Daniel Baggish celebrated Independence Day in style by claiming North American Championship glory in Las Vegas with a dramatic 6-5 win over Jeff Smith in the final.
The 35-year-old from Florida claimed the $10,000 title and a place in the William Hill
World Championship by edging out the defending champion in a thrilling final at the Mandalay Bay Resort on Thursday.
The Guam-born thrower had made his TV debut in the US Darts Masters earlier in the day, losing 6-1 to Daryl Gurney, but came through the eight-player field to succeed Smith as North American Champion.
Baggish had to battle from behind in both his Quarter-Final with Elliot Milk and semi-final against Leonard Gates to reach the final.
He reeled off five straight legs from 2-1 down to defeat South Dakota’s Milk 6-2, before overturning a 5-3 deficit against Gates to follow up a match-saving 140 checkout by surviving one missed match dart in a dramatic deciding leg.
Checkouts of 71, 97 and 82 gave Baggish a 3-0 lead in the final, twice taking advantage of Smith’s missed doubles before the Canadian took out 120 to get off the mark in leg four.
Baggish extended his lead to 4-1 and 5-2 as he moved to the brink of victory, with Smith taking out 88 on the bull and double 16 – after surviving one missed match dart – to reduce the gap to 5-4.
He then finished a third-dart double 16 to take the final to a deciding leg, but the Canadian missed the bull for victory to allow Baggish in on tops to claim the title.
“It’s a dream come true,” said a tearful Baggish after lifting the trophy. “It’s the best feeling, just great.
“I was playing well come into this event, so I knew I could compete but to get through that field is overwhelming.
“It’s my first time on the stage and you don’t know what you have in you until you’re in that situation.
“The 140 in the semi-final was the biggest shot of my life. I did tighten up in the final and Jeff came back strongly to make it five-all.
“I look up to Jeff – he’s a class act and a great player and it’s an honour to be on the same stage as him. I was hanging in there and that moment came, and I had to take it.”
Baggish will make his World Championship debut at Alexandra Palace in December as he becomes the latest American to compete in the sport’s biggest tournament.
“Every player dreams of playing at Alexandra Palace and I can’t wait for that,” he added. “It hasn’t sunk in yet but I know it will.
“I’m going to go there and have fun and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Smith had bounced back from his narrow US Masters defeat to Peter Wright earlier in the day by defeating Gary Mawson 6-2 in their Quarter-Final tie.
The reigning champion then battled past CDC number one Darin Young in the semi-finals with a 6-4 success, but saw his title defence ended by Baggish in the decider.
“I’d love to have that last dart all over again,” reflected Smith. “Danny played awesome all week and he deserved to win.
“There’s a lot of great players in North America and if you want to further your progression, you’ve got to get into the CDC.”
American number one Young had seen off Canada’s Jim Long 6-4 in the quarter-finals, landing checkouts of 103, 136 and 102 to progress to the last four.
Gates, the former Minor League Baseball player who made his TV debut in Las Vegas, was a 6-3 quarter-final winner against Canada’s Shawn Brenneman.
North American Championship 2019 Results
Thursday July 4
Danny Baggish 6-2 Elliot Milk
Leonard Gates 6-3 Shawn Brenneman
Darin Young 6-4 Jim Long
Jeff Smith 6-2 Gary Mawson
Danny Baggish 6-5 Leonard Gates
Jeff Smith 6-4 Darin Young
Danny Baggish 6-5 Jeff Smith