Three decades at the top
John Lowe remains to this day the only player in the history of darts to have won three World Championship titles in three separate decades. His vast hoard of trophies speaks for itself, but it is this statistic more than any other that demonstrates why he remained a threat to the other top players of the game for the greater part of thirty years.
From craftsman to sportsman
Lowe did not take an initial inspiration in darts from any particular moment in his life. Darts were simply always present in the background, and this can be put down to their rise to prominence on the television throughout the 60s and 70s, the era which saw the sport rocket in popularity.
Born in New Tupton, Derbyshire on 21st July, 1945, Lowe began his working life as a joiner, a trade that he still enjoys tinkering with when not involved in darts. In an interview with Mike Danford, he said that ‘joinery is a great trade, it is very rewarding, but to entertain millions of people with a talent and skill like darts is fantastic’. It is clear from this where his true passion has always lain, a passion which led him down the path to becoming one of the all-time greats of the sport.
Thirty years at the top is a very long time, and his numerous titles reveal just how successful he really was. The most prestigious of these include:
3 World Championships (1979, 1987, 1993)
2 World Masters (1976, 1980)
2 British Opens (1977, 1988)
2 World Cup Singles (1981, 1991)
3 British Gold Cups (1978, 1979, 1982)
In addition to these solo achievements, he was also chosen to captain the England team between the years of 1986 and 1993. During these years the team enjoyed an unparalleled run of success, maintaining an unbeaten run under his experienced leadership.
It seems that you cannot become a professional darts player unless you also come with a nickname, and Lowe was no different. He did in fact go without one for a number of years, due to the fact that he had none of the stand-out features that would provide him with any of the ready-made nicknames that seemed to be so prevalent in the sport. However, it was this very composure and lack of obvious characteristics that led one fan to come up with the name of ‘Old Stoneface’, and it stuck for the rest of his career.
Lowe obviously took to it, because when he wrote his own autobiography, which came out in 2005 after his playing career had come to an end, it took the title of his nickname. It seems to characterise the popularity of the player that even without any stand-out entertainment factors, he could still hold a loyal fan base.
The Nine Dart Finish
His trophies and years at the top place him unquestionably as one of the best players of our times. However, his name will always be associated with October 13th, 1984, when he was playing in the World Matchplay tournament against Keith Deller. It was during this match that he managed to pull off a feat that had never been accomplished in the history of televised darts, and which essentially propelled him to darts superstardom.
During the match, Lowe became the first player to achieve the nine dart finish, which is the ‘hole in one’ of darts. This is when the player manages to beat his opponent by using only nine shots, an accomplishment which is incredibly difficult for any player to achieve. That Lowe managed it onstage, in front of the cameras and with the knowledge that it had never been done before on television, goes to show that his nerves of steel could stand the test of any situation.
This obviously caused much excitement amongst the crowds who had never witnessed such an event before, and for his triumph he managed to bank an unheard of £102,000. The feat also drove him on to becoming the tournament winner, but it was perhaps the only time in his career when the title was not the main prize on offer.
Lowe enjoyed a number of great rivalries with various players throughout his career, but it was with Eric Bristow that he enjoyed his most epic battles. Indeed, it was Bristow who prevented him from winning the World Championship for so many years. They met in a number of semi-finals and finals in the tournament, and it wasn’t until his fourth attempt that Lowe managed to overcome his nemesis to take home the trophy, which became the first of three.
However, this rivalry did not stop them from joining forces on a number of occasions when their combined talent saw them win six World Cup Pairs together.
Split with BDO
Lowe joined forces with Bristow in a different way, however, during the most controversial part of his career, when he was banned, along with fifteen other top players, by the British Darts Organisation (BDO).
The rift was due to dissatisfaction that the only televised event at the time was the World Championship. Many of the players and managers thought there should be more televised events, and so together they formed the World Darts Council (WDC) to get more games on TV and the sport in general more widely known. All of the 16 players who were in the WDC, now the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), were banned by the BDO from County Darts, Super League Darts and all BDO tournaments.
This meant that Lowe was unable to defend his 1993 World Championship title, and other players were warned that even if they played any of these breakaway 16 players, they too could face a ban. This created a huge rift in the world of darts, but Lowe always stayed firmly on the side of his fellow WDC members and, after a successful court case, he was able once again to join in on any tournament that he wanted.
Although he has certainly seen the best of his dart-playing years, Lowe still attempts to qualify for the World Championship, the competition that gave him so much success across his thirty years at the top. However, his magic touch has long since left him, and he has not managed to get through the early qualifying rounds for the last few years.
Overall, Lowe has won over 1000 titles throughout his career, and although some of these were only exhibition matches, he has always had a policy of taking every game as seriously as the next. It is this dedication that has led him to become one of the most ruthless competitors of the past few decades.