Laura Turner on lockdown, her BDO tour successes and being behind the camera

Byfleet-based Laura Turner has truly emerged onto the darts scene as one of the top women’s players, and has also gained notoriety for her exploits behind the camera. With the darts tour on hiatus, I spoke to Laura, and she began by telling me a little bit about her early involvement in the game. “Both my parents played when I was growing up. My mum used to take me along to a few of her matches – I never really played, just had an occasional throw and chalked for the other players.”

“When I was 13, Andy Scott, the then youth manager of Hampshire phoned to ask if I could play away to Glamorgan the next day as they were short a player. I had really never played before, but I’m always up for a challenge! Unsurprisingly, I lost. I played the last two games of the season, practiced all summer and three matches into the next season, I was ranked 1 in the youth averages and was picked to play for England Youth – I was hooked!”

Turner’s game has got better and better over the last few years, and one of the real turning points in the thrower’s time on the circuit was her British Classic victory in 2018. Laura explained the significance of this tournament for her, “In 2017, Aaron and I decided to try and do the full circuit (or as much as possible), as up to that point, we had played a few tournaments and county darts, but never embarked on taking on the tour as it is so full on. You have to be totally committed to climb the rankings and try and make any real headway. It has been difficult juggling work and family life, but we have a great support network who have gone above and beyond to help us!”

“Before the British Open/Classic weekend, I thought I would need to make the semis both days to be in with a chance of qualifying for the 2019 World Championships, which was the ultimate aim, but never did I think I would win it!” And not only did this mark the most prestigious tour title of Laura’s career to date, it also saw her beat the four-times world champion Lisa Ashton herself to win the crown. “Beating Lisa was a massive boost for me and instilled the belief that when I am on my game, I can mix it with the top lady players. Going on to win the Isle of Man Open and most recently the Italian Grand Masters are all proud moments for me.”

Laura pictured alongside Des Jacklin after winning the 2018 British Classic title

As eluded to at the start, not only has Laura demonstrated her skill on the oche, but also behind it, in the commentary booth and on the punditry desk. It is an experience Turner enjoys, “I absolutely love it! I was dubious at first; commentating on the ladies final at the World Championships after having such a bad tournament and having never done it before was nerve wracking to say the least, but one I thoroughly enjoyed. The amount of work that goes on behind the scenes, and the advice I have received from those in the profession has been amazing. I know there is plenty to work on, but the first obstacle was keeping my nerves in check! I hope I can continue to work both as a player and within the media for years to come!”

Darts fans will have seen and heard her insight on Sky Sports and other broadcasters over the last couple of years, as well as at the 2020 PDC World Championship, which saw Fallon Sherrock become the first woman to win a game at the PDC Worlds, an event at which she reached the third round. “Naturally, I was willing both Fallon and Mikuru to do well, as I was the year before when Lisa and Ana played at the Ally Pally. The talent within ladies’ darts is there, but when the opportunities to play at such major events are so limited, it’s how the players deal with the pressure, the event and the expectation. Mikuru was painstakingly close, forcing a deciding leg against James Richardson. When Fallon crossed that winning line, I felt a wave of different emotions; pride, shock, elation! I was over the moon for her – we have travelled to various countries together over the last few years, and I have been on the sharp end of Fallon’s darts on more than one occasion, but the nature in which she won, keeping all nerves in check was outstanding, and the subsequent recognition she has had is great, for both Fallon herself, and the sport,” Laura said of both Sherrock’s exploits and the unique experience of being on the mic for the game.

“It was hard to keep the emotions all in check, but I tried my level best! The impact has already been far reaching, not just for women’s darts but for darts in general, being reported on by media outlets globally, social media went into melt down and Fallon now has an army of fans who will hopefully be inspired to take up the sport. More recently, Lisa Ashton has become the first woman to secure a tour card, so the future is shaping up well for women’s darts. The recent hints by the PDC that there could be something in place for women in the future would be a great way to ensure more talent can be discovered and allow the women’s side of the game to further develop.”

A few weeks after ‘Fallon fever’ had subsided, Turner was playing in a World Championship of her own, the BDO Worlds, at the new venue of the Indigo. Here, she got her first win in a World Championship in her first round defeat of Deta Hedman, and it was a much craved victory. “It was a massive achievement for me. I don’t know why but I seem to struggle at the big events. Deta will agree, neither of us played our best, but sometimes it’s just about crossing that line and for me, that was a huge step in the right direction.”

Laura with Corrine Hammond and Fallon Sherrock, who wowed Ally Pally crowds with her run to the third round of the 2020 PDC World Championship

“I really liked the venue – it was different from the Lakeside, the Indigo offered great facilities and what an amazing place to get to play in! The atmosphere when we were there didn’t come across so much over the TV, but it was loud – especially during my first match! Changes aren’t always well received, and the Lakeside is iconic with the World Championships, but I enjoyed the experience.”

Some may remember the BDO World Championship, however, mostly for the off-the-oche events, mainly the severely reduced prize fund and worries over its payment, as well as its specifics. The ‘amateur’ side of the sport is also undergoing some degree of development, with the WDF planning new events to compete with the BDO’s calendar. Turner expressed her feelings on both issues, “I don’t know what the future holds – the WDF have come forward with plans to hold major events based on their rankings and the BDO are obviously in difficulties highlighted by the way they had to cut the prize money so drastically. It was obviously disappointing for all the players – we travel all year and the World Championships are the ultimate aim. Despite that, I still wanted to play; I have sponsors who had supported me through the year and the trophy was still up for grabs; that became the main focus for me.”

And finally, there are obviously the unusual circumstances of lockdown and global pandemic that we find ourselves in, and that has plunged darts, like everything, into intermission. Laura explained the effect of this on her game, “It has been difficult – I’m lucky that I have a great practice partner in Aaron [Turner, her husband and fellow player]! He’s set up a few friendly competitions and dart nights within our local leagues which have been fun. I’m notoriously bad at practicing, so I’ve had to motivate myself to get on the board, as I was competing on such a regular basis prior to the shutdown. Both my girls also love playing, so they have had a few maths lessons on the dartboard since we’ve started home schooling!”

“I’ve also been playing online against friends and family – my Mum recently got selected to play for her county, so she’s been a regular practice partner for me too! It’s definitely a different experience playing online, but darts is uniquely placed to allow us to play competitively, albeit differently, for which I am grateful. I can’t see us being back playing anytime soon – and how it will look depending on social distancing measures remains to be seen. The important thing is that we safeguard players, fans, supporters and organisers – I’m sure things will return to some kind of normal in time, but when that will be, who knows!”

Image Credits: BDO and CBC/Laura Turner

Thanks to Laura Turner


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