SWOYERSVILLE — It turns out Mike Galli is much more than a golf guru and Keystone State Games staff member.
He’s also a pretty darn good dart thrower, too.
Galli, a former Coughlin High School golf coach, won the darts gold medal in singles competition of the Keystone Games Senior Division by holding off hard-charging Millersville resident Ralph Anttonen in a dramatic final Thursday at Murphy’s Pub.
“For this, it’s just fun,” said Galli, who is serving as the Senior Games sports and online registration support representative during the Keystone Games. “Is it competitive? Yeah, but it’s more about the experience.”
Galli, from Swoyersville, bested eight other competitors in the men’s singles division and survived a tense challenge from Anttonen in the gold medal final.
Galli won the first game, Anttonen took the second and Galli captured the third, and the singles championship.
“He’s tough as heck,” silver medalist Anttonen said of Galli, before darts doubles began later Thursday night. “I would have had to be above my game to beat him.”
It was a different game for all the competitors.
The Keystone Games, which partnered with the Pennsylvania Senior Games for players over the age of 50 for the last few years, plays English darts — a significant difference to players in the United States who are accustomed to playing American darts.
“In American darts, it’s set up like baseball, you play nine innings,” Anttonen said. “The most points you can get in each inning is nine, so the highest total you can get is 81. In English darts, you start with a set score — 301 (for singles) or 501 (for doubles) and you shoot anywhere, you just shoot numbers. The points you get are subtracted from that score and the goal is to get to zero.”
It seems Galli found a sweet spot on number 20 on the board, at one point putting three darts in a nearly identical spot.
“With this, you can just become very good at one (spot),” said Galli, who plays American darts regularly. “The only two times I’ve ever played this (English style) was last year and this year. To be the man, you have to beat the man.”
Sort of like in the sport of golf.
“To me, with both, when you’re in a rhythm, you just let it come to you,” Galli said. “You have to have a short memory. And I always like to go first. Because if you’re consistent, you build confidence for your teammates. If you start off with a good score, like in baseball — if somebody starts off with a double, the next hitter is a little more relaxed.”
Women’s darts silver medalist Judy Anttonen, Ralph’s wife, is just relieved that senior dart throwers still have a forum in which to compete after the statewide Senior Games lost resources from Pennsylvania a few years back.
”When we lost funding, we didn’t know what we were going to do,” Judy Anttonen said. “This is fitness for seniors. Luckily, the Keystone Games picked us up under their arms.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski