JT Davis doesn’t practice every day — he has to rest his arm at times — but when he is throwing darts, he’s spending three hours at home in Springfield in front of the board. He can throw as many as 1,000 times in that time.
In matches alone this year, Davis has thrown 20,000 darts. He knows that number because of the DartConnect app, which keeps track of his throws.
That’s the kind of work it takes to get to the level Davis has reached in the steel-tipped darts world. The 2014 Springfield High School graduate will compete in a a 16-player field at the US Darts Masters on June 2-3 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City.
“I’ve never even been to New York,” Davis said Tuesday. “This is a dream — a dream to a reality. I’m still speechless every time I think about.”
Davis, 27, will also compete June 3 at the same site in the North American Championship. The winner will earn a spot in the World Darts Championship in London, England, later this year.
Competing at Madison Square Garden should be quite the experience for Davis. Here’s what New York Magazine wrote about the World Series of Darts a year ago when 7,000 fans watched the action: “That a darts competition would inspire the kind of fervor more associated with rowdy soccer fandom is largely thanks to a U.K.-based group called the Professional Darts Corporation. Over the past three decades, the ambitious organization has taken a low-key barroom staple and jazzed it up, adding pyrotechnics, dancers, and dramatic entrance music, among other flourishes. It calls darts — or its version of darts — ‘sport’s biggest party.’”
This opportunity came about because Davis won a qualifying event last weekend in Brownsburg, Ind. He beat Larry Butler and Gary Mawson en route to the finals, where he defeated Elliot Milk 5-2.
“The big names were out there, and I was just trying to shine,” Davis said. “It ended up working out. I guess I’m just hot right now.”
Davis got his start in darts in part because his mom, Tracy Overman, got her pro card when he was young. He grew up with dart trophies in the house. Davis didn’t get serious about darts until he was 20 or 21, he said.
Davis met other local dart throwers, such as Vince Jones and Joel Schilke, and went to his first tournament at the Harvester Inn in Springfield and got hooked.
“I love competition,” Davis said. “I played baseball as a pitcher, so the accuracy was kind of always there.”
Davis learned he could make $1,000 at a weekend tournament and got motivated to take his game to the next level. He moved to Jacksonville, Fla., at 21 and met Danny Baggish, who had a Professional Darts Corporation tour card in 2021 and 2022 and competed in the world championships earlier this year.
“I found a drive through him — like this dude is doing what I want to do,” Davis said.
Davis earned his pro card on the CDC North American tour in February by winning a Q-School event at Shoot The Rapids in Grand Rapids, Mich. He competed at his first pro event, the CDC Midwest Melee, in Cleveland on May 5. He beat Jason Watt 6-2 in the final by throwing a perfect six-dart 301 game.
“People were like, ‘Who is this guy?’” Davis said.
This recent run of success comes after years of practice but also years of experience competing in various events. Until he competed against the players at the top level, Davis didn’t know if he belonged.
“It’s definitely nerve-wracking,” Davis said. “I’m learning the emotions. I know my darts are there, but it’s kind of been more of how can I calm myself down? How can I be in the moment? How can I be relaxed in a very tense situation?”
Davis knows he could make darts a full-time job if he keeps winning. He works at Texas Roadhouse in Springfield and also delivers pizzas.
“I’m hot right now, so my goal right now is to stay hot,” he said. “As long as I do that, it’s going to open doors for me in the future. I’m going as hard as I can right now. I’m cashing in all my chips, gambling with my life right now and just going at it.”