Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ Baxter picked up his first PDC ranked title since November 2001, overcoming home favourite Benny Grace by six legs to two in the final of the Irish Masters.
Baxter has been starved of a win since winning the Vauxhall Open 15 months ago and was, in his own words, ‘back to the old style Rocket’ at the Crosbie Cedars Hotel, Rosslare this weekend.
Baxter who battled through a field of nearly five hundred competitors to emerge victorious also had to take on the crowd in the final with a packed house cheering on Kilkenny hero Benny Grace all the way.
Grace, a former Irish international and All-Ireland Champion was in fiery form all weekend, flying the Irish flag and notching up some impressive wins over Wayne Mardle and Alex Roy on the last day’s play to secure his final slot.
The Irishman couldn’t keep pace with the Rocket however and the Lancastrian took the lion’s share of the chances with the inspirational quick fire finishing that is his trademark.
The crowd sensed a major upset at the start as Grace picked off the first leg but it was to be a short lived run on the title as Baxter took the next three legs establishing a lead he was never to lose.
All too often Grace left himself with big finishes to stay in the match and despite the support of the crowd it was too much of a task to keep pace with Baxter who made double after double.
A routine 18 out shot gave Baxter the title that has elude him for over a year - a sign perhaps of greater things to come from Ronnie in 2003.
"Finally something has come together for me. I’ve been reaching semi finals and playing well but not taking that final step," said a very satisfied Baxter.
"My finishing was good and it was a bit of the old style Ronnie. He gave me plenty of chances and I took them."
Earlier in the day Baxter had seen off veteran John Lowe, who over the two days had put in a display of darts reminiscent of his performances at the Stan James World Matchplay last year.
In the second semi-final Wayne Mardle’s second last four appearance in a week will keep his current progress up the PDC rankings on track.
It was another frustrating weekend for ten-times world champion Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor who departed at the 128 stage to Northern Ireland’s John McGowan.
Similarly, world champion John Part made an early exit at the hands of Lionel Sams in the last 32, as did Peter Manley, Roland Scholten and Alan Warriner.
In the Rosslare Ladies Open which ran along side the event England’s Claire Whatley saw off defending Champion Breda Doyle in the Final 3-1.