Scott Mitchell will be loading up the car today for his return to the Lakeside Country Club as the defending BDO World Champion, and it is only now that his heroics 12 months ago are sinking in.
The 45-year-old farmer from Bournemouth went into last year’s World Championship as the fourth seed, but with a record which showed no progression beyond the second round stage, few were tipping him to go all the way.
However after seeing off Tony O’Shea, Geert de Vos, Brian Dawson and Jeff Smith to reach the final, Scotty Dog then took three-time Lakeside champion Martin Adams to a final set.
A stunning 158 checkout in the first leg of the 13th set saw Mitchell break the Adams throw, and three legs later a first world title was secured for Scotty Dog.
“If I’m totally fair it’s only been sinking in for me in the last week,” he said. “You’re so busy for the year you really don’t have time to let it sink in.
“Particularly for me it’s been very busy. I’ve taken the trophy around everywhere I can and now the thought of it going back is the first thought I’ve had that I’ve actually been a world champion.
“It’s been a real fun year and I look back on it now and I don’t have a regret. I’m sure in 10 years time I won’t have regret.
“If I never win another one I’ll look back on the year that I did it and I can say I did it right. I gave the BDO and the trophy the best I could give it for a year.”
It has been without question the busiest year of Mitchell’s career on the professional circuit. The opportunity to parade the trophy on the pitch of his beloved AFC Bournemouth and an invite to attend the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards ceremony last month were among the highlights for Mitchell, who looks back with great fondness at the year he had away from the oche.
“The most surreal thing was going to Sports Personality of the Year,” he said. “It was an amazing evening. To be a part of that and to be sat so close to the front as the world champion was pretty cool.
“Every time I now go down to AFC Bournemouth, their chairman says ‘if you don’t come up and see me in the boardroom when you’re down, you’re in trouble and I’ll come and find you!’
“They took me out on the pitch with the trophy at the start of the year, which was pretty amazing.
“And just the amount of people that I’ve met and who have had pictures with the trophy. There has been so many surreal things and they’ve all been very special for all different reasons.”
Mitchell’s form dipped in the months which immediately followed his Lakeside triumph, but just as he did 12 months ago, he will be heading into the World Championship off the back of his best results of the season.
After winning the England Masters in September, Mitchell then helped England claim success in the WDF World Cup Team competition before then picking up the Jersey Open in November.
It was a similar story at the end of 2014, with Scotty Dog winning three titles in September, before adding successes in the Tops of Ghent and Jersey Open over the next two months before Lakeside.
“I’ve got to be honest, when we were loading the car to go to leave for Lakeside last year, I remember saying to my wife: ‘If I don’t win it this year I’ll probably never win it,'” Mitchell said. “I felt that I’d had such a good year. I’d won six or seven competitions. I’d done well on my run in, but then I had a terrible Zuiderduin Masters.
“I failed to win a game and I didn’t get out of my group, so that gave me three or four weeks where I jumped on the practice board.
“It kicked me up the backside because everything was going well until then. I was overconfident.
“That gave me a reality check. I then played a local tournament which I won, so I went into Lakeside quite confident, but at the same time I wasn’t looking past Tony O’Shea in the first round.”
Mitchell and O’Shea served up a first round cracker which went all the way to sudden death in the fifth set, with double eight securing the former’s place in the last 16.
“It went all the way to a decider and I never lead that game at all until I hit the winning double,” Scotty Dog recalls. “I was chasing and trailing the whole game.
“Of all the days to lose the bull up, but then I did that all week except for the semi-final against Jeff Smith. That’s the only bull up I won and that’s probably the only game I needed to be one set up, because if Jeff gets in front of you he flies, which you’ll see this year.
“It was a bad bull up to lose, the Tony one, but I was so pleased that I hung in there. It gives you a lift, but there’s people who have then got to play you.
“To win it in such a way I think showed people that I do have bottle at Lakeside, whereas before I hadn’t showed it and my mind wasn’t in the right place.
“You could be the best player at any time, but you can go to Lakeside, as we’ve seen with people like Gary Anderson in the past, and it just doesn’t happen for them there. To know my name is on the trophy, that’s a pretty cool thing to have.”
Mitchell is the sixth seed at the Lakeside this year and could well face Adams in a rematch of last year’s final in the semi-finals. But before then he starts his title defence against either New Zealand’s Craig Caldwell or Scotland’s Alan Soutar on Sunday.
The England international is aiming to become only the fourth first-time winner to successfully retain the World Championship, with Eric Bristow (1981), Raymond van Barneveld (1999) and then Adrian Lewis (2012) the three to have achieved the feat.
“I can’t wait to get back to the Lakeside,” Mitchell said. “I’m not ever going to back too many times as a world champion am I?
“So I’m going to try and make sure I savour it, rather than be in fear of it if I can.”