The doors were opened, I walked inside the venue and I saw a massive crowd, in front of a big stage. The WDF might be for amateur players, but this looked very professional!
A lot of places to eat and drink, a stand where the Paradarts players seemed to be generating income, and even two DJs for the music! It cannot be denied that it might be kinder to both players and supporters if the original, and cooler, February schedule returns for 2023.
The first finals were the pairs finals. We started with the Welsh pair Rhian O’Sullivan and Chris Savvery, of course walking on with ‘Delilah’, against Dutch duo Aileen de Graaf and Priscilla Steenbergen. Both pairs were partnering up for the first time in the Dutch Open!
With the crowd on their side, the Dutch Duo managed to win the title, as De Graaf and Steenbergen were the first Dutch winners of the day.
The men’s pairs final was between Andy Baetens and Thibault Tricole, another two players who played together for the first time, against Northern Irish Neil Duff and Barry Copeland. Tricole contained a measure of revenge for his lost Lakeside final to Duff, as the Belgian/French combination was successful, to the delight of the French media team!
In the men’s event, Mark Barilli played against Ivo Leeksma in the semi-finals, and once again the crowd supported the Dutchman, no booing or any bad behaviour though! Barilli missed a lot of doubles, but Leeksma didn’t punish him enough as it was the Scot who made the final, to the delight of his watching friend Davie Kirwan, and Belgian ‘superfan’ Jackie Goethals!
Aileen de Graaf asked to people in the crowd if they wanted to buy lottery tickets, with a chance to win great prizes and the money will go to the Paradarts organisation! I thought this was a nice gesture from De Graaf to help their sister group, and decided to buy some tickets. Unfortunately, I did not win anything, but Paradarts player Wilco Wassink still gave me a small prize which was very kind!
Back to the darts, as Jelle Klaasen took on, once again, Tricole! Leading 1-0 in sets, Tricole got 1 match dart to make the final but missed! Klaasen punished The French Touch and levelled at 1-1 it was ‘The Cobra’ who won 2-1, as for the first time this weekend Tricole lost a match!
Now it was time for a tribute to a very great man and player in Shaun Greatbatch, a former Dutch Open winner who passed away last week only at the age of 52. Mastercaller Anthony Dundas spoke some great words, the nine-darter Greatbatch threw in 2002 at the Dutch Open (the first one on live tv ever) was shown as just like 20 years ago the crowd went wild and then it was time for 1-minute big applause to remember this magnificent player.
Back to the darts, the very talented Slovakian Dominik Kocik (only 12 years old) edged out Dutch Koen Schreuders in a last-leg decider in the final of the aspirants (younger boys) tournament. Schreuders family was still very proud of the young boy though, as the crowd was singing his name.
The girl’s final was very tense, but after a lot of missed match darts from both, Roos van der Velde beat Germany’s Marlene Klupsch!
The boy’s final was between 2 of the talents who were practicing next to me in the VIP room: Sydnee de Vries and Dylan van Lierop! Especially Van Lierop is a huge talent, and he won the final 4-0 with an average over 75: not bad for a 15-year-old!
The women’s final was between, once again, O’Sullivan and World Champion Beau Greaves. Both women, weird enough, were debutants at the Dutch Open! It was a great final though, and Greaves won it 5-1 with an average over 85, as I congratulated her on her debut victory.
For the men final between Klaasen and Barilli, Davie Kirwan once again supported his fellow Scotsman, while Klaasen was supported by the biggest part of the crowd, including tour card holder Mike de Decker, Dutch talent Owen Roelofs, and his family including his wife and children.
Barilli didn’t really turn up, as Klaasen won 3-0 in sets, a second ranking BDO/WDF title, after Lakeside in 2006. That’s more than 16 years ago now! Klaasen has now also automatically qualified for the 2023 WDF Lakeside World Championship, but the biggest prize was celebrating a big tournament victory, together with his 2 children!
As his wife Nanke told me, Jelle’s goal before the tournament was to make at least the semi-finals, so that he could walk on with the favorite song of his kids, ‘Gangnam style’.
The support Klaasen got was very much deserved, after losing his tour card it must have been tough to go back to the WDF circuit, after being a Professional player for so long, and having even played in the Premier League.
Words and Images: Wim Blokpeol
Read Wim’s regular Going Dutch feature in Darts World Magazine
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