Cape Town – What started out as keeping scores for his father and uncles as a toddler has ignited a passion which now sees a Cape Town man grading to the UK to play in the 2022/23 Cazoo World Darts Championship.
Grant Sampson, from Brackenfell, has been playing darts for more than 25 years.
Speaking to IOL, Sampson said he was introduced to darts by his father.
“He would sit me on a bed while he and my uncles played and I would be told to call the scores. That’s how I learnt how to count.
“I’ve been playing darts for more than 25 years. However, it was merely just a hobby. Nothing over the top or serious per se.
“Never ever imagined that I would see myself play on the professional stage in time to come,” he said.
Sampson plunged into the game when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
He said while the pandemic brought about an extremely depressing time for many across the world, it allowed him to push himself with the limited access he had.
“Entertainment options were few. With the kids hovering over the TV set there was not much for us to do around the house.
“I then put my board up to keep myself entertained. However, the more I played the more I felt I could do more with my talent. I somehow came across a post on online darts and decided to enrol in a couple of competitions.
“At one point I got invited to an Australian event where I played against the likes of James Bailey. This boosted my confidence in what I thought to be just a hobby,” Sampson told IOL.
With the renewed confidence he gained in competing online, Sampson said he decided to take a chance and enter the Last Man Standing tournament in October.
He won all his games on the first day and this took him straight to the quarter-finals, where he would compete against Devon “The African Warrior” Petersen.
“I was confident, but the nerves of taking on a man of his calibre was something else.
“I beat Devon. I knew that I was only two steps away from representing not only South Africa but Africa as a whole. That thought alone still gives me goosebumps.
“I went on to win the tournament and man oh man what a feeling! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get to this point,” Sampson explained.
Sampson and his manager, Charles Losper, will be travelling to the UK to compete in the world championship.
The event is being hosted by the Professional Darts Corporation and will take place from December 15 until January 3, 2023, at the Alexandra Palace in London.
The championship has a total of £2.5 million in prize money with a minimum of £7 500 going to Sampson.
The championship will be broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK and 100 other countries across the world.
Sampson has also managed to rake in a sponsorship from Royal Falcon Whisky.
He caught the eye of his sponsors when he competed in the Royal Falcon Whisky Invitational last year.
Royal Falcon ambassador Andy Daniel said they were extremely happy to support Sampson and Losper to represent South Africa and the African continent.
“We are extremely happy to support both Grant (Sampson) and Charlie (Losper) getting over to the UK to represent South Africa and the continent. Royal Falcon Whisky identified the sport darts as a strategic sponsorship property and we are thrilled that our investment in the sport locally has in some small way created a platform for talent such as Sampson’s to develop and now compete on the world stage,” Daniel said.
Losper said this was an opportunity of a lifetime.
“Grant has been working hard and is in great form.
“We would like to thank our sponsors, Royal Falcon Whisky and all the local fans for the support and well wishes which has been overwhelming,” Losper said.
While competing in the world championships is a dream which will now come true, Sampson is not stopping there.
In January, he will be competing in the Q-School tournament, which usually takes place in Milton Keynes, UK, and Germany.
This could open doors for an even bigger platform for him.
“I am hoping to qualify there (UK and Germany) as it would grant me a two-year tour card and allow me to compete in the PDC circuit for another two years as a professional,” Sampson added.