FORGOTTEN DARTERS: 'Big Cliff' Lazarenko who played no less than 24 World Championships
In this section we regularly reminisce about a 'forgotten darter' from the past. Today it's the turn of 'Big' Cliff Lazarenko.
Lazarenko was born on March 16, 1952 in Liss, England. In 1975 he turned professional at the age of 23. In 1978 and 1979 he qualified for the BDO World Championships on each occasion, but did not make it past the opening round. In 1980 he did have success though. After victories against Paul Gosling, John Lowe and Ceri Morgen, he took on Bobby George in the semi-finals. The latter, however, proved too strong for Lazarenko in a 4-1 win for 'The King of Bling' and he also lost the match for third place.
First major title
Later that year though, Lazarenko won his first major title at the British Open, a tournament that he would win a second time in 1984. This also qualified him for the BDO World Championships. Again he did very well. After consecutive victories against Alan Hudson, Jerry Umberger and Bobby George, Lazarenko again reached the semi-finals. However, he lost 4-1 against the later world champion Eric Bristow. Lazarenko did win the match for third place by beating Alan Brown 2-1.
Lazarenko, meanwhile, had been given the nickname 'Big Cliff', not entirely illogical given his stature (1m93 and 127 kg). With his colorful performance on and off the stage he quickly became a fan favourite. In 1985 he reached the semi-finals of the BDO World Championship for the third time. Until the semi-finals he had not lost a single set, but against John Lowe he went down 5-3. In 1990 Lazarenko reached the semi-finals of the BDO World Championship for the fourth and final time. This time, however, Phil Taylor was too strong.
In 1993 Lazarenko, along with fifteen other players, switched over to the PDC as a founding member. Despite his transfer, he remained popular with darts fans and in 1994 he played in the first PDC World Championship. However, he lost both his group matches against Ritchie Gardner and Alan Warriner and had to drop out after the group stage.
Lazarenko's best result in the PDC came at the 1995 World Matchplay. After victories against Dennis Smith, Shayne Burgess and Nigel Justice he lost in the semi-finals against Dennis Priestley. Yet Lazarenko never managed to achieve the same success as in the BDO. After fourteen World Championship in the BDO, he also played in ten PDC World Championships, but there he never got beyond the quarterfinals.
At the beginning of 2000 Lazarenko started having health problems, lost a lot of weight, but never reached his best level again. In 2007, he was last present at a major, when he lost 8-2 to Andy Randell in the third round of the UK Open. At 69, Lazarenko is currently enjoying his retirement.