Jeff Smith won the William Hill North American Championship with a memorable 6-4 defeat of John Norman Jnr in the final at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
The big-stage action in Las Vegas began yesterday as New Brunswick’s Smith scooped the $10,000 title and a place in the William Hill World Darts Championship.
The 42-year-old had come through the qualifiers earlier in the week despite a flight cancellation meaning that he was only able to fly in to Las Vegas on Tuesday morning.
However, he showed his class to succeed Willard Bruguier as the North American Champion with some gutsy displays.
He firstly came from 2-0 down to defeat Ross Snook 6-5 in the quarter-finals, surviving one missed match dart from his fellow Canadian before prevailing in the deciding leg.
Smith then defeated American youngster Danny Lauby 6-3 in the semi-finals before overcoming Canada’s Norman Jnr in the final.
Newfoundland’s Norman Jnr had come from 3-1 down to level the tie, but a superb 121 checkout from Smith edged him back ahead before he punished seven missed doubles from his rival to open up a 5-3 lead.
Norman hit back on double five to keep his hopes alive, but Smith sealed glory with a fine 108 checkout to capture the biggest title of his career.
“It means a lot,” said Smith. “I had to work hard all the way through. My plane came in late on the first day so I was doubtful even to get to the stage.
“I started a bit slowly today and I had to improve a lot to win this title. I’ve played John so many times and he’s such a good player.
“With the PDC doing what they’re doing here, it’s really giving us a chance and the game’s progressing. It’s been spectacular.”
Smith, a former Lakeside Championship finalist, made his William Hill World Darts Championship debut last December, overcoming Luke Humphries before losing out to Gary Anderson.
“It was such a great experience for me to get to go last year, and I really appreciate the PDC giving me that opportunity to play,” added Smith.
“I’ve got a little bit of experience now playing on the big stage, and I really can’t wait to get back and do it again. I’m so happy – it’s going to be awesome.
“The atmosphere there is beyond anything that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve played the Grand Slam in Wolverhampton and that was amazing but to step on that Ally Pally stage is unreal – you can’t explain it until you get up there and do it.”
Norman Jnr had whitewashed David Cameron in his opening fixture, before edging past Dawson Murschell 6-5 in the semi-finals, after the youngster missed one dart at tops to claim victory in the decider.
“I tried my best, but hats off to Jeff Smith,” admitted Norman Jnr. “He’s a great player and an ambassador for north America – he’s fantastic.”
Murschell was a 6-3 quarter-final winner against DJ Sayre as he hit six doubles from seven attempts, while Lauby’s big-stage debut saw him overcome Joseph Huffman 6-4 before losing out to Smith.
The eight north American aces will return to the Mandalay Bay stage on Friday to compete in the William Hill US Darts Masters, where they face eight top PDC stars in the two-day World Series of Darts event.