The Silencer talks about Q School, Canadian darts and more…
Jeff Smith Interview – Q School Graduate & Cosmo’s Latest Signing
We caught up with Jeff Smith shortly after his sponsorship deal with Cosmo Darts was announced. How does the 2012 Q School success story from Canada plan his assault on the predominantly UK based PDC Circuit?
Jeff Smith – The DartsMad interview
DM: You gained your tour card at Barnsley back in January with a day to spare, did you expect that level of success? How did you spend your ‘day off’ on the Sunday?
JS: I had every intention of coming home with a tour card. To get to play in 2 finals in 3 days was just the icing on the cake. Sunday I supported fellow North Americans Ken MacNeil and Shaun Narain. Also my roommate, and new found friend in Darren Webster.
DM: Having spent time with you that day, I detected a hint of emotion. I am correct? What did getting the tour card mean to you?
JS: In Canada we don’t get to play darts consistently at the PDC level. So to put so much money and effort into qualifying, it really seemed like I defied the odds. It’s hard not to show a little emotion on the biggest step of your career. And to have the majority of North America cheering you on was amazing.
DM: With the majority of events played here in the UK what are the logistical challenges you face? Presumably you have to carefully select the events you enter?
JS: Absolutely, the cost of travel to the UK never drops below $2000 Canadian for me to play an event. Seat sales, roommates, and choosing events that will benefit a chance at order of merit money must all be weighed up before I can make the journey.
DM: Brian Jackson from Major League Darts (MLD) played a big role in getting you over to the UK for Q School, would you like to explain about MLD and your involvement?
JS: Brian was simply fantastic. I was on the edge of not competing at Q-School, he pledged $500 USD if I would go. I did the math and decided I’ve come to far not to try. As soon as I confirmed I was going, MLD went beyond their original pledge, and purchased a very expensive flight….I owe him much of my success.
I brought MLD to Canada, it’s now just starting to spread across the country and every event we have had has been a success, we follow PDC rules, format etc. Actually the events are a hybrid of the PDC.. they use a round robin to advance to the main bracket then best of 11 knock out.
DM: It is an interesting initiative that we have been following since the early days. So, apart from MLD have you got any other sponsors to ease the financial burden?
JS: I have just signed a financial contract for 2 years with Cosmo Darts (Japan). They make all sorts of dart products including barrels. I have a signature series (flights & darts) coming in the near future with them.
I have also been receiving assistance from playdarts.ca with various programs set up (including my signature wristbands). They are very focused on bettering darts within Canada, and bringing awareness to our players.
DM: Congratulations on the sponsorship from Cosmo, they are heavily involved in soft tip darts. Do you play the soft tip game as well? It is obviously popular in the Far East and the USA and financially rewarding, Adrian Lewis has just competed in Hong Kong I believe.
JS: Yes I watched that, although I have never tried playing soft tip darts. Cosmo would like if I started to play and they are making my darts in a soft tip version as well.
It’s very popular in America, but I think there only a few electronic boards in all of Canada. Dartslive have brought one of their stages to Vegas this year. I would love to try it, but going to have to travel to do so.
DM: You currently use cosmos stems/flights, have you seen an improvement to your game since using this setup?
JS: I can’t say enough about them really. There are many subtle advantages to using the system. No robin hoods, better deflections… those two reasons alone have been known to lose matches.
DM: Travelling seems to be a real obstacle for you, taking into account the cost of air travel and accommodation etc, do you feel additional pressure to perform and leave an event in the black as it were? And does the travelling, jet lag etc affect your game?
JS: Prior to Cosmo helping out, I was under a lot of pressure. It is hard own your own. With the PDC it’s not like a tournament back home, (where I usually come home with a decent profit), you can play your best and still lose in the UK.
Actually I’ve kind of got the hang of how to absorb the travelling. I take the overnight flight and get to the UK in the morning. Because I am on the East Coast of Canada, there is only a 4 hour time change.
DM: Back to the PDC tour then, you secured your first win at the Players Championship in Reading against Nigel Heydon, and then went on to lose to Mark Walsh in the second round, and got an unlucky draw against an in form Dave Chisnall on the Sunday (Chisnall went on to beat Taylor in the final). Were those two games closer than the scoreline suggests, and overall was it a positive experience?
JS: The match with Mark was very even, until he popped out a couple of 140 finishes. I didn’t play spectacular, but I felt I was playing well enough to hold my own. The match with Dave was a different scenario, I played some of the best darts I’ve thrown in the UK. He was just on another level to anyone else on that day. But it was a great eye opener on where I need to be!
DM: In 2011 you took the notable scalp of Paul Nicholson at the Players Championship back home in Canada. Was that a turning point that made you think you had what it took to play in the pro ranks, or were you confident in your own game prior to that?
JS: I have been playing at the PDC level for some time here in Canada. I went to the Players Championships looking to see just where I stacked up against the pro tour. Playing Paul, Ian White, Peter Wright were all great experiences for me, being a first opportunity to face that kind of pressure. I think if you asked any of them, I applied a bit of pressure on them as well! I was more impressed on how great these guys are to offer a comment or suggestion.
DM: Do you speak to the likes of John Part and Gary Mawson? I’m sure they would have a lot to offer in terms of advice on travel/event selection etc?
JS: I know both players well. John has always been willing to offer help and info, Gary and I don’t really cross paths as often. But both are great ambassadors for all North Americans.
DM: With the benefit of hindsight, £600 in the UK OoM would have got you to Bolton, do you see it as a missed opportunity? Or accept the timing wasn’t right? Basically a couple of runs in a qualifying weekend would have been enough……
JS: A missed opportunity, I am very new to the PDC and what events and opportunities will qualify for other events. It takes time, and a lot of questions. If I knew then what I knew now.. I most certainly would have focused on the UK Open Qualifiers. Live and Learn, but I’ll be there next year!
DM: These things happen, but we appreciate your candor and honesty. The tournament takes place next week, who do you think will be crowned the 2012 Speedy UK Open Champion?
JS: I’m going with Dave Chisnall, he is really coming into his own right now.
DM: Yes he does seem to be peaking at the right time…Many of our readers will be unfamiliar with Jeff Smith, so here is an opportunity to get some information out there about past achievements etc, presumably you have had success on the North American/Canadian circuit? And there was a close encounter with Andy Boulton in the 2008 Winmau Masters?
JS: I have played darts for many years here in Canada. The NDFC was instrumental in my development, as I started in their Youth Program. I eventually graduated into the adult ranks, and have been able to represent my Country on a few occasions. In 2008, after a 5 year layoff I captured what I had been playing for all those prior years…the National Title. It was that same year I drew Andy at the World Masters, it was a fantastic match.
DM: A successful career to date then, how did your interest in darts begin?
JS: My grandfather had me playing far before I could remember, most of my family members also played. So I had lots of opportunity to learn the game.
DM: What about your family, have your children followed in your footsteps and taken up playing darts? We are starting to see the sons of ex pros coming through into the professional game over here.
JS: My 19 year old son is not so interested in darts but my 8 year old daughter is.
DM: A future star of the ladies game maybe! You currently balance darts with work/family life, how much practice time does this facilitate?
JS: I work a regular 40 hour work week Monday to Friday. I use the weekends for tournaments, when available, and practice in the evenings when the kids go to bed.
DM: You work in the automotive industry, what is the day job?
JS: I’m what is known as a body man here.. I have won several car shows with my work. I always try to do my best in whatever I do, so it carries over to work as well as darts.
DM: Can you see a time when darts could become your full time occupation?
JS: I would love for this question to become a reality. But it’s going to take a bit of luck and some fantastic darts to become possible. Limited play equals less chances to catch a break.
DM: You also play on DartProLeague.com, a site we sponsor and are involved in. How do you see the future of this type of play? In theory you could be toeing the oche with other pro players in the UK or anywhere in the world, picking up valuable competitive practise from the comfort of your own home.
JS: Since I joined DPL, the member list speaks for itself. It really is a great practice tool, and a bonus for those that may not have the time or ability to play a regular league. I have recruited many players including a fellow Pro in Andrew Gilding. Worth getting involved, it’s much better than one would think.
DM: Absolutely, talking of practice we have a section on our website for darts practice routines, do you have anything specific you could share with us?
JS: I base all my practice routines around finishing. My most popular game is 121. You must take it out in 9 darts or less to advance to 122, repeat finish in 9 darts or less, advance to 123 etc, but if you miss within the 9 darts you start back at 121.
DM: How do you see the North American game currently, is it in a healthy position? Are you up to speed with the PDC backed dedicated North American pro tour? I believe the first one to be in Chicago in July…
JS: The game in North America is improving, the downside is our size. The PDC have tried several different ways to bring North Americans into the World Championships, but they also have found it difficult to decide on what to do here. The North American PDC Tour should be interesting to follow, but again it’s a massive expense. I’m not sure if the best will all be in attendance, but I would really like to see it become a success. I wasn’t willing to base where I wanted to be on an event that wasn’t released, so I chose the Q-School route.
DM: Are there any other players emerging from the circles you play in that we should be watching out for?
JS: There are a couple that certainly give the Q-School a run, Kenny MacNeil, Norm Tremblay, Steve Voutour, Troy Hanlon to name a few.
DM: We will certainly watch out for those names in the future then, do you play team/league darts at all? If so how do your team mates feel about having a pro in their team, and have you won the league with them.
JS: I’ve been playing in a local Mens City League for years, the downside it is all pairs. It is a nice break though to have a night out with the boys.
Our team have been the Provincial Champions for 13 of 14 years.. Most of these guys are very good friends, and all very happy to see me cross over to the professional game. New Brunswick (our province) is the size of all of England.
DM: What is the Jeff Smith masterplan for 2012? And when are you back in the UK?
JS: Just to get over and play as much as my funding will allow, need to bump up that order of merit money. Top priority is to look ahead for a World Cup spot, it would be amazing to partner up with John.
My next event in the UK will be the Players Championship in Birmingham.
DM: You have entered a team in our 2012 Fantasy League Darts, surely winning that should be your first priority!
JS: I challenge anyone to try and beat me! Hope I’m better at this than fantasy hockey leagues..
DM: Hockey…now there is a real Canadian sport. Have you played hockey or indeed any other sports to a high standard?
JS: Not so much anymore, I mainly focus on darts.. But I played Hockey at a high level, volleyball,baseball etc
DM: Great stuff Jeff, thanks for your time. Would you like to mention anything before taking the DartsMad Double 5!
JS: Yes, I have a new website coming soon which will be found at www.thesilencer170.com!
DM: Oh yes I nearly forgot about the nickname, you are known as The Silencer, is there a gun connection there? You not a part-time Hitman or anything like that?!
JS: Only on the board! Ken MacNeil gave that name to me when I won the Canadian Nationals back in 2008, so it’s kind of stuck ever since.
DM: Is there any player on the PDC circuit that you want to get stuck into and ‘silence’?
JS: No player in particular, I’m just going to enjoy my time on the tour.. Try hard, and let my darts do the talking.
DartsMad double 5
Darts used? 23 Gram Cosmo Signature
Favourite Double or Out shot? D18
Favourite venue? Barnsley to this point
Favourite player past or present? John Lowe
Who would your ideal partner be in a pro/celebrity tournament? Jim Carey
Favourite band/singer? Tragically Hip
Favourite food? Lobster
Favourite drink? Moosehead Light Beer
Jeremy Clarkson, perceptive or prat? Who? Lol I’m Canadian remember.
He is a British motoring journalist who dislikes darts. Never heard of him so can’t be important!
Favourite comedian? Eddie Murphy
DM: Thanks Jeff, see you soon.
JS: You Bet!