Linda Ithurralde – The Northern Star
Firstly Linda thanks for giving us your time today & answering these questions. We are privileged to have someone with such a rich darting history as yourself on our team, especially knowing the influences that you have had on other people and achievements throughout your long span career.
Q: Under what circumstances what did you pick up darts for the first time and what was it that made you fall in love with the game?
L: I was given a set of brass darts by my dad, he had played darts at his favourite club for some years but I finally persuaded him to put up a dartboard at home and that is when it all began, way back in 1973. Throwing darts felt very natural and I loved the challenges my dad would set me before he went out the door to work. My mam, bless her, would take down every score if I was playing 501 or every dart thrown if I was going round the board depending on the task my dad had set me. Me and my dad had many a good game until the day came where finally, he couldn’t beat me. This was the point he took up snooker instead!
Q: We are going through some tough times at the moment not being able to go out to play darts but on the flip side, it’s great to have the time at home to practice and play against friends online/family. Is there any good practice routines that you would recommend?
L: Some good practice routines that I myself found useful back in the day were singles round the board, doubles round the board & finally Trebles round the board. Seems pretty simple but you couldn’t move forward unless you had thrown three darts in each of the segments. i.e. 3 in big 1, 3 in small 1 and so on.
Q: What is your favourite checkout?
L: I don’t really have a favourite, you have to take the view that a checkout is a checkout whatever you set yourself up for. Saying that however, my favourite double is tops and I would always try and leave that on combination shots.
Q: Have you ever hit a 9 dart finish & if not, what is your best leg of straight in/double out 501?
L: Even though I have been close a few times (best is 10 darts), no unfortunately I have never thrown a perfect leg. I hit a recorded average of 34.16 on one occasion and this was published in Darts World magazine!
Q: In your opinion, what is the best venue that you have played darts in and for what reason?
L: As matter of fact I have two favourite venues. The first has to be Rainbow Suite in Kensington & Second it simply has to be The Spa at Bridlington, where I finally got my hands on the World Masters Trophy and then the British Open Title.
Q: What moment in your career would you define as your big breakthrough; I.e. What point in time did you realise that you could actually play darts to a high standard?
L: I wouldn’t really say there was any real big breakthrough moment, for me it just seemed to progress naturally. You started to play superleague level, average permitting you were then selected to represent county and I first had this opportunity back in 1980 for my beloved Durham. You would get play offs for the likes of Gold cup, World Masters etc to go through and play against the top players from other regions. Probably one of my greatest achievements was in an exhibition match against John Lowe. I checked out and he still wanted 189! Funnily enough, I was presented with a little trophy (with man of the match on) and had to go to Camerons Brewery to play in the John Lowe Roadshow where I was the only female participant.
Q: What happened when you played in the John Lowe roadshow?
L: Well, my dad was with me at the time and I wasn’t a big drinker but as the event was at a brewery, well, I don’t think I need to say any more than that. I was drawn to play last and I was beaten 2 – 0. We all went home happy we had a great day I think that’s more important than winning some times.
Q: We wont go as far as revealing your age here but with so many years playing the darts circuit you must have some interesting stories to tell & probably some which we wouldn’t be able to write in this interview! Would you mind sharing one with us?
L: I was paired up with Sheila Barnett and we were beaten in the semi final of the British Open ladies. At the time the event was sponsored by Berger Paints a popular brand in DIY stores for household paints. After our loss we left the venue; I just remember that the tube was absolutely jam packed so we found some space and sat on our tins of paint that we were given for reaching the semi final.
Q: If you had the opportunity to create your dream darts team of 6 people (including yourself), male/female, past/present, who would you choose?
L: This is a toughie! Through the years I have met some fantastic people, made friends with many of them and in the midst some very awesome dart players male and female. The five I would have to choose would be Leighton Rees (what a gent), Ann-Marie Davies, Eric Bristow, Maureen Flowers & the great Gwen Sutton.
Q: Who has always been your bogey player (the one player who you can’t seem to beat)?
L: There is only one name that qualifies to be placed here and that is the great Lisa Ashton. When we play I just never get close enough to finish the game off, what a formidable Player.
Q: With Lisa getting a tour card at Q school this year do you think that she has what it takes to win a pro tour event, given the performances that you have seen from her in floor events and of course taking into consideration her run in the world championships?
L: Of course, it’s all about belief. If she didn’t believe that she could, then she wouldn’t be there it’s as simple as that.
Q: What has been the greatest observation that you have noted personally in respect to how the game is evolving & how the attitudes of players are changing? We know that people are now visiting sports psychologists, taking a more athletic approach with overall fitness and diet or listening to music (headphones) in solitary while practising before a big match for example.
L: The game has evolved most definitely but the attraction of big bucks/big opportunities and the PDC has impacted this significantly. I don’t think players attitudes have changed much just there is now so much on offer if you put the time and effort into your game.
Q: With events all over the UK such as ranking events/tournaments/exhibitions etc. it must be tough to find time to practice, work full time and do this travelling in evenings and weekends. Have you ever felt that this has impacted your game?
L: To be honest no, because you had to plan what competitions your finances and holidays (from work) would allow you to do.
Q: Is there anything that you had always wanted to achieve in your darting career that you may not have managed to do so; At a guess, the holy grail would be winning the Ladies World Darts Championships?
L: Obviously it was my Dream to Play in the World Championships which I accomplished in 2010. Of course it would have been nice to win the title, that is the holy grail for everyone!
Q: Attitudes towards youth darts has massively changed in the last few years with the formation of various academies throughout the world/UK (including Swansea Youth Darts Academy who we are supporting here at Quantum Darts) and the formation of the Junior Darts Corporation allowing young players to compete against each other all over the world. We’ve already seen the benefits of players starting early & progressing through from youth to senior levels (perhaps Michael Van Gerwen is the best example of this). What are your personal views on the youth darts system? We know you put a lot of your own time to helping out/practicing with Lauren Stokoe, who is also a member of team quantum.
L: Youth Darts is the way forward. It is refreshing and very encouraging to see so many young people taking up the game. I believe the youth of today are in good hands, as there are so many good people involved in the system now to drive it forward.
Q: Do you think having a youth academy like what the JDC run at the moment would have been of benefit to you when you were younger, being able to start playing competitively from an earlier age?
L: Oh without a shadow of a doubt, I would have loved to have a similar opportunity. Being able to play from the age of twelve would have been a dream come true. I think when your younger, the way you perceive things is much different, so even simple things such as this mean much more.
Q: If you weren’t playing darts what other sports/hobbies would be taking up your time?
L: I had to have a little giggle because at one point there was a tough decision to make of football (goalkeeper) or darts? Darts won.
Q: We haven’t made you a tailored set of Quantum Darts but recently released our resonance barrels which are identical dimension and weight wise as the darts that you have been using for years, which you have been trying out. You had them three weeks before the official release date though so how are they going for you at the moment?
L: Initially when I saw the pictures I didn’t think they would suit me because they look like they have a really aggressive grip. Once you actually hold them you find that they hug your fingers until you are ready to release the dart and don’t actually stick in your fingers. They are nicely balanced and I really love them.
Q: Perhaps your most notable accolade aside from being the British open champion in 2012 and reaching the quarter finals of the world championships in 2010, was that win over Trina Gulliver in the 2009 World Masters final. Competing within a tough field of names such as Francis Hoenselaar, Lisa Ashton, Tricia wright in the mix is an achievement in itself. As an unseeded player this must have been a daunting prospect, but clearly highlights the form you were in at the time. Lets paint the picture in your final leg at the World Masters:
The score is at three a piece and you lose the throw for the bull, creating an instant addition of pressure knowing you have to break to win the leg. Advantage Trina. Neither player scoring heavily, both showing signs of nerves, some key darts being lost into “big 1’s” and “big 5’s” until your one key moment. With 139 left, you hit big 19, big 20 and finally, a treble 20 to which you can almost see the relief on your face as the last dart goes in, instantly pressurising Trina to take out the 100 finish. Trina misses again succumbing to match nerves and that fateful “big 5” second dart, now is your chance. Your first dart wayward and second floats elegantly into the left hand side of the double top. You are the 7th English Lady, to become a World Master. What thoughts were going through your head & in words how would you describe how you felt when that double top went in?
L: Wow that weekend was certainly a weekend to remember. One that will be in my memories forever! I had wanted to win that prestigious tournament since 1982 and 2009, 27 years later It was in my hands; What a surreal feeling. To be honest I thought Trina would take out the 100 so when I saw her 2nd dart enter the 5 segment all I was thinking to myself was you’re gonna get a shot at the double. When I stepped up to the oche I wasn’t really thinking of anything, maybe that’s why my first dart was wayward and when my second hit the double all I felt was a mixture of relief and happiness.
(Linda Ithurralde Masters Champion 2009 – Image Rights Mastercaller.com)
Q: Finally, there are lots of aspiring dart players out there who would love to be able to compete at the highest level. What would be the best bit of advice based on your experiences, knowledge & skills that you would give to those players?
L: The first thing I would say is you have to enjoy the game. Experience and knowledge work alongside each other with the skill that comes from dedication and practice. You must always believe in yourself!
Q: Thanks once again for your time Linda we’re proud to have you on the team with us, a true treasure in the world of ladies darts. Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
L: Really happy to be on your team at Quantum Darts and thank you to all my family. friends and followers for believing in me.