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Thornton is Classic's first champ

By SPP Reporter

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Pictured receiving their prizes from Pietro Matra-Grano, of the Portland Arms Hotel, are Robert Thornton (right), who took the Caithness Classic champion title by beating Keith Stephen in the singles final, along with his pairs partner John Henderson, wit
Pictured receiving their prizes from Pietro Matra-Grano, of the Portland Arms Hotel, are Robert Thornton (right), who took the Caithness Classic champion title by beating Keith Stephen in the singles final, along with his pairs partner John Henderson, wit

TOP darters from all over the country converged on the Portland Arms Hotel in Lybster for the first ever Caithness Classic Darts Championship.

Friday evening (May 27) was a double in, double out warm-up for £500. G. Smith, of the Camps in Wick, had a good run to the quarters hitting a couple of seven-dart legs before losing by the odd leg in seven to C. Quinn, Elgin. Another exciting quarter-final saw top TV players Andy Boulton and Robert Thornton go head-to-head for a place in the semis, with Boulton edging a great battle by four legs to three. He followed this with a win over Fraser Cairney, Helmsdale, by four legs to two.

In the second semi it was Alec Mackay, Sasa’s Cellar Bar, Wick, who was once again flying the local flag. He thought he’d made it through but as he shook his opponent’s hand his double-five dart fell out to void the throw and allowed Craig Quinn to home in and steal a the place.

The final was a one-sided affair as international Boulton made no mistake in lifting the top prize by five legs to two.

The ladies’ singles was an all-south affair with M. Anderson, of Forres, defeating K. Brown, of Ayrshire, in the first semi and M. Ogg, of Elgin, defeating J. Elder, of Tain, in the second semi to set up a final against her pairs partner.

In the final it was Mandy Anderson who got the honours and lifted the top prize.

Saturday saw the £2000 first-prize singles played down to the last eight.

Early games saw an unlucky Ali Mackay, Queen’s Hotel, Wick, lose by the odd leg to F. Sutton, Comm, Lybster, who continued to upset the form books with a win over a nervous Mark Thain for his quarter-final slot.

Reece Byrne and John Young lost out to Richie Thain, of the Brown Trout, Watten, on his way to a Sunday game, with locals Ronnie Plowman and Willie Crowe losing out to an on-form Willie McAdie.

The crowd were entertained to some stunning darts and it was pre-match favourite Robert Thornton who set the pace with a blistering 36.3 average and four maximum 180s in his first-round encounter with international Gordy Morrison, of Culloden Inn. Thornton continued his emphatic form against Sandy Robertson, of the Comm, Lybster, and only dropped two legs against Angus Ross as he made his way to Sunday’s quarter-finals.

Kevin McGregor put Ray Sinclair, of the Norseman, Wick, and Nick Denoon, of Helmsdale, into the spectator stand before recording his best win to date and a quarter-final spot when he ousted a surprised Boulton by 5-3, much to the delight of the watching crowd. A. Mackay claimed his Sunday spot with wins over international Steve Falconer, George Smith, of Sasa’s CB, and Brian Woods, of Lossiemouth.

In the ladies’ matches it was the local girl who showed form in reaching Sunday’s final, with Sharon Swanson, of the Francis Street Club, accounting for Cath Ross, of Helmsdale, Theresa Stubbings, Wick, and Joyce Elder, of Tain, along the way. Her team-mate Sandra Nicolson saw off the challenge of Shona Henderson, Dorothy McGregor, of John O’Groats, and M. Anderson.

The first-round losers’ event saw a number of surprise competitors with no less than four internationals competing for the honour as well as a number of top-flight locals.

PDC new guy and international John (Hendo) Henderson made up for his first-round defeat in the main event by cruising to the final with wins over D. Ogg, G. Smith, S. Falconer and D. Connor ,whilst the other half of the draw saw local lad Richie Byrne show some of his real form with wins over Tam Mulraine, F. Cairney and D. Coghill to face Henderson in the first-round losers’ final.

Finals day saw the start of the pair’s tournament with local A. Mackay hitting five maximum scores in his first two matches. But it was not enough to stop him and partner R. Byrne losing out by 4-3 to A. Ewan and Keith J. Stephen, from Elgin, in the quarters.

A. Mackay and A. Johnstone, Queen’s, survived a close encounter with D. Miller and R. Taylor, Thrumster, then stepped up the pace to claim a semi-final spot with a 5-2 win over pre-match favourites Mulraine and Stewart Tait.

The top half of the draw saw no surprises as Thornton and Henderson swept aside all challengers in their march to the pairs final.

Mackay and Johnstone ran out of steam in their semi battle with Stephen and Ewan going down 5-0 .

The final proved to be as one-sided and Thornton and Henderson picked up the £1000 and the Caithness Classic Pairs title with an impressive 5-2 victory. Henderson recorded two 140 checkouts for the highest finish prize.

The ladies’ pairs saw local favourites Carol Sutherland and Nicolson narrowly lose out to Old Pulteney champions Anderson and Ogg while Nicola Byrne teamed up with Aberdeen’s V. Hughes to overcome the challenge of Thurso duo A. Wells and R. Young.

In a nervy final it was the experience if the east coast visitors that told and Anderson and Ogg added the Caithness Classic ladies’ pairs to their mounting array of titles.

The ladies’ singles final between Francis Street Club’s Swanson and Nicolson was a closely fought affair with both players having shots at the double, but it was Nicolson who managed to get over the winning line and claim the title of first-ever Caithness Classic ladies’ champion. Highest finish prize went to J. Elder on 114.

The first-round losers’ final saw Henderson use all his TV experience to bully Byrne out of the winner’s spot with a display of high scoring and clinical finishing for a swift 3-0 victory.

In the resumption of the main singles event local hero Mackay challenged the might of full-time pro Thornton in the semi and he had the crowd jumping with a flurry of 180s and a 160 checkout. But it was not enough as Thornton was there to show his class and this he did with a crowd enthralling six legs to two victory.

The second semi saw Lybster’s F. Sutton fly the flag but after some spirited play he was overcome by a margin of six legs to two by K.J. Stephen.

The much awaited final for the biggest cash prize in the county’s darts history was a one-sided affair.

Thornton had his sights set on the £2000 cash and took the title of first-ever Caithness Classic champion by a resounding six legs to two against Stephen.

The highest finish prize went to ?Boulton with 170.

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