Today we are joined by ‘Mace the Ace’ Chris Mason taking a look back on his playing career and his most recent career as a darts commentator.
Mason started off his playing career in the BDO in 1996 at the Lakeside world championship losing out 3-0 to Andy Fordham, however later that year Mason reached the final of the Sky Sports world pairs in which he was partnered by Steve Raw and they were narrowly beaten in the final by Phil Taylor and Bob Anderson.
Just two years later in 1998, Mason reached the semi finals of the World Matchplay narrowly losing out to Ronnie Baxter 13-11, the following year in 1999 Mason went on to progress to the quarter finals losing out to Phil Taylor 16-11, later on that year Mason consistently reached quarter finals of the World Grand Prix losing out to Peter Manley and then in 2000 to Phil Taylor.
Mason had a magnificent match with Martin Adams at the Lakeside world championship quarter finals where he came from 4-1 down against Adams to take the match 5-4 it was regarded as one of the best matches in television history.
In the semi final he lost 5-2 to Raymond van Barneveld with three of those sets went to a deciding leg so the score didn’t necessarily reflect how Mason played.
However Mason got his revenge on Van Barneveld the following year after he defeated the Dutchman 3-1 in the first round of the world championship with an average just over 100, Mason also disposed of Andy Fordham to reach the quarter finals in which he was edged out 5-4 by Ted Hankey in the match the world record was set for the most 180’s in a match (38).
Mason joined the PDC in 2001, reaching the quarter finals of the world championship in 2003 losing out to the eventual world champion John Part.
Mason had a break from 2003-2004 and returned at the World Grand Prix in 2004 as he reached the quarter finals losing out to Steve Beaton, Mason has many titles to his name including the Irish masters and the Vauxhall pro open on three occasions. Mason was also Phil Taylor’s opposition at the 2002 World Matchplay when he hit the first nine dart finish to be broadcasted on live television.
Mason announced his retirement from darts in 2010 and became a darts commentator mainly for ITV and recently was a commentator/pundit at the BDO World trophy on Dave.
Thanks for joining us Chris, .you have had a great playing career, in your opinion what is your favourite moment in your career?
“You’re very welcome. It’s a tough one, as the sport has given and continues to give me great memories. Being selected for England was an incredible privilege, as was playing in so many world championships. Obviously, being part of Phil Taylor’s history making 9 dart night in Blackpool stands out. But actually being part of the PDC’s infancy in the early days and being part of the product that has grown into the monster it is today is very rewarding. All the lads had to make some serious sacrifices to get the game to where it is today. Although people like Dick Allix and Tommy Cox had the foresight, it was the players that took the risks. But for me playing alongside my idols was a fantastic part of my life, never mind my career. And those memories will stay with me forever”
How much do you think darts has evolved since you started playing ?
“Technology has, without a doubt, developed tremendously. The equipment and science behind the manufacturers is incredible”
You had a fantastic game in 1999 with Martin Adams in the Lakeside world championship quarter final in which you came from 4-1 down to win 5-4, what was your mindset at 4-1 which made you come back and win ?
“I didn’t really feel I should have been trailing, so I always felt I had a chance if I wouldn’t miss the opportunities Martin gave me. It was a great match to be part of and a real Lakeside classic. I was actually really pleased that Martin eventually went on to lift the title he so richly deserved. He is a fabulous player and ambassador for BDO darts”
You can watch Mason’s fantastic comeback against Adams here…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Dp7ujvoFFA
You have been a commentator now for about 6 years it must be something you enjoy doing, how did the opportunity arise ?
“I actually began doing some darts related TV work in the 90s, which started with me discussing classic matches with Bobby George. I then started working for Sky doing some commentary. In fact, I was part of the very first radio broadcast for darts, when the first Irish Masters was not only filmed by Sky, but also broadcast live on Talksport. I did several matches with Big Cliff and the late Sid Waddell. I now work mainly for ITV and have recently worked with other broadcasters including Dave. I’d like to expand on that in the future”
Do you have any regrets in darts ?
“Now you’re beginning to sound like my psychiatrist, haha. Yes, I have plenty of regrets, my man management of myself was poor at best and I burnt the candle at both ends. But I also worked tremendously hard to achieve what I have. For instance, I would drive hundreds of miles weekly to practice with Phil Taylor and Bob Anderson”
Over the last few years you have gone to qualifying school, just how hard is it ?
“I haven’t been for several years now and when I initially walked away I was still ranked number 35 in the world, another fatal mistake. But I was just burnt out and disillusioned with the sport. Then when I did briefly return I wasn’t in a good place mentally, but that doesn’t take way how insanely tough the sport now is. The strength and depth of the sport is incredible. And the players at qualifying school experience just how strong the field currently is. It is very difficult, even for the most experienced players, to win a tour card”
Do you still play darts in local leagues/competitions etc ?
“Yes, I play in my local leagues and competitions. I went to the BDO Romanian Open with a group of our local players in the early part of the year and had a blast”
Do you think Michael van Gerwen will continue to dominate in the way he has in recent years ?
“It’s hard to see past him for most events on paper, but darts isn’t played on paper. (Well it is sort of, haha.) I think at his very best he looks unbeatable, but as we’ve seen and as I’ve said, the sport is at its most competitive right now”
A lot of players are moving over from the BDO to the PDC do you think more players will do the same in January?
“The one that most people think should have jumped the divide is the very talented Glen Durrant and I would have thought he will at some point have to jump ship. Apart from Glen and maybe a few of the younger players, I’m not sure who else could make the switch with enough success to warrant the initial cost”
You have played on all the biggest stages in world darts which one was your personal favourite ?
“I absolutely loved Lakeside back in the day because of its history, but for me the Winter Gardens’ stage was amazing to play on and it has an incredibly atmospheric crowd to play in front of”
Was there a certain player you looked up to growing up ?
“Yes, there are many. I was very fortunate that my father played alongside some of the games greats, including Leighton, Alan Evans, Bob Anderson and Mike Gregory. He also used to help run events and I was always in tow, so I got to spend time with many legends of the sport. But the most influential player at that time was Eric Bristow. Like kids who would kick a ball around the park pretending to be George Best or Pele I always wanted to be just like Eric. Sadly, that never happened. But he became a dear friend, travelling companion, room mate and pairs partner. That’s not a bad second prize”
Do you still practise at home etc ?
“I have one of Unicorn’s latest HD2 eclipse boards which I absolutely love. It’s clarity is on a different level and I use it for maybe the odd half hour here or there. My mate Pete Wyse has a bar at the end of his garden with a working tap, 2 boards and big screen tv and I go up there with him twice a week and I practice with Matty Dennant once a week. He is a tour card holder and a player with bags of ability”
We see you still do quite a few exhibitions are there any coming up soon ?
“Yes, just a few, haha. It’s interesting how the exhibitions go in cycles. I literally didn’t accept any bookings for a couple of years while I sorted my personal life out and now have bookings up until late next year. It’s great that people still enjoy these nights and a busy diary is a great problem to have. I work alongside my fellow commentator Alan Warriner-Little, with Keith Deller. (The busiest man on the circuit, haha.) I mainly work for Jess Harding from JBD sports Agents in the holiday camps with all the legends. I have been invited to compete in a great legends event being played at Gunton Hall from January 13th – 15th 2017 alongside Eric Bristow, Bobby George, Keith Deller, Bob Anderson, Peter Manley, Alan Warriner-Little, Dennis Priestley, Colin Lloyd, and Andy Fordham. I am really enjoying my darts and doing exhibitions alongside friends and legends is a great feeling and a honour”
Who are you tipping to be the 2017 World Champion in both the PDC and the BDO ?
“Glen Durrant or Dean Reynolds for the BDO and MVG or Phil Taylor for the PDC. I’m convinced Phil has one more left in him, but I’d also love Gary Anderson to do the treble”
There are some terrific youngsters in the game at the moment, Josh Payne, Keegan Brown, Benito van de Pas and several more the game is in great hands at the moment don’t you think ?
“Yes, the PDC and Rod Harrington have done a terrific job looking after the future of darts: all credit to them”
Thanks for your time Chris we look forward to hearing more of you on ITV4 this year. All the best
“My pleasure and keep up the great work”