Next week John Lowe will be the oldest competitor in the inaugural World Seniors Darts World Championship. Darts World recently spoke to John and pay tribute to his remarkable career and legacy here:
Globally recognised as one of the founding fathers of the modern game, John Lowe MBE was pivotal in creating what has become a darting juggernaut. The PDC.
As a true pioneer of the sport, Lowe was one of the first to plant his flag firmly on planet darts. As a role model to millions of tungsten enthusiasts, he was instrumental in the prodigious rise to prominence of many.
The Derbyshire man’s talent and dedication towards darts are irrefutable. Ever the consummate professional, his resume is simply a majestic one – an endless list of titles.
Boasting a magnificent record of 28 consecutive World Championship appearances, Lowe was also the first player to win one in three separate decades.
Those victories, in 1979, 83 & 93 are milestones within a highly decorated career spanning fifty years, it would be easier to list the honours that John Lowe hasn’t won.
Despite the birth of the BDO in 1973, darts didn’t really take off with any magnitude or significance until the 1980s. Lowe, and the rivalries he formed with Jocky Wilson and Eric Bristow, played a large part in that boom.
For an entire decade, Lowe and the Crafty Cockney duelled on the oche, including three World Championship final meetings.
Speaking affectionately about Eric, Lowe said: “He was a superb player and a great rival. Offstage, we had many words but on it, we always respected one another ability.
“The score between us in finals was equal. Together, we represented England over 100 times and our record of wins still stands today. Eric was certainly much more than an opponent – he was a dear friend.”
Not content with playing an important role in Darts’ first golden age, John was to play a vital one in the next.
The 1993 ‘split in darts’ was a huge turning point for the game. Lowe was at the centre of the storm which had torn the sport in two.
He said: “When we broke away from the BDO I felt sad. In my mind I knew it was avoidable. But they just wouldn’t listen to us and left us with no option.
“As the defending world champion, Embassy offered me a vast sum of money to go back to the BDO, as well as perform on roadshows for them. I refused.
“With the future of those 16 players who pulled away in mind, I turned their offer down. Looking back, I’m not sure I made the right decision.
“Sadly the BDO are now a part of the past. I guess that’s how progress works. “First, there was National Darts Association of Great Britain, then the British Darts Organisation – and now the PDC. Will there be another sizeable change? Who knows.”
Lowe’s role in this period can not be understated. As a three-time and reigning World Champion, John could not be accused of trying prolong a fading career or feather his own nest. His image as a solid, decent man and true professional contrasted with the flashier talents and, perhaps, less serious outlooks of some in the game and lent the new venture real gravitas.
The PDC have distinctly established themselves as the main organisation within world darts. And it’s hard to see that changing any time soon. So what do they do that the BDO didn’t?
Lowe explains: “The main difference in modern darts from yesteryear is the PDC have a plan. And one that is laid out which will keep the sport safe and financially secure for many years.
“It’s not all about darts and its players, it involves all the aspects of making the sport work. From securing venues to finding sponsors – they are experts at that. Furthermore, they understand the need to continue going forward and keep sponsors, TV and the players happy.
The years 1976-2006 frame John’s professional/competitive career – although the pages of Darts World contain appearances both before and after- from Rees, Evans and Lord to Phil Taylor, Beaton and Adams via Eric, Jockey, Bob and many more. Old Stoneface presented the same countenance to all and bested most.
What kept the man himself at the forefront of the game over four decades, consistently winning titles and battling for the highest honours?
Lowe said: “Longevity is all down to consistency. And also, a style of throw that will not result in problems such as backache and dartitis.
“The style I adopted has been regarded by many to be the most natural. Of course, you also need the ability to be a winner and control over nerves etc…
Lowe has always been seen as the gentleman of the sport. Conducting himself both on and off the oche with decorum and dignity. And he wouldn’t have changed a thing about his long and successful career.
“Regrets are not something I like to think of. Professional sport will always have setbacks. I have always accepted my wins and losses with a handshake. After all, we have come a long way in making darts a recognised sport.
“When I look at on-stage antics in darts compared to football, rugby and other sports – there really isn’t a lot of difference.
“I never minded a player trying to stop me playing well by using tactics, I’d simply employ my own which was to stay calm, focussed and beat my opponent.”
Lowe proudly has another big slice of darting history to his name – famously remembered for being the first player to hit a 9-dart finish live on TV. And in doing so, pocketed quite a bit of prize money.
He said: When I achieved the perfect televised game of 501 in 9 darts in 1984, I picked up what in those days was a massive amount of £102.000. It was indeed a life changer – but not in the way you’d think.
“I didn’t go out and buy a supercar or a big mansion. Instead, I listened to my accountant – and also a lady called Margaret Thatcher.
“I took their advice and placed it all into a pension fund. That money is my security to this very day.
But for all the titles, trophies and years entertaining millions of darts fans, there is one significant moment for John Lowe.
Emotionally, Lowe said: “Looking back on my career, I would sum it up with these words.
“For all the titles I won over fifty years, the ultimate tribute and recognition was given to me on the 2nd of May 2019. The date I rode through the gates of Buckingham Palace to receive my MBE from HRH Prince William.
“I smiled and shed a tear that day. Both in memory of my mother and father, who would have been so proud and for darts players and organisers worldwide. Those who made it possible for a coal miner’s son to become champion of the world.
Fittingly Lowe will return to the stage in February 2022, for the World Seniors Darts inaugural event, with one difference:
“I now carry the name John Lowe MBE with enormous pride. Pride for my family and for darts fans worldwide.
Words: Paul Woodage Lead Image: J Lowe
Original article published in Darts World Magazine (Issue 577):
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