Standing on his tip toes, nine-year-old darts champ Jayme Murphy can barely reach the bull’s eye of the dartboard hanging at the official five feet, eight inches off his family’s living room floor.
But give him three darts and room to wind up and there’s a good chance the 2013 Darts Ontario winner will hit the mark.
“He’s cleaning up,” says Jayme’s father Kevin, a long-time darts player who lives in the Beach and plays with his wife Dawn at the local Royal Canadian Legion. “He’s beaten quite a few good players.”
Kevin can include his own name on that list, as can Jayme’s older brother Jack.
After teaming up with 12-year-old Azize Mompassi, who throws for Swansea’s Golden Target Dragons, Jayme bested his older brother in a dramatic semi-final before taking this year’s Tykes Doubles title at the Darts Ontario Youth Championship.
Jayme and Azize started the round-robin at some of the hundreds of dartboards set up on plywood backboards in the banquet hall of a St. Catherines hotel. Since cheering and yelling out scores can distract players, often the only sound in the room was the steady ‘thud, thud, thud’ of darts hitting targets.
Even before he and Azize took the main stage for the final match, Jayme won extra attention as the only player small enough that he had to ask the announcer to reach up and pull out his darts for him.
“A lot of people stayed to watch him play,” Kevin said, noting that Jayme has been throwing darts at the Legion’s Sunday youth meets since age five. “They’ve watched him grow up playing and there he is playing on the stage.”
Dawn remembers the first set of real competitive-level darts that Jayme got his hands on – a gift from a local Team Ontario player who saw how glued Jayme was to a darts match on TV.
“He stood there maybe two, three hours watching them play – the professionals,” she said. The dart set he got had heavier-weight shafts and a full set of new flights and rings.
“He played with those darts and won,” she said.
As for technique, Jayme says he throws darts “just like baseball,” winding right up to his ear for extra power.
Most players don’t throw that way, he explains. Most players throw like his partner Azize, who aims his darts just below his right eye so he can draw a straight line to the dartboard seven feet away.
But at his height, Jayme needs a little extra muscle to arc his shots up to the board. Jayme says he aims most of his shots up at the high-scoring 20 wedge, but unlike some players he doesn’t really favour the top or bottom of the board.
“Well, I’m everywhere,” Jayme says, adding that he prefers doubles to singles play, as partners can cover for each other.
“If we have an odd number, then I’ll leave him an even number, and then he’ll finish it.”
Along with his aim, the quick addition darts players need to use mid-game seems to be giving the Grade 4 student a jump in his math skills.
“What’s a triple 19?” asks his dad.
“Fifty-seven,” comes the answer in no time.
Jayme’s mother Dawn says that at big tournaments like the one in St. Catherines, it can be a bit nerve-wracking to volunteer as a “chalker” and keep score.
“It’s okay when you’re doing it here on paper,” Kevin explains. “But when you’re up on the chalkboard and there’s 100 people watching you – you go blank. And then a kid walks by and goes ‘Oh, that’s 25’.”
“They know the numbers they need to throw.”
When darts season starts again next fall, Jayme is hoping to team up with Azize again. If he does, it will mean moving up to the Juniors level, which is usually restricted to players 13 and older.
“That’s good practice,” he says, sounding like a true champion.
Asked if he will defend his title in St. Catherines next year, Jayme’s answer is equally matter-of-fact.
“I have to,” he says. “I have to take the trophy back!”