Cookie, as he is known, won the News of the World tournament in 1990, defeating Steve Hudson 2-0 in the final. Paul claims not to have dropped a leg and we cannot find evidence to the contrary. For many years it was assumed that Paul would be remembered as the last ever winner. Indeed, many consider him to be just that. The 1997 reboot lasted one year and was certainly not a continuation of a great run spanning 1948 – 1990.
Many testify that the now 64-year-old puts down his darts after a game or event and does not pick them up again until the next event. Sometimes this appears to be a ten-year wait! Not many would be able to think this or have the confidence to carry it out.
It is quite shocking, but typical of Cookie, that his record (on dartsdatabase.com) begins with that major triumph at the News of the World event. He seems to appear from thin air and disappear just as quickly! So far, his career is 27 years long and runs to just one page of event results. Following his sensational 1990 win, there is a six-year gap where he appears not to have thrown a competitive dart!
Cookie resurfaces at the 1996 Antwerp Open and reaches the last 16. The eight players who reached the qtr finals were basically the best in the world, including the winner Bob Anderson, Dennis Priestley, and more, so it seems safe to assume Cookie was again in superb shape. In the next fifteen months, Cookie reached the last 40 of the World Matchplay twice, and the last eight of the world pairs with long-time friend Dennis Smith. Late in 1997,he disappeared again.
A decade later, in 2007, Paul reappeared in the qualifying stages of the Las Vegas Classic and a handful of other events. He managed to qualify for the UK Open in 2009, where he was defeated by Mark Lawrence, who reached the Qtr finals. For the next few years, only a few open events are recorded – with mixed results.
Randomly, in 2015, up pops Paul again, with a win in the Plymouth Open. Attempts at a higher level appear to fail after a few attempts at BDO qualifications. Not to be written off, Paul entered Q School in 2017. After taking a while to settle he embarked on a thrilling run on the final day. He finally bowed out in the last 16 after being defeated by Paul Nicholson who gained his tour card by winning his next game.
I certainly hope we have not seen or heard the last of Cookie, perhaps the most unsung major champion of them all. He is a truly lovely man and an incredibly talented player. If you’re lucky enough to bump into him, ask him to tell you the tale of what happened when they came looking to reclaim his News of the World Trophy.
Look out for sightings at opens in the South West or just about any other event; you never know where he will pop up next!
JR Lott (@JRLott2) writes for Darts World and other publications.
Unsung Heroes debuted with this piece in Darts World Magazine issue 563