Father-son darts duo takes aim at nationals

Posted: Sunday, June 25, 2000

In the game of darts, Kenai's father-and-son combination of B.J. and Brandy Renfrow have proven they are straight shooters.

However, when it comes to competing with each other, the shooting the pair does is anything but straight.

For instance, ask 17-year-old B.J. how often he beats his 40-year-old dad, and he'll tell you it's once every five games.

"More like one out of 15," Brandy is quick to interject.

While the lines of competition between the two are definitely fuzzy, there can be no questioning the duo's vision when it comes to throwing darts.

The pair recently became the first father-and-son team from Alaska to qualify for the American Darts Organization National 501 Championship. The tourney, which uses steel-tipped darts, will be Aug. 11 in Las Vegas.

The American Darts Organization is the official governing body of darts in America. The organization has almost 300 local affiliates, representing over 60,000 players, located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

Kenai's Jeff Olson, who is the regional director of the ADO in the state of Alaska, said the Renfrows also are the first father-son team he can ever remember qualifying for nationals in the same year.

B.J. punched his ticket to Vegas first by taking the regional youth playoff April 15 in a tourney held at Am Vets Post 4 at the Red Diamond Center.

That left all the pressure on Brandy.

"B.J.'s just a 17-year-old and I've been playing darts for 12 years," Brandy said. "I told him if he made it, I'd make it."

Brandy, a spill technician at Cook Inlet Spill Prevention and Response Inc., did his part at regionals in Valdez on May 20.

He finished third in the tournament, and although only the top two qualified for Vegas, Brandy got a spot when Olson declined his spot in the tourney.

"No matter what happened, I knew I was passing up the trip," said Olson, who is making the trip anyway to help out at the tournament. "I'm glad it worked out for Brandy."

While in Vegas, Brandy also will play singles in the 31st annual Accudart North American Open. Olson will join Brandy in doubles at the tourney, which has a total purse of $50,000 and is from Aug. 11 to 13.

Since darts is a game commonly played for fun in bars, Brandy said earning people's respect as a top-flight darts player can be tough.

"Anybody can throw a dart," he said.

But not just anybody can throw darts as accurately as B.J. and Brandy.

An idea of Brandy's skill comes from his daily practice routine. He starts out by nailing 10 bull's-eyes -- and all must be in the center ring worth 50 points.

Next, Brandy moves on to hitting doubles on Nos. 1 through 20. If he misses on a number, he goes all the way back to No. 1.

The game used to take him an hour and a half, but now it takes him only 15 minutes.

"Doubles are really important in 501 because you have to double out," Brandy said.

He went on to explain 501. In the game, each player starts with 501 points, with the goal being to whittle the points down to zero.

However, in double out, when a player has 16 points left, the player can't merely flip a dart into the No. 16 area. Instead, the player must hit the smaller and more difficult double No. 8.

Brandy said he closes out a game of 501 with an average of 14 to 20 darts.

And if the physical acumen Brandy and B.J. possess in throwing darts doesn't impress, remember that there is more to the game than just throwing a dart.

"Jeff Olson once told me darts is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental," Brandy said. "The mental side of things is really important, especially in tournaments."

In the regional youth tournament, B.J. was 200 behind in one game and the other player had a shot to close the game. However, B.J. responded to the pressure and came back for the victory.

"It's easy at that point to start to lose hope," B.J. said. "You just can't give up. You have to keep playing."

Another illustration of the importance of the mental side of darts comes from Brandy. He said the caliber of his play has picked up tremendously since Olson gave him some mental tips.

"Before that, when I played Jeff, it was a sure thing that everybody would bet on him winning," Brandy said. "But now when we play, it's not a sure thing that he's going to beat me."

B.J., who only has been playing darts seriously for a year and a half, credits playing against and learning from people like his dad and Olson for his fast ascension in the sport.

"That's one reason why I'm doing so well," he said. "I've been lucky to get to play against guys like that."

While the question of competition in darts probably never will be settled between the Renfrows, there is one area where B.J. is the unquestioned king -- sponsorship.

Am Vets paid all the entry fees for the regional youth tournament, and Carpentiers Lounge, Riverside House, B.J.'s, Goodnight Out and Kenai Joe's are all contributing to B.J.'s trip to Vegas.

"I'm definitely staying in his hotel room," said Brandy, acknowledging defeat on the fund-raising front. "I'm his father."

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