Stowe Buntz: North America's newest star braced for Ally Pally bow

Stowe Buntz (Kieran Cleeves/PDC)

After lighting up the big stage on his televised debut last month, Stowe Buntz is hoping to make his mark when he headlines the opening night of the 2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship.

Buntz will play Dutch debutant Kevin Doets in the opening match of the 2023/24 tournament on Friday December 15, with reigning World Champion Michael Smith awaiting the winner later in the evening.

The North American newcomer will not be phased by the potential of a showdown against world number one Smith at Alexandra Palace, having upset a host of big names in November’s Grand Slam of Darts.

Buntz defeated a trio of televised title winners at the Grand Slam, to become the first American player to progress to the quarter-finals in Wolverhampton since the tournament’s inception in 2007.

“I’m feeling amazing about what I’ve done so far,” reflected Buntz – the first American to reach a Premier televised quarter-final since Gary Mawson at the 2008 UK Open.

“I like the noise, I like the vibe and I enjoy playing in front of big crowds, so I cannot wait to experience Ally Pally for the first time.

“I’m playing well, and when I’m being given an opportunity, I am able to capitalise on it, but if I could improve on anything, I would want to improve on my consistency.”

Buntz’ colourful attire – which has earned him the ‘Neon Nightmare’ moniker - is inspired by two-time World Champion Peter Wright, who he faced at last month’s Grand Slam.

The pair met on the opening night of the tournament, and it was the unheralded debutant who ran out an emphatic 5-1 winner with a 102 average and two ton-plus finishes.

“Peter is one of the guys I looked up to over many years of playing darts,” admitted Buntz, who also defeated Stephen Bunting and UK Open champion Andrew Gilding in Aldersley.

“Ronnie Baxter was the first player I really looked up to. I remember watching him in the old Premier League days with John Part, Roland Scholten, Raymond van Barneveld, Phil Taylor.

“Just the way he interacted with the crowd and played the game – it was really fun to watch.

“After he retired, Peter Wright became that next favourite player for me, so beating him at the Grand Slam was a dream come true.”

Buntz – who hails from Portsmouth, Virginia – has worked as a crane and rigging manager for almost 25 years, and despite his recent success, he insists he has no immediate plans to become a full-time pro.

“Maybe in a couple of years I will [look to become a professional dart player], but it’s not something I’m considering at this moment,” he explained.

“I’ve got a 16-year-old daughter, a 14-year-old son, a 12-year-old stepdaughter, and a seven year-old stepdaughter, so getting them through school and education is priority number one.

“We are a really sporty family. My daughter plays softball, my son plays soccer, my stepdaughters go to dance and gymnastics, so it’s busy, busy, busy!

“That is why I have no aspirations to go to Q-School, because I would regret missing more time than I already do away from my family.”

The 44-year-old has taken the Championship Darts Corporation circuit by storm over the last 18 months, winning three consecutive ProTour titles in August to confirm his World Championship debut.

He then celebrated victory in October’s CDC Continental Cup to continue his rise, and now he’s aiming to round off a breakthrough campaign with a successful stint at Alexandra Palace.

No defending champion has lost their opening match at the World Darts Championship since John Part in 2009, a streak Buntz will be aiming to snap on Friday evening.

Three-time World Champion Part lifted the title on the tournament's first visit to Alexandra Palace in 2007/08, and Buntz is hoping to draw inspiration from the Canadian icon.

“John is a legend. He’s a World Champion from North America,” continued Buntz, one of 24 debutants in this year’s 96-player field.

“John is a great guy, and he always puts his best foot forwards and pushes anybody in North America to be their best, so he’s definitely an inspiration.

“If you want to compete with the best players in the world, then you have to compete with the best players in North America to earn your right to come over here, and that's what I've done with the CDC.

“I exceeded my own expectations at the Grand Slam, but I definitely think there are at least one or two more levels I can go up, and I’m really looking forward to it.”