Often sport throws up its own version of the famed curse ” may you live in interesting times”. Players of the highest ability seem to be less appreciated due to truly exceptional players, or rivalries, taking the limelight throughout their own careers. In tennis, Andy Murray is unfortunate enough to straddle the careers of Federer, Nadal & Jokovic for example.
Sometimes there is also a case of familiarity breeds contempt. Although, as in this case, it is not usually contempt but merely taking players, and their achievements or contribution, for granted.
Since the early 1980’s one dart player has competed with the greats from at least three glorious eras for professional darts. Initially he was there as a young player competing, and often winning, against the original TV heroes of the game. The Crafty Cockney, Old Stoneface, The Limestone Cowboy, Jockey and the rest.
Move into the 1990’s and he had claimed his own place at the highest table,becoming World Champion and winning other major and TV events. In the 2000’s, not being one to duck the big challenges, or play the big fish in little pond, he joined the PDC. Without the fanfare, promises or advantages, that some receive today, he joined right in the middle of “The Taylor Years” and produced more superb results as well as twice battling back from the usual professional slumps and life knocks that all mere mortals suffer. Steve “The Bronzed Adonis” Beaton will, once again, appear on our screens very soon at The Grand Slam of Darts.
Showing few signs of letting up, this legendary career is now over 30 years long. It seems a good time to appreciate what should be regarded as a phenomenal career.
Although Steve did not become a full-time professional until the early 1990’s this was mainly due to the difficult time for professional darts, caused through poor image and lack of sponsorship & televised tournaments, from the mid 1980’s through to the mid 1990’s. He had however made his TV bow in the Double Diamond Masters, televised by ITV in 1984. He was narrowly defeated, at the Qtr Final stage, by the event winner, Dave Lee, other Qtr finalists included Bob Anderson, Keith Deller and Mike Gregory. The same year Steve made his World Masters Debut reaching the last 32, losing out to multiple world champion John Lowe.
With the opportunities to play professionally increasing Steve made huge progress in the early 1990’s. He began to reach the later stages, of the bigger BDO opens, regularly and was runner-up in the 1991 Gold Cup.
1993 was a true bounty year for Steve and set the tone for the career that was to come. A run to the Semi Finals of the BDO World Championships was the marker, over the next few months he won The British Pentathlon, British Matchplay, as well as several large opens, before being part of the England team that landed the WDF World Cup. The year would be highlighted by Steve becoming The World Master and thus claiming his first major TV title.
The next couple of years seemed to be a case of nearly but not quite. After a rousing, defense of his Masters title which he lost in the final to Richie Burnett, Steve captured the European Cup Singles and team titles but was eliminated twice in the first round of the World Championships.
The World Championship hoodoo was put to bed in emphatic style in January 1996. If ever a dart player silenced his critics in style then this was it, Steve had had to put up with much comment about bottle and choking etc. due to his early defeats when favourite for the event. To win the event Steve had to defeat Co Stompe, John Part, Martin Adams, Andy Fordham and then Richie Burnett. I cannot recall another champion having to get past 4 consecutive world champions in order to win their own.
With a number of larger open wins, and another WDF Team World Cup title, 1996 was similar to his efforts of 1993, but this time as reigning World Champion!
Over the next few years Steve regularly reached the later stages of BDO events and the larger opens. During the conflict between the BDO and PDC darting organisation Steve regularly played the TV events organised by the PDC reaching the Semi Final of the 2001 World Matchplay.
Crossing the floor.
With more changes to the eligibility criteria, the move to the PDC full-time started with The World Professional Championships of 2002, in which Steve reached the last 16, less than a month after his appearance in the BDO World Masters. Due to a legal cross over some events remained accessible to players of both codes.
Steve adjusted to the tour style of the PDC quickly and reached the semi finals of a PDC(1)(now classed as the Pro Tour) sanctioned event almost immediately. In addition he hit a 9 Dart Finish in the Irish Masters as well as again reaching the Semi Final of the World Masters. The first couple of years on the PDC tour could be seen as a steady process with qtr and semi final appearances in many floor events. However a Semi Final in the World Grand Prix of 2004 showed that he still had what it took, on stage, at the highest level.
Tough Times & Turn Arounds!
From The World Grand Prix of 2004 through to the start of the 2009 season could be described as the leanest of Steve career to date. The appearances in the later stages of the floor event fell away and early exits from the TV events became routine. His ranking slipped and things looked bleak.
Yet from this low point came a remarkable resurgence that, due to the fact he never quite went away, was barely noticed. Over that season Steve reached multiple Qtr, Semi Finals & Finals on the Pro Tour including becoming the Austrian Open Champion, the last 16 of The World Matchplay & The World Grand Prix and most remarkably, reached his first PDC major final. Losing out to Phil Taylor after removing Adrian Lewis, MVG, Mark Walsh & James Wade. This earned him in a place in The Grand Slam of Darts, for the first time, where he reached the last 16, less than a month later.
It would be fair to say that for the next 12 months Steve would consolidate the return without many stand out results, although good steady performances were ensuring his ranking was solid and he would be around for a while yet. The Autumn of 2010 would provide us with yet more proof that “The Adonis” could still rumble with the best and would be doing so for years to come.
After making his Grand Slam debut the year before, Steve was entitled to a second appearance, due to his major final at the Europeans of 2009. A very good run in The Champions League of Darts put those of us who are fans on guard for what was to come. Steve made it through a tough group stage with a superb, do or die, 5-1 win over Paul Nicholson. In the round of 16 he counted out double world champ Ted Hankey in a comfortable 10-6 win and would play The Power in his first big 5 Qtr final for a long time. If you love sport , natural ability and characters Steve performance will stick with you for a long time. Twice Steve won 5 legs in a row against the greatest to ever play. Both times he was in danger of being routed, and yet despite being 13-9 and 14-11 down he produced the 2nd run of 5 legs to win the match and reach the Semi Final.
Sadly the tournament ended there for Steve with a 16-9 defeat to Scott Waites. It should be noted though that the scheduling of the semi was grossly unfair. Beaton, despite playing last the previous evening in a titanic struggle, was scheduled to play his semi final first the following day. “The Power” would not have had to contend with such nonsense!
Doing it in Style.
Throughout this superb career you hear darts players, and fans, mentioning the same things over and over again, style, charisma, natural, relaxed, gentlemanly. Every now and then on social media, or internet forums, there will be a discussion of who has the best throw or is simply the best to watch live. Despite not being in the top ten or as well known as Eric, John Lowe, Phil or Hankey, MVG or Gary Anderson, The Adonis regularly comes out at, or near, the very top. This is simply because his throw really is a thing of simplicity and wonder.
Steve has always seemed to understand that the other elements of the game, such as TV, Walk On, interviews , exhibitions, promotions and sponsors, are necessary and seems to naturally carry such obligation of with ease. After all anyone who can get away with the “Bronzed Adonis” tag, and walking on to Staying Alive with his shirt open in a seventies style, into his fifties must have something? His laid back approach and regular visits to Tennerife, to top up the bronze, belie the fact that he is a fierce competitor who excels in most things, as anyone who has played golf with him will agree.
Along the way Steve has served his fellow professionals on the PDPA board and designed darts and related items for manufacturers and himself alike. His exhibitions are renowned for phenomenal darts, with a genuine enjoyment of meeting and talking to players and fans alike, often until the small hours! He never seems in a hurry to get away and folk respond warmly.
Not many have had a career that entitles them to a section on their website entitled memory lane! Have a look here: http://stevebeaton.co.uk/gallery-2/video/
More to come!
In case this seems lie a fairwell piece, or lament for forgotten times, it should be noted that Steve appears far from finished yet! Following that superb 2010 season came another couple of solid years where Steve steadily rose in the rankings. A barron spell or two along the way came as a result of life issues such as we all face, yet in 2013 Steve claimed the German darts Championship on the (Euro) PDC ‘s European Tour. Thus adding another level of PDC event to his winning list. Since this point he has again been remarkably solid on the Pro Tour and in PDC TV majors. Only last weekend he reached the last 16 of the European Championships and has already qualified for the Players Championship Finals and The World Championships in January 2016.
Before that however comes a return to Wolverhampton and, after qualifying through the old-fashioned wildcard system, this could again mark a significant moment in Steve’s career. This year, for the first time, The Grand Slam is a seeded event and together with the other majors at this time of the year could see Steve, 32 years on from his TV debut and now aged 51, rising again to within sight of the top echelons of the darting world.
Surely then “The Adonis” will have joined the Oche Gods?