Porirua's Craig Caldwell put in a powerful performance to take out Grand Prix 3 of the 2017-2018 DPNZ Grand Prix Tour at the Timaru South Cosmopolitan Club when he overcame perennial finalist Warren Parry 7 legs to 3 in the Final. Both players displayed exceptional form in a match that, but for a poor sixth leg, would have produced ton-plus averages. As it was, Caldwell finished with a 95.64 average whilst Invercargill's Parry turned out a 91.17.
The match heated up from the very first leg where Caldwell produced a 12-dart opening to break the Parry throw and then followed it up with a 16-dart hold of throw to take an early two leg advantage. "Waza" then held in 15 to open his account on the scoreboard before slamming home an impressive 13-dart break of throw to draw level at 2-all. When Parry failed to close out the fifth leg after six walks, Caldwell broke back to regain the lead.
The sixth leg saw the intensity affect both players as it took the Wellingtonian 26 darts to complete whilst, importantly, regaining the two-leg ascendency. As if to highlight the anomaly that was the leg before, the seventh leg was pure class as the Southland man needed only 13 darts to leave Caldwell stranded on 15 after 12. Caldwell responded with a 13-darter of his own in the 8th leg and completed the victory with a 15- and a 13-darter in the 9th and tenth legs respectively to take out the Grand Prix and collect 20 points towards the juicy end-of-season carrots.
It wasn't all plain sailing for Caldwell on his journey to the final, however. Following a comfortable qualification from Section Play, and subsequent knockout wins over Grant Crofts and three-time PDC World Championships qualifier Warren French, the recent NZDC Auckland Open Champion was pushed to the end in his Quarter Final by a resurgent Mick Lacey from Auckland, but managed to complete a narrow 5-4 victory to progress to the Semi Final. There he encountered a gripping match against fellow clubmate Rob Szabo. Like Lacey, Szabo was pipped at the post as Caldwell took the deciding leg under pressure for a tight 6-5 win.
Szabo, receiving a bye in the first knockout round due to his 2016-2017 DPNZ number one ranking, defeated Sam Singh before survivng a deciding leg thriller of his own against 2016 Auckland Darts Masters protagonist and current NZ test player Bernie Smith. The Cantabrian was left lamenting missed opportunities as Szabo progressed to the Semi Final on the back of a 5-4 nail-biter.
Parry's road to the Final was far less dramatic as, after also receiving a first knockout round bye, he returned solid performances to pass Mike Fitzgerald and John Hurring before accounting for fast-emerging talent and NZ test debutant, Haupai Puha. Puha, also a first round bye beneficiary, had eased past Neville Herbert and Graeme Lowe to book his Quarter Final battle with Parry.
Reflecting on his Final victory, and his form throughout the Grand Prix, Caldwell was happy to be continuing in a winning vein. "I got away with a couple against Mick and Rob," he conceded, "but I never gave up and I threw some good darts today". Wise advice to the new and experience darter alike. Caldwell also offered the reason for his return to the DPNZ Tour following such success recently following the BDO/NZDC pathways. "I have come back to play because I like what I am seeing here with the efforts being made up front and behind the scenes," he said. I think I can safely say for all fellow tour players that it is great to see you playing wherever it is, CC, even if it does mean the odd butt-kicking along the way!