win the second with a 12-dart performance and 126-checkout. The Englishman then won the next two legs to take the first set.

Campbell missed two shots at the double-20 needed to win the first leg of the second set, opening the door for McGeeney. He did the same again at double-16 in the next leg with McGeeney taking the leg on a 120-checkout.

The Canadian took the third leg and had a chance at the fourth, missing out on a double-20 after hitting two triple-20s in search of a 160 checkout. McGeeney cleaned up to take the second set.

Campbell opened the third set with a win, nailing a double-17 to check out. McGeeney survived some sloppy throws to take the second leg before Campbell rallied with a fine 147-checkout — one triple-20, one triple-17 and one-double 18 — to win the third leg.

Campbell followed up with a three-dart 180 score in the fourth leg, winning it with a double-20 to take the third set.

They split the first two legs of the fourth set. A late miss by McGeeney opened the door for Campbell in the third leg but he was unable to take advantage. Campbell won the fourth leg to stay in the match and had a chance to take the fifth leg with 80 required to check out but missed his mark.

McGeeney won the match with his next dart. He advances to meet 32nd seed (Rapid) Ricky Evans of England.

Campbell came into the tournament as a 2,500/1 longshot. Still the 7,500 pounds ($13,165) he collected as a first-round loser marked his biggest-ever darts payday.

Known as the Ginja Ninja due to his red hair, Campbell came out to "HandClap" by L.A. band Fitz and the Tantrums — trading high-hives with the crowd as he walked to the stage.

McGeeney came next, to the sounds of "Metalingus" by Alter Bridge.

Both men were making their debut at the William Hill World Championship.

Canadian John (Darth Maple) Part, now a member of Sky Sports broadcast team, won the world title in 2003 and 2008. He also won the BDO World Championship in 1994.

The tournament features competitors from 28 countries, from Australia to Wales.

Campbell started playing darts at age 18, starting with a league run out of a friend's garage. He then started played at the local Legion.

Campbell has spent the last two years on the North American circuit.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 14, 2019.

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