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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 June, 2003, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Darts world mourns Rees
Leighton Rees in action on the oche
Rees' place in darts history is assured
Leighton Rees, the first-ever winner of the Embassy World Darts crown in 1978, has died at the age of 63.

The Welsh darts giant beat England's John Lowe 11-7 (in legs) to take the inaugural title and the 3,000 winner's cheque.

It was 17 years before another player from Wales won the Embassy, with Ritchie Burnett victorious at the Lakeside in 1995.

Rees, from Pontypridd, never won a second world championship, although he had another good tournament in 1979.

After seeing off compatriot Alan Evans in the semi-finals, Rees met Lowe again, but this time the Englishman prevailed 5-0 (in sets).

Along with the likes of Lowe, Eric Bristow, Jocky Wilson and Cliff Lazarenko, Rees helped to popularise darts and give the sport mass appeal.

He was a member of the Wales team which won the very first WDF World Cup in 1977, when he was also crowned World Cup singles champion.

Rees had a heart bypass operation and returned to Lakeside Country Club as a special guest of the British Darts Organisation at last year's Embassy event, for which he made the live televised draw with world women's champion Trina Gulliver.

BDO spokesman Robert Holmes said: "Leighton was much-loved and respected and will be sadly missed by his family, friends and the entire darts fraternity worldwide."

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