Keith Way only started playing darts seriously 11 years ago. Now, he's representing the NWT and Canada at the World Cup of Darts, buoyed by "unbelievable support" from fellow darts enthusiasts and residents.
The tournament takes place in Cluj, Romania, a far way to travel for the NWT darts pro. He will be representing Canada, playing singles, doubles, and the men's team event.
For the mens singles event, Way said he has a tough draw right out of the gate. He will meet Dyson Parody, a pro player from Gibraltar, in a knockout best-of-seven round. "He's been playing for a while and he's been on the darts scene for a while, so I know this will be a tough competition," Way said.
"Practice, practice, practice," is how he is preparing for the October 7-12 tournament. Getting time on the dartboard and getting a good night's sleep, Way said, will be enough to get him ready for the six-day event.
He has the support of both his hometown and the territory as a whole. On September 21, supporters held the inaugural Baymen's Cup at the Royal Canadian Legion in Yellowknife.
"The support that day was probably the biggest appreciation I've ever felt," Way said of the friends and players from Hay River and Yellowknife who came.
The group raised $3,200 to help Way pay for his travel to and from Romania. The Canadian team kicks in a portion of the funds, too. Part of the proceeds from the friendly tournament will also go to supporting Team Canada's young dart players get to Cluj.
"It's been unbelievable, the support. Since we returned from nationals I'm still getting emails and text messages. As soon as everybody found out I was going, it's been crazy," Way said. "People across the globe sending private messages and donations, it's crazy, unbelievable. You couldn't ask for much more. "
Way won the men's doubles and qualified for the Worlds at the Adult National Darts Championship in June. "It was good to see him hit the highlight of his career," Way said of his men's doubles win together with Elvis Beaudoin.
The year has been a whirlwind for Way, who said he grew up seeing his parents play darts in his hometown of Green Island Cove, Newfoundland. He only got serious about the game in 2007; when he moved to Alberta a year later, he began practising in earnest with a friend who is a darts pro.
Way also qualified for the Winmau World Masters, in the UK. However, he has been the event before and has declined to attend this year, saying he'll be "pretty beat" coming back from the Worlds.