EXCLUSIVE: Darts star Stowe Buntz - 'To be the best I have to beat the best'

EXCLUSIVE: Darts star Stowe Buntz - 'To be the best I have to beat the best'
Stowe Buntz impressed with a strong performance in his first appearance in Europe
Stowe Buntz impressed with a strong performance in his first appearance in Europe
Nobody knew him before the Grand Slam of Darts, but after the big event he was the talk of the town among fans. Stowe Buntz (44) impressed not only with his colourful outfit and his positive mood but also with extremely good performances.

Two top players lost out to him in the group stage and even Andrew Gilding was unable to stop "The Neon Nightmare".

Flashscore spoke to the PDC newcomer about his rapid rise, darts in the USA, his unconventional practice and much more.

In Germany most people look up their darts results on Flashscore and out of nowhere came this Stowe Buntz, who won against Peter Wright and Steven Bunting and everyone wondered: who the hell is this guy?

You've been playing darts since 2003 but suddenly you turn up in Europe and you're on the same level as the world's best, how did that happen?

"Nothing has really changed, but the opportunity just came up.

"I've been playing at a high level in the United States for years, just not every weekend like Leonard Gates or Alex Spellman. Thanks to the CDC's cooperation with the PDC, which gives CDC players the opportunity to qualify for PDC events, I got the chance. Last year I started playing in the CDC and ended up in the top 10.

"This year I played even better and ended up in second place, which earned me qualification for the World Championship. However, I qualified for the Grand Slam by winning the Continental Cup. So it's nothing new that I can play at this level. But the reorganisation means that players are no longer selected at random, everything is now based on a strict points system."

Match Centre: Stowe Buntz vs. Peter Wright

Darts in the USA, role models and his new nickname

How big is the difference in general between darts tournaments in the USA and Europe?

"First and foremost, of course, the many fans.

"At the PDC events you look into the faces of several thousand people, whereas we have maybe 200 people in the audience at the few TV events in the USA. In terms of standards, the average in Europe is of course higher than ours in the USA. But I'll be honest, I know my potential and I know what I've been doing for years now and I can keep up.

"Sometimes I play 105, 108 or 111 averages, unfortunately not consistently because I can't get on the board every day due to my 6-day working week. When it suits me, I usually train with my children, who are very important to me. I'm also often there to watch their events: performances, school team games and more. So I'm very limited in terms of time because I have other priorities.

"On average, I practice for maybe an hour a day, but that's also because I sometimes have three hours for it and then don't pick up a dart for several days."

Many in Europe got into the sport through Phil Taylor and the younger ones look up to Michael van Gerwen for example, do you have an inspirational figure as well?

"I was a huge fan of Ronnie Baxter and after he stopped playing, Peter Wright came on the tour and he, like me, is a fan of those bright colours and I really liked that.

"I've always been a fan of colour. I painted my first car purple and my first motorbike purple. Everyone says now, because I wear equally garish outfits, that I'm trying to be like him, but I've been like that all my life. Still, I would say that Peter Wright and Rob Cross are players I look up to."

You are nicknamed "Buntzy" in the darts profiles, but 'The Neon Nightmare' also came up for the Grand Slam. Which do you like more?

"(Laughing) I still have no idea where the nickname "Buntzy" came from, I've never called myself that. 'The Neon Nightmare' was written by Dan Dawson and was a tribute to my performance at the Grand Slam. And it seems like the fans, the public and other players like the name, maybe I'll stick with it, let's see."

Buntz is full of respect for his idol, Peter Wright.

Strengths, weaknesses and family support

After your Grand Slam match against Andrew Gilding, you said that it wasn't unusual for you to play such long matches and that you prepare for these in practice at home. In the group stage you managed to beat Stephen Bunting, later when you played best-of-31 he won. What was the problem there, what will you adapt for the upcoming World Championship?

"He had a 62 per cent checkout rate and I had about 30 per cent. In many legs I was on the board before and in the end he checked the high finish. I miss the double, he gets the 93, I miss the double, he gets the 87 and so it went on.

"After having really good double odds during the week, I really missed a lot that evening. It was the other way round for him, I think he hit the double six five times in the match."

After the match against Steven Bunting the Grand Slam of Darts was over.

What characterises you as a player? What are your strengths that you want to shine with at the World Championship?

"I think I have a few strengths, especially my good scoring, I rarely have trebleless visits and I'm usually better than my opponent.

"My biggest problem, on the other hand, is consistency: one day I play a leg in 12 darts, the next I suddenly need 21 darts. It's a rollercoaster ride and that's also down to my lack of practice. That's why when I practice I try to work on my muscle memory, my technique and my movements and pay less attention to the board."

You talked about your children and at the Grand Slam of Darts you said they give you that certain strength. Are they as talented in darts?

"Yes indeed, just last night they both played, my son even won first place and got $100 for it. A few weeks ago my daughter won, they love the sport, they practice a lot. Last night I played four sets with my son before the tournament started so that he could start the tournament well prepared.

"Afterwards, I threw myself on the couch and just relaxed. My children are definitely a great motivation, they push me and motivate me to invest all this time in improving my game."

So you have training partners at a good level within your own four walls?

"Yes definitely, we play with a darts app at the highest level and they can both keep up, both have a good level of play and play 60-70 averages."

You said that when your children are a bit older you could imagine immersing yourself completely in the PDC game, would you then turn your back on the USA for several months or is that out of the question?

"At the moment I would definitely not be interested in leaving my home country for a longer period of time.

"Once the kids are out of school and starting their own lives, I'd probably be willing to come to Europe, get a tour card and give it a chance. But I'm 44 years old, I've had so long to live my dreams and now I want to give my children the chance to live their dreams."

World Championship goals, favourites and the possible Smith duel

Now it's off to the World Championships for you - what is your goal there, what have you set yourself?

"To be honest, anything after qualifying is a bonus.

"The main goal is not to embarrass myself (he laughs). If I put in a good performance but still lose, that's fine with me.

"It's important to me that I can go out with my head held high and say afterwards that I did my best and if my opponent was better and wins, it was deserved."

You're up against Kevin Doets in the first round, and the reward for a win would be a match against Michael Smith, is that in the back of your mind?

"I don't really care about the draw, they're all good players and to be the best I have to beat the best, I approach every match with that mindset."

From a neutral point of view, who would be your favourite to win the world title?

"The whole world thinks it will be Luke Humphries and it's impossible to say he's not the top favourite after his performances over the last few months. Winning the Players Championship Finals only confirms this favourite role even more, but to be honest - I would like to see Rob Cross as the winner."

Robert Marijanovic, one of our biggest experts in Germany, said in an interview with us that this World Championship will offer many surprises - how do you feel about that?

"I definitely agree, we will see a completely different World Championship than in previous years. There are so many players who are currently in good form: Luke Humphries, Josh Rock or even Rob Cross. And if just one of them gets off to a good start, can maintain this momentum and go through the tournament, it will be difficult to stop him.

"Dave Chisnall with his current performance is also a serious threat, Steven Bunting is not to be underestimated either, so Robert is right. There will be surprises and there will be a different world champion than in recent years."

Thank you very much for the interview, we are looking forward to your performance at the World Championship!

"Thank you, I'm very excited, I'm heading over to London on December 11th and it's going to be an exciting few days!"

Interview conducted by Henri Briese


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