INTERVIEW: Painter looks back on career after decision to retire from professional darts: "I’m proud of what I’ve achieved"
Kevin Painter announced his retirement from professional darts this past week after failing to gain his Tour Card at Q-School ending an illustrious career which has seen ‘The Artist’ become a major champion and multiple ranking winner.
Painter spoke to DartsNews.com after his retirement to discuss the reasoning for his decision in more depth.
With the 2011 Players Championship Finals champion admitting that the prospect of the Challenge Tour after Q-School didn’t excite him which is when he decided to call it a day.
“When I went to Q-School, I had every intention of getting a Tour Card and going on the ProTour but as things didn’t work out, I’ve been thinking about it for a bit anyway,” said Painter to DartsNews.com.
“I thought I’d give it one more go and if it didn’t work out, I’d probably call it a day.
"I’m not saying it became too difficult because of the standard of play and I’m not good enough, I think the ability is unquestionable, it just hasn’t worked out.
“I don’t like some of the venues and sitting about. I just don’t fancy doing all of that anymore and I thought well my next step would be go to do the Challenge Tour and that really is not for me.
"I really didn’t like the Challenge Tour, I didn’t do it all but over the past two years, two tournaments in one day I just didn’t fancy it.”
“I don’t really need it now, I can just sit back and relax and just step away from it a bit.”
New Q-School format
A new format was set for Q-School this year and Painter believes that the four day knockout style shouldn’t be how the tournament should be run and that more onus should be placed on the Challenge Tour.
“I think in some ways Q-School could be done differently, I think just having to perform over four days in a knockout to decide what you do for the rest of the year.
"I think that could be done better. It should be some sort of league table done on the Challenge Tour but that’s just my opinion,” he continued.
The likes of Paul Nicholson not only gave their tributes to the career of ‘The Artist’. But also in his case asked him to mull the decision over but it isn’t one he will be reversing.
“You see Barney packed up and you see that he missed it. When he packed up, he was still playing TV tournaments and all that. You do miss that.
"That’s all I’ve been trying to do, get back on the tour so I can get that buzz again of playing in TV events. I don’t miss the floor events whatsoever, I don’t enjoy them at all. It’s just playing on TV that gives you the buzz.
“I’ve been off that for two and a half years now. Of course I miss that, it’s the only bit I do miss. I won’t be going back.”
Looking back with pride on career
But despite that, it is a career that he looks back on with pride as he recounts memories not only in the PDC. But also in the BDO and playing for his country.
“I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. I said before that I think I could have won a few more things but I’ve won a TV major, I think it would have been a bit of an injustice if I never got one.
"There will be a lot of players who don’t get one, I played in the Premier League, I’ve been in the World final.
"I’ve played for my country 25-30 times, I had a fantastic time with that. I’ve just enjoyed it.”
Winning the aforementioned major title back in the days of the Players Championship Finals being played in Doncaster was one of Painter’s finest hours.
He believes that if Phil Taylor wasn’t as dominant at that time, it could have seen more majors won throughout his career.
“Everyone wants to win a TV major and it worked out well for me that weekend, I had other chances in different tournaments.
"If Phil Taylor wasn’t around, a lot of players would have won a lot more titles and I think that was the case with me.
"It was nice to get over the line that day and have a TV major in your pocket.”
“Phil was winning most of the tournaments. It was a major shock if someone else other than Phil won a title.
"I think nowadays there is so many good players, they’re being shared around a bit so the standard is difficult. When Phil was on his game, he was just so difficult to beat.
World Championship Final defeat
One of his best known games though came back at the 2004 World Championship Final where he lost out in a sudden death leg against ‘The Power’.
He said he always had the mindset that he could play like he did.
“The whole week was great, I played some good darts. I had some really good games and I wasn’t overawed with the prospect of playing Phil.
"A lot of players used to just roll over because they couldn’t handle Phil. I went on there thinking I have a good chance of winning.
"I think everyone had me down for a 7-1, 7-2 defeat and it was close. I don’t regret anything.”
Love of exhibitions and future playing ambitions
Painter spoke about still playing in exhibitions now his career is over with the popular Artist likely to have a full calendar when the pandemic ends. So what is it about exhibitions?
“It’s just a really fun night. You’re meeting people you haven’t met before a lot of the time.
"It’s nice to talk to different people and see different faces. When you’re playing on the ProTour, you see the same people week after week. Exhibitions are just great fun.”
“Everyone wants to get out now. I’m just looking forward to opening the diary up and seeing there is an exhibition is booked in.”
Despite retiring from professional darts, the potential is there for Painter if it comes up for a tilt at the Riley’s UK Open Qualifiers when they do return next year.
“I’m still going to play darts. I still enjoy the game and I’m still going to do my exhibitions and go to other tournaments. I’m just not going to do the PDC stuff and Challenge Tour.”
“My mate runs tournaments. I’ll be playing in them. If I fancy a game if those Riley’s Qualifiers come around next year and I’m not doing anything, I’ll go and play in them.
"The expectation that I’ve put on myself, that weighs heavy on you. I don’t have that now.”
Practicing with Matthew Edgar
Painter’s long time practice partner has been Matthew Edgar who has become well known for Edgar TV and nothing will change in terms of their routine.
“He’s a crazy lad. When I first met him, he was really quiet and wouldn’t say boo to a goose but now he’s crackers.
"Matt’s a great lad and a good practice partner and he contacted me as soon as I announced I was packing it in and said thanks for everything and can we still practice
"I said of course, I’ll still be practicing when we are allowed out so nothing will change there.”
“He just needs to step it up another level now and get himself higher up the rankings.”
On his love of Ipswich Town
But away from the oche, Painter hasn’t had a lot to shout about for his beloved Ipswich Town who sit 12th in League One currently so the chance to see them more isn’t filling him with joy now he has retired.
“It’s been absolute dire. Things are just not good at all, every week you have hope that they will win and they don’t.
"There’s just a lot of things wrong with the football club at the moment. It’s pretty unpleasant being an Ipswich fan at the minute, I have to say.”