In three decades in the sport, Steve Beaton has reached the pinnacles of success in the BDO and carved out an excellent career in the PDC. He has arguably earned the mantle for one of the longest careers ever at the very top of world darts, still now a prominent force in the PDC top 64. It was a pleasure to speak with Steve who began by explaining the origins of his involvement in the sport. “I played a little bit at home, on the garden shed, but my mum didn’t allow a dartboard in the house because I’d have been throwing darts all over the place! It probably really started in the pubs when I’d meet up with friends before going out on the town, when it would either be darts or pool or something like that. I was never one to just sit around doing nothing so I just started playing darts with them, and then I was invited to join the local team and it all started from there really.”
“I began to enjoy that and then played for more teams, and back in those days you could play every night of the week really as we were never struggling for teams and there were always leagues going, so I was playing 6 or 7 times a week. I then got picked for the county and went on to play for England, and it all went from there really.”
Beaton’s career boomed at a time when the darts circuit was fractured between the rump of the BDO and the new and burgeoning PDC. Although the BDO was greatly damaged by the events of the early 1990s, it was a time when many would agree the BDO remained strong, and the field at some of their World Championships in that period demonstrates that. Steve won the 1993 World Masters before picking up the infamous BDO World title at the 1996 championships at the Lakeside Country Club. His route to the title was unenviable – after getting the better of Co Stompe in round one, he then went on to defeat 2 former and 2 future BDO World champions – John Part, Martin Adams, Andy Fordham, and Richie Burnett in succession – the last 3 being the top three seeds in the event.
Steve reflected on his successes, “It was great to win it, and when the split happened in 1993 I should have won it that year really but lost in the semi-finals to Alan Warriner. I played very well that week and then was seeded number 1 in 1994 and 1995. I seemed to get off to a good start but I’d go 2 nil up in the first round and then seemed to lose 3-2. In 1996, I got through the first round and then there was no stopping me. I had always watched the event on the telly so to actually play in it and win it was fantastic.”
A few years later, having dabbled in PDC events when BDO players still had the right to do so, he made the decision to switch codes and has since gone on to be a top performer in the PDC. It is hard to get onto the PDC circuit nowadays but even harder to stay on and a lot of credit must go to Beaton for his longevity. Over Christmas, he broke the record he jointly held with Phil Taylor for the most consecutive World Championships played at 30 in a row. Steve tried to explain the root of his long time in the game, “I do keep myself fit, I cycle most days and swim so I try to keep my fitness up for the long days we play, like last week playing 5 days on the trot. So that has definitely helped. I also just try to keep the game simple, not change things too much and if things go wrong then I just go back to basics and start over again.”
It can be easy for players to lose their drive after having achieved a lot in the game but Steve is still hungry for success, and that drives him on. “I still want to win all the time and that’s why I enter events, but I have to be honest that I am not as consistent as I used to be so the actual chances of me winning the tournament are slimmer than most. But I can still put a good game together and am quite capable of beating anyone. However, I do think because I love playing the game and have always played it, that if I did stop on the PDC tour I would still want to keep being involved in the darts, and that as long as I can keep playing darts I will carry on.”
It was at the World Championship in December 2019/January 2020 where Steve rolled back the years to achieve his joint-best finish at a PDC World Championship, reaching the fourth round and defeating James Wade en route. He reflected on the event, “I had some quite tough games and I was quite annoyed losing to Darius in the fourth round but I just didn’t play as well as I had played up to then. I wasn’t quite sure what went wrong but you never really are even after all these years, it is just one of those things, sometimes the luck isn’t within you. But Covid-19 has killed me really over this year because of all the money I have been defending so that was probably the best I have played in a while.”
Beaton has followed the development of the game over the last 25 to 30 years and has seen the professional side of the game change greatly. He pondered over the current state of darts, “I think the standard is definitely a lot higher now and the averages show that. When I first started playing, in the earlier rounds you could get away with playing half decent, but nowadays you have to be on form from the beginning because all of those 128 Pro Tour players can play really well and average over 100. I just wish that when I was 20, 25 that I had had that opportunity then really because it could have made a big difference to me.”
The growth of the PDC Pro Tour and relentless of the darts circuit also poses its difficulties, especially when playing new and hungry talent. “It is definitely tough to keep up with the longer events – when I was 17 or 18, you could go out on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night and still get up for work on the Monday but I couldn’t do anything like that now so it is tough. But if the tournaments are spread out you do have longer time to recover so it doesn’t affect things too much, like with most of the TV tournaments, but the long days on the Pro Tour are challenging and they do get a bit much for some of the older players.”
Unfortunately, this year, ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ did not qualify for the World Matchplay, but the full crowds at the event are positive news for all fans and players alike and it serves to set up an exciting culmination to 2021. Beaton reflected on some of the challenges of the last year, “Since Covid, we have been quite limited to what we have been able to do, and a lot of our Order of Merit money got wiped off because we were unable to defend it when tournaments have been cancelled. With the European Tour, I played 11 of the 13 events in 2019 but couldn’t defend that money so that has had an effect on my rankings and since then I have been fighting to get myself back up. I have qualified for two European Tour events before Christmas though and hopefully I will make the Players Championship Finals and the Worlds and then I can start afresh next year.”
In his numerous years on the circuit, Steve has built up a strong fanbase and enjoys support from all over the globe, including from former ‘Darts Fans’ guest Yusuke from Japanese Guy TV. Steve is grateful for the support he receives from darts lovers and is looking forward to being able to meet them again soon, “I used to use exhibitions as match practice and I played 30 or 40 a year so although I do practice at home, Covid has really affected that. Being able to have a laugh and a game with people has been my life for the last 30 years so to suddenly not be able to mix and have to practice on your own all the time has made a huge difference, so it will be good to be able to start doing those sorts of events again. It’s amazing how many people follow the darts across the world and they are a great encouragement to me.”
“I have 3 or 4 exhibitions booked in but it was hard to book anything due to how quickly things were changing. I am hoping over the next few weeks I can book some more in but I also have Pro Tours and European Tour events coming too so I am getting a bit limited on weekends, but fingers crossed things will be more back to normal next year and I can see how things go from there.”
Steve is an excellent ambassador for darts and it will be fantastic to see him up on the TV stage again soon, and fingers crossed he can have a successful end to 2021 and great 2022.
Thanks to Steve Beaton and Winmau
Image Credits: Sky Sports and BDO