(Originally published in the Telegraph on 7/20/08)
BUNKER HILL - Four dart sharks from three area counties shot their way into neon-soaked Sin City glory, returning home after 11 days with trophies and stories of their conquest.
The BMFers - consisting of Bob Cuvar from Bunker Hill, Wally Wolff from Dorchester, Jon Mitts from Raymond and Dawn Methany from Okawville - held their own in Las Vegas's Riviera Hotel and Casino. The team won a cash prize and some shiny commemorative hardware for placing fourth in the B-class team event in Team Dart International Championship XXIII.
Top-notch players from six countries - Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Canada and the United States - tested their skills at the National Dart Association's annual tournament from April 18 through 26, the association Web site said. The event attracted 14,000 entrants.
"It's the ultimate challenge for dart players to go to Team Dart and compete against the world," Cuvar said. "Just to cash in and make a few bucks, you're doing good."
The BMFers qualified to fly and stay at the Riviera free by rising to the top of the association's ranks in the Litchfield-Gillespie-Benld area. After qualifying, Jody Evans from Action Amusement Company in Ashley, Ill., booked travel arrangements for the foursome and accompanied them to Vegas.
The team had to play their best at all times in order to keep up with the fierce competition, Cuvar said.
"The pressure is intense," he said.
Wolff said facing off against the world's best players takes more than just sound technique.
"It takes a little bit of luck," he said. "You're playing against people from all over the world. There's a lot of intensity, you know."
A constant din of other players' and fans' chatter and footsteps added to the challenge of concentrating on shooting, Cuvar said. Team Dart kicked off each day at 8 a.m., players drinking like fish while tossing darts in partitioned rooms.
League rules required players to remain silent when the other team shot.
"When a man's on the line, you don't say anything to him," Cuvar said. "There were no bad sports that I saw there. They were there to play darts - win, lose or draw."
The team competition seeded more than 60 teams into each level. Cuvar's group survived round robin play against five other teams to enter the next round of single-elimination finals, where they played before an audience in bleacher seats.
"The pressure got a little more intense when everybody watched us," Cuvar said.
Cuvar and Wolff also won ninth place in a Level 4 doubles tournament, and Wolff placed sixth in his singles class.
Cuvar, a retired carpenter turned pepper grower and salesman, shared a $650 prize for placing in the team competition and an $80 prize for the doubles, but the chance to win money was not his primary incentive to compete.
"It's a great sport," Cuvar said. "I like the camaraderie; I like the thrill of competition."
Requirements to enter any contests included "being an NDA-sanctioned player and playing at least 96 league games in a specified period for the coin-op vending company who enters the player in the tournament," the association's Web site said. Competitions included men's, women's, mixed-sex and seniors' tournaments. Those qualified could enter singles, doubles, triples and four-player team games of 501, 701 and cricket.