On February 3, 2002, a moment of darting history was made. Shaun Greatbatch hit the first-ever live televised nine darter in the final of the Dutch Open.
The historic feat saw him become affectionately known as ‘9 Dart’ by Dutch fans, and soon after by darts fans around the world.
The former England international and BDO World Championship semi-finalist recalls that famous leg of darts and the other highs in his career in the sport.
“That nine darter probably changed my whole darting career,” Greatbatch said. “It got me exhibitions, presentations, I was doing endorsements for darts. I was a popular person in Holland.
“The Dutch gave me the nickname, ‘9 Dart’. I’d be going through the airport at Amsterdam and people would shout ‘9 Dart.’
“All the taxi drivers knew who I was. It was a good feeling at the time.
“It was a good thing I didn’t think about it because I’d have probably missed it! It went in sweet as a nut.
“Everything was in the middle. A few weeks later in Germany I was having a practice before a tournament and I done it again.
“It was good times. Obviously with Sky in the limelight now it never gets mentioned on Sky that I done it.
“But most true darts fans know who done the first live nine darter. I bumped into Jelle (Klaasen) and he talks about it.
“All the top dart players know who done it. Obviously Phil gets the recognition but I think he has been known to say in an interview that actually he didn’t do it and that it was me.”
Greatbatch was born into a family with darting pedigree. His mother Sandra reached the semi-finals of the ladies World Championship in 2002 and also got to two World Masters finals.
At the age of 15, Greatbatch was playing for the Norfolk county team, before being persuaded by Scottish international Trevor Nurse to switch to Cambridgeshire three years later.
In 1997, Greatbatch received his first call-up to the England squad for the British Internationals. He would have to wait though to make his debut, with a friendly soon after in Ireland marking his first appearance for his country.
“I hit 180 with my first three darts for England,” Greatbatch recalls. “The England set up meant everything to me.
“I used to really get a buzz from playing for my country and it’s one of the only things I miss now.
“I don’t miss the travelling but I do miss them big games. I think I played 13 or 15 games and won 11 so I had quite a good record.
“It’s a proud thing to represent your country. Not many people get the chance in their chosen sport and I just thought it was the pinnacle of everything.
“That gave me an inkling of what was available to me. It made me believe in myself and push myself to go on.
“My dad always said I’d be a better dart player if I didn’t mess around fishing and doing things I shouldn’t be doing.
“When I was 30 I made a good go of it. I picked up sponsors and started travelling and was lucky enough to win a few.”
Date of birth 13/7/1969
Place of birth Newmarket
Walk-on music Town Called Malice by The Jam
Dutch Open 2002; Swedish Open 2004, 2007; Denmark Open 2005; England National Championship 2006; 2007
Best World Championship performance 2006 (semi-finals)
In Greatbatch’s eight appearances in the BDO World Championship, between 2001 and 2009, his best run was in 2006, reaching the semi-finals at Lakeside.
Two years later, Greatbatch’s life would encounter plenty of changes. In June 2008, he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. His darts career would never be the same again.
“It was devastating,” he recalls. “I was having back problems off and on, different pains going on in my body and I was going to different osteopaths, doctors and physios.
“This went on for six to eight weeks. I missed a couple of tournaments and then I went to the Welsh Open. I couldn’t play but I managed to get some points before I had to retire.
“I had to get a sick note because I couldn’t work. The doctor said ‘while you’re here Shaun we’ll have another blood test.’
“I done that and at 6 o’clock that night the doctor is banging on my door saying you’ve got to get yourself to hospital.
“I said ‘I can’t go to hospital.’ I hadn’t had a shave for four or five days. She said ‘don’t worry about that. If you don’t get yourself there I’m going to call an ambulance.’
“So I said ‘all right then just left me have a shave!’ I had a shave and the missus took me to hospital. It was another week before they diagnosed what it was.
“I didn’t know really too much about what I was going to be facing with the treatment, or what was going to happen with the effects of it and what I would and wouldn’t be able to do. I just tried to remain positive for my wife and my boy.”
As a result of the treatment, Greatbatch lost all of his hair, weighed two stone lighter and dropped four inches in height. At the start of 2009, in one of the bravest acts in the history of the sport, Greatbatch played in the World Championship at Lakeside.
After losing to John Walton in the first round, he left the stage to a guard of honour made up of players, officials, referees and former World Championship finalist Dave Whitcombe.
“The Lakeside gave me a push,” he said. “The main reason I never got back into it was because I was told to look after my liver and kidneys. I couldn’t play darts without a drink so I thought I’d give that a miss and give myself a chance.
“I lost 18 months and the game moved on. I didn’t think I had the energy or the enthusiasm to fight and catch up again. These top dart players don’t do anything else. There’s so much I wanted to do.
“There was a lot more to life than playing darts. I was all right at it and I made a few quid, but there was other things I wanted to do.
“I’m now qualified to run any construction site in the country. I work for a large, drywall company in East Anglia and that’s pushing my career on.
“It’s weird how your life changes. I just take it in my stride really. It’s something I’ve had to do obviously because I lost my darts income.
“It’s nice to be remembered. It’s now years since I packed up but people don’t forget.
“I had some good times. I won a few tournaments, hit the nine darter and played for England as well. I didn’t have a bad run.”
Shaun Greatbatch (July 13, 1969-June 5, 2022)
(Interview from 2016)