A DENTON darts player is proving disability is no obstacle to doing the thing he loves by throwing while he is on crutches.
And Phil Lees has finally figured out a way to throw without losing his balance, which even some professional players cannot believe.
The 57-year-old had been playing for years but his life was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1999 and after treatment failed, he had his left leg amputated in 2004.
However, that did not stop him from stepping up to the oche and now he is a leading light in the British Disability Darts Association (BDDA).
Mr Lees is also likely to make their ‘world championships,’ which form part of the British Darts Organisation’s Winmau World Masters event.
He is also one of the leading lights behind the new Stockport Disability Darts League, which should start this month and despite the name features players from across the North West and Staffordshire.
Add the fact he still turns out in 501 and Manchester Logend leagues for Reddish pub The Union and Denton Conservative Club and is an ambassador with University Darts UK (UDUK) and it is any wonder he has time to fit it all in.
“Often if I’m at a tournament I’ll head down on a Friday, so I can still play on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday,” said the 57-year-old, who is in Prestatyn, Wales, for the Welsh Open.
“Nine out of 10 times, if I’m going away I’ll go on a Friday so I can still play on a Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
“I’d played darts for years before I was diagnosed with illness. It’s one of my great passions in life, so I play on crutches.
“Admittedly, the only issue now is balance. I’ve worked on different stances, trying to put my crutches in one hand, everything but after all this time I think I’ve finally mastered it.
“If I have to shuffle it can be a bit awkward but I’ve seen people throw standing on one leg and on crutches and wondered, ‘How do you do that?’
“A couple of pros I’ve had games against have said the same thing to me.”
As if Mr Lees’ life was not busy enough, he has gone back to playing on the Manchester Logend board this year after starring on the regular 501 board.
And he admitted he had to go back to his younger days as he had time, although that is in short supply given his work with UDUK and his own BDDA career, with which he has been involved since its formation and reached the world championship final in 2014.
Mr Lees, of Vinery Grove, added: “We play tournaments throughout the year with the aim of collecting enough points to reach the world championships.
“There’s about 300 players in the BDDA now, then I’ve been involved with UDUK for more than a year.
“It’s done through York University and I was contacted by a fella called Mark Curran about whether I wanted to do an exhibition where they had one wheelchair player, one on sticks and a few others.
“Things went from there and they had about 300 players at a recent tournament where all the sides got together.
“Things with the BDDA are progressing too, with more and more people getting involved.
“It’s physical disability only but the new Stockport league will be more open to people with mental disabilities or what they call ‘hidden’ ones.
“It’s going to be an individual round robin event rather than one featuring teams and we’re hoping it will start soon.”