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Players making a point

Hundreds compete in 9th Annual Moose International Steel-tip Dart Tournament

Hundreds compete in 9th Annual Moose International Steel-tip Dart Tournament

April 26, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Seven feet, 9 and three-eighths inches separates a player from the dart board.

Less than that separates some of the best dart players in the world from everyone else.

Friday night, nearly 500 men and women of all ages and from throughout the United States and Canada made the trip to Martinsburg's Moose Lodge No. 120 for the three-day, 9th Annual Moose International Steel-tip Dart Tournament.

They come hoping to take home prize money and maybe a boast that they beat the best.

Jim Poliquin, 75, of Martinsburg, once played professional baseball for the New York Giants' farm system and was one of the first NASCAR drivers in the 1950s until he gave up racing for his wife. Now, he shoots darts.

"Darts is a great game from the standpoint that we have no undefeated champions," Poliquin said.

He said he once beat the top-ranked player in the world, although he said it's not commonplace.

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"You play the game with your God-given ability that day," he said. "You have to know what you're going to do before you do it. It keeps you sharp for other things."

Poliquin, who runs the Darts Hall of Fame from his home, said someone who wants to start shooting darts should connect with an experienced player who will explain the game.

He offered a bit of advice.

"If you and I are playing, we're not playing each other," he said. "Mentally, I'm playing against the board. The board will whip you every time 'cause it don't move."

Chet and Linda Holloway, of Bethesda, Ohio, were sitting together at a small round table in the club before shooting began. Chet Holloway, 56, said he starting shooting darts 12 years ago; his wife took up the game four years later.

In addition to playing at clubs, the Holloways also have a dart board at their home.

Each named the other as the person who wins more often when they compete.

"Depends on who's throwing good that night. How tired I am from work," Chet Holloway said.

Tournament organizer Joe Birner said proceeds will benefit Moose projects, including Mooseheart, a school and home 40 miles west of Chicago. The school, situated on 1,200 acres, takes in children in need, with 235 children there now.

Also benefiting is Moosehaven, a Florida retirement home that currently houses 329 people, Birner said.

"We help those in need, basically," Birner said.

Nearly everyone at the Moose Lodge seemed to know Tom Stewart, who was constantly shaking someone's hand or hugging another person, joking with them all. Others said Stewart is ranked as one of the best players in the world, but he was modest.

"Rank is a title, a word," he said. "I've done very well. I've been fortunate."

What makes darts great, Stewart said, is the friendly atmosphere and the fact that the world's greatest players are accessible.

"That says a lot about it. It's totally for the people," he said, motioning toward the hundreds of people mingling in the club.

Even people competing grinned and chatted with each other between throws.

"This is real darts," he said. "This is real people."

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