Birthwright wants more support for darts
Number-one ranked Jamaica Darts Association (JDA) male player Mark Birthwright is aiming for global tournaments in order to turn pro.
"It feels good in one sense to be top-ranked, but in another sense, I don't think, personally, I am where I would like to be. I know that I can hold my own with most of the top players in the Caribbean, but on the global stage, it would take a lot of doing from me," Birthwright told The Gleaner recently.
"Professional darts players do make handsome money. Two years ago, I was told that pros not at the top level can take home up to £120,000 for a year. And that is good. I intend to be at that level, but we need more exposure, and that would mean corporate sponsorship to assist the players' development in the sport," said Birthwright, who has been involved in the sport since the 1980s.
"I think it is possible, now that I understand a lot more about the game than I did when I started. If I was more exposed then, I would already be a pro. And, I think a lot of Jamaicans could have been in the pro rank. If darts was our livelihood, we would have been up there," he pointed out.
"Jamaicans are world beaters in anything we do, and I think that in darts, we can also excel if there is proper investment," he stressed.
"There used to be a tournament in Barbados, where the winner of that was guaranteed a wild-card entry into the World Championship. Now, we have to go all the way to Brazil," Birthwright also said.
Jamaica is scheduled to compete in the Caribbean tournament in July in Trinidad and Tobago, and Birthwright is not confident that the country is ready to take the title in the biannual tournament.
"I don't know if we are ready to win the Caribbean Championship in July, but I am expecting us to do well. I have played on championship-winning teams before, but in those days, the women were strong, with four top ladies. Now, there are only two - Jennifer Reid (No. 1-ranked) and Mernel Brown (No. 2-ranked) - and they are not as dominant as they used to be. We are not so sure anymore," he reasoned.
Birthwright expects a top-three finish at the championships.
"We have young players such as Damion Cheese (No. 2-ranked male) and Marco Walters, and if they can do well, we will be among the medals. I am looking for those guys to come through by next year and lead the team to the Caribbean title in 2020," Birthwright added.
"We have me and Tenge Brown (No. 3-ranked male), so if we can hold up in 2020, with the talent around, we can win that one. The JDA is planning to host the Caribbean Championship in 2020, so that would be a boost for us on home turf," he said.