Street Talk: Scott "The Alchemist" MacKenzie
Since moving to Hong Kong more than 20 years ago, Scott “The Alchemist” MacKenzie has represented Hong Kong in three Professional Darts Corporation World Championships. The Alchemist tells Adrienne Chum about beginnings and beer.
HK Magazine: Why “The Alchemist”?
Scott MacKenzie: Well, I got two degrees in chemistry, a bachelor’s and a master’s, so I’m sort of a chemist. I don’t work in that field though: I went into finance because the money’s good.
HK: How did you start playing darts competitively?
SM: I’ve always played, but when I came here there was a bar in Wan Chai that had
a dart board with some players. I asked how I could get involved, and it turned out it was the HKDA [Hong Kong Darts Association]. So I just joined the league. To get good, it takes years. I don’t know anyone who’s good who hasn’t played for at least 10 years. I played so much when I was younger in the UK that my standard was actually quite good, and I found myself winning a lot of games.
HK: We all think of darts as a really boozy sport. Do you drink when you play?
SM: There’s no other sport you actually get better at after drinking: Darts is the only one. I find that it calms you down. The key to playing well is to be relaxed: I definitely need to drink to play, to have some beers to calm my nerves. I get quite nervous when I play, so I always do drink copious amounts of beer before a match. But there’s definitely a cliff when you’ve had too much!
HK: What’s your favorite beer?
SM: That’s a tough one. To be honest, I don’t really have a favorite, as long as it’s got alcohol in it. Some bars are sponsored by companies—I used to be on a team sponsored by Blue Girl, so all we could drink was Blue Girl. I hate Blue Girl.
HK: How many beers do you drink during a match?
SM: Probably six or seven pints before a match, then I drink slowly. I am one of the few who doesn’t drink as much! There’s a guy with a long beard, he’s called “The Wizard”—he looks like a wizard—he’ll have a bottle of whiskey. It’s a nerves thing: having TV cameras and thousands of people watching is quite nerve-wracking.
HK: So do you drink during the competitions too?
SM: Playing in the PDC [Professional Darts Corporation], you’re not allowed to drink on stage. They’re trying to be like the Olympics. Smoking and drinking was very popular maybe 10, 20 years ago, and if you watch those games you can see people playing with cigarettes in their hands. But they’re trying to clean it up. Over the last 10 years on TV there’s only water. Out of the sight of the TV cameras there’s a personal bar. But there are some people that don’t drink—[darts legend] Phil Taylor doesn’t drink that much, and [Hong Kong teammate] Royden Lam is one of the few players who drinks hardly anything. I think that’s what the future is: not to rely on alcohol. It’s a positive thing—a lot of the younger players, for example, can’t drink, and a lot of the “Darts Dojos” aren’t bars but just a place rented out with dart machines and dart boards. That’s probably the way forward, to play sober. Unfortunately, I’m old-school!
HK: Are you ready for the upcoming Darts Masters?
SM: I’m feeling OK. I’ve put a lot of training in, a little bit more than average. I try to practice four hours a day: a couple hours in the morning, a couple in the evening. It’s hard when you’ve got work: I’m tempted to put the TV on and slouch on the sofa. I’m trying to push myself to be better by doing a lot of arm exercises!
Watch “The Alchemist” compete against seven other top darts players from around the world at the Hong Kong Darts Masters on Sep 5-6 at the Hong Kong Observation Wheel, Central. $499 and up from ticketflap.com, use promo code “HKMAG” for a 20% discount.