In just four short years New Zealand’s Haupai Puha has achieved incredible things within the world of darts. Just this year alone he has represented his country at the World Cup Of Darts in Germany, is sitting atop the Dart Players New Zealand (DPNZ) rankings and is set to compete at the Darts Masters events in Brisbane, Melbourne and New Zealand in August.
Whilst Puha has only been playing competitive darts for a short period he has a long history of high-level competitive sport, having played semi-professional golf for 20 years prior to venturing into darts. Darts, however, has been around Puha’s life from a very early age, “darts was always a family game. I remember as a child throwing darts with my family in the garage playing games like Around The World.”
Ultimately Puha’s work commitments would force him to switch his sporting ambitions from golf to darts.
“When I moved to Christchurch for work I had to work on the weekends which meant I had to give up golf and made me think about starting to play darts competitively,” Puha explained.
Little did Puha himself, or the Christchurch darts community for that matter, know the force that was about to enter into their mix.
“I joined the local RSA (Royal New Zealand Returned & Services' Association) and I had a throw with some of the team captains who said I would be good to start in division four. In that first year I went undefeated, only losing two legs and throwing a crazy amount of 180s,” Puha recalled, “Some of the old ladies in the competitions were quite upset and wouldn’t shake my hand after matches because they felt it was unfair. The very next year I got bumped up to A-Grade and won that as well.”
By playing in Christchurch and excelling immediately Puha was able to travel the country alongside some of the countries top players. Something which he says was an invaluable learning experience.
“Early on I travelled with Bernie Smith and Warren Parry, which was great because I got to pick their brains and see how they prepared both on and off the board.”
This opportunity to learn from the best paired with his own experiences in golf set Puha up for incredible success. Something which would all come to fruition this year at the World Cup Of Darts.
“It was an amazing experience. I enjoy pairs and it certainly made it easier knowing a player of the calibre of Cody [Harris] was up next.”
The pair of Puha and Harris would make it to the quarter-final stage, ultimately succumbing to Japan.
As he now prepares for the Darts Masters events in August and beyond Puha has set himself a fresh set of goals.
“My next big goal is to compete at the William Hill World Championships. Then beyond that, I would like to head over to Europe to have a shot at Q-School and hopefully be the first New Zealander to secure a tour card, which would be an awesome achievement. Europe is obviously a big step but you don’t know until you try.”
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