At age 11, Zach VanVleit of Norwich was introduced to darts by a neighbour.
They continued to play together for fun until the neighbour told him about a tournament in Kitchener.
“I heard about the tournament and thought, ‘Why not? It’ll be fun,’” said Zach, who is now 16 and in Grade 10 at Oxford Reformed Christian School in Mount Elgin, west of Norwich.
Winning that tournament qualified Zach for provincials, where he was among the top two and qualified for Team Ontario. In May, Zach and the seven other teens on Team Ontario travelled to Saskatoon for the 2019 Youth National Darts Championship.
In Saskatoon, Zach placed third in singles and first in male doubles.
“It was this great big snowball effect,” said Chantal VanVleit, Zach’s mom. “It’s been quite a roller-coaster for us.”
Zach also competes on the Championship Dart Circuit, where he qualified to be one of four Canadians on Team North America. In September, after competing in tournaments throughout the summer, the team will head to Gibraltar, on Spain’s south coast, for the World Cup for Darts. Thirty-two teams are competing.
A fundraiser for Zach and his family will take place on June 8 at South Brant Legion in Oakland. It is an open darts tournament for all ages. Registration will start at 10:30 a.m. Organizers are expecting 80 to 100 competitors.
Proceeds will help pay travel and accommodation expenses.
“Initially, the fundraiser was to offset some of the funds going to Saskatchewan but now since then he’s also going to Gibraltar. So, this is way bigger,” said Zach’s mother.
“We have a Facebook page set up inviting people. At this point we are collecting donations for raffle tables.”
Zach said his experience in Saskatoon was “awesome.
“We did escape rooms and got to know each other first. It was more of a trip to have fun, than just darts.”
Zach practises about one hour every day, in addition to playing in a youth darts league and two leagues for adults.
“It’s definitely nice to play in an adult league because it gets me throwing better, because of the competition.”
Zach’s mother said she wouldn’t describe the VanVleits as a “dart family.” She is still learning the sport and her husband, Neil, plays occasionally.
Meantime, Zach is eager to keep improving.
“I’m going to go as far as I can, keep practising every day and see what happens.”