When I walked after the first day of the UK Open in Minehead from Butlin's back to my Bed and Breakfast the lights twinkled from the other side of the bay. There sits Weston- super- Mare.
Weston-super-Mare is today a town far bigger then Minehead but till the 19. Century it was only a small village with around 30 houses before people made it a sea side resort. It offers a great sandy beach - only a few parts are dangerous drift sand. In the surrounding you can find the remnants of an Iron Age fort - the only traces that people lived there in the past. While Minehead once has been an important port one only tried to build one in Weston around 1820. Isambard Kingdom Brunel - an important and well known English engineer was born there in 1806. He built the Great Western Railway which among others connected his hometown with Bristol and which brought the tourists into the town. Gradually gambling halls, tea rooms, hotels, villas and everything else was needed in a seaside resort was built. As in Blackpool Weston has got a Winter Gardens though till no big darts tournaments were played there. Instead Weston is famous for his motocross race which always takes place in autumn. And of course Weston has two piers - one close to the city centre.
During the Second World War around 10 000 people were evacuated to Weston. As in the region strategic industries could be found between 1940 and 1942 German bombs hit the town and destroyed big parts of it. After the war the town was rebuild, but from the 1970 its importance as seaside resort declined and today industry and distribution centres are much more important. Beside it is today a sleeper town for Bristol and Weston College is part of the University of Bath. Today most tourists are day tourists from the Midlands. Beside a new pavilion on the pier an indoor centre with a skiing slope was planed and approved but till now it couldn't be financed.
Not far away from Weston is the M5 on which to be sure several darts players travelled to Minehead - to be sure Steve Brown was among them who lives in Bristol. Brown was eliminated in the second round but at least he had a short way home. The first day of the tournament is always a very long day. In the afternoon three rounds were played on all ten boards - I did see a lot of players and matches but missed a lot as well. Christian Bunse and Harald Leitinger - two of the German players - for example I didn't see at all.
It looked the Corona Virus didn't matter here in England at all. Butlins is full as usually, you can see the high five with the crowd during the walk on as well as the handshake between the players and the hugs. The only thing that reminded of what was going on were that on the small tables at the boards 3 - 8 bottles with hand sanitizers stood. Not that I saw a single player use it..I felt a little bit uneasy but I hadn't to mingle with the crowd as I could use the back entrance to the stages as the players did.
The most crowded it is always where the boards 3-8 are - there is not much space and even lesser viewing space. This year players allocated to these boards and to the second stage started play one hour earlier then the matches on the main stage which I could leave alone at first. The Riley's qualifiers you always can recognise by their red shirts, only one of them survived the first three rounds - Rhys Hayden.
From the Challenge Tour and Development Tour players only one was still in the race as well - Kyle McKinstry, who stood in the quarterfinals of the BDO World Championship in 2019 but couldn't win a Tour Card. All day he impressed with his clinical doubles which defeated Fallon Sherrock. Lisa Ashton lost her match as well. Her opponent Mike de Decker was completely unfazed against her. I saw Mike de Decker again in his third round match on the second stage against William Borland - it was a really sparkling match of the two young players.
It was really interesting to see how many young talented players were around and made it awkward for the older established players. But all in all in this UK Open the well known and established players dominate. Thanks to the draw we had in the second round two Premier League pairings - Peter Wright eliminated Glen Durrant and Michael van Gerwen threw the reigning champion Nathan Aspinall out of the tournament - both were thrilling high class games. Among the outsiders who survived the first day were even two Germans - Gabriel Clemens and Martin Schindler. Other outsiders were Alan Tabern - who sits at the moment on place 98 of the Order of Merit and who won four matches on the first day - and Jason Lowe who got a Tour Card in January and never before played on stage though he already took part in the UK Open 2018 and reached the last 32.
It had been an entertaining, intensive and - as always on the first day of the UK Open - slightly chaotic day though there were no real upsets. I had a last view on the lights of Weston-super-Mare and already looked forward to the second day of the tournament.