Today, I had the opportunity to catch up with 19-year-old Dutch star Jeffrey De Zwaan, who will be making his PDC World Championship debut at the Alexandra Palace this year.
The Dutchman, mentored by Five-Time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld, earned his tour-card at Q-School this January and has since broken into the world’s top 64 on the PDC Order of Merit.
He competed in his maiden PDC TV tournament two months ago, and he is determined to make a big impression when he faces World Number 8 Michael Smith in his first-round clash at the World Championships next Monday.
Jeffrey has performed superbly in his debut year in the PDC, having qualified for multiple European Tour events, whilst he’s also claimed a number of high-profile scalps on the Pro Tour.
De Zwaan has beaten the likes of Steve Beaton, Jelle Klaasen, Michael Smith and Phil Taylor in Players Championship events this year, and he admits this has strengthened his self-belief. “Defeating such big names gives me a lot of confidence. It feels like a confirmation that I can compete and do it.”
Many players struggle to make an instant impression when switching codes from the BDO to the PDC. This is evidenced by James Wilson and Robbie Green, two high-profile BDO switchers who have not managed to qualify for the World Championships.
Wilson is a former BDO World Number 1 and World Master, whilst Green is a former World Masters finalist and also reached the semi-finals of the 2014 Lakeside World Championship. Both men are top-class players with an abundance of experience.
Therefore, De Zwaan deserves immense credit for his achievements in his debut year. “I am very happy with my first year at the PDC. I’ve produced some good performances and I look forward to next year,” the Dutchman added.
Along with Mike Zuydwijk, another emerging Dutch talent, De Zwaan is sponsored and mentored by Raymond van Barneveld.
Jeffrey and Raymond have been preparing for the World Championships by practising together, and Jeffrey was full of praise for the Five-Time World Champ. “Raymond van Barneveld is very important to me. He’s been around for years and he knows the job like no other.”
Raymond’s experience and wisdom will undoubtedly prove hugely beneficial to Jeffrey’s development, and the young Dutchman made his PDC TV debut at the European Championships, in Hasselt.
He was drawn against World Number One and compatriot Michael van Gerwen and was beaten 6-2, although he acquitted himself extremely well, producing a ‘Barney’ special; a 156 checkout en route to a 2-0 lead.
Although De Zwaan was beaten by MVG, he took many positives from both the experience and his performance. “It was a great experience to play against Michael. It was my TV debut so I will learn from that. Also going 2-0 up in that game was a great feeling,” he admitted.
Looking ahead to 2016, Jeffrey has identified a couple of targets, as he aims to appear more regularly on the big stage. De Zwaan stated:“My aim for the next 12 months is to qualify for some more TV tournaments and maybe get into the World’s Top 48!”
Yet, in more pressing matters, De Zwaan’s focus is on Monday’s clash against Michael Smith. ‘Bully-Boy’ reached his first major TV semi-final at the Grand Slam of Darts last month and is playing some terrific darts.
Nevertheless, De Zwaan defeated Smith 6-1 in a Players Championship event in their only competitive meeting earlier this year, therefore he has the tools and ability to trouble the St Helen’s Star.
The 19-year-old, from Rijswijk cannot wait to take to the Ally Pally stage and highlighted his pride in qualifying for the biggest event on the darting calendar. “I’m really proud of myself. Qualifying for the Worlds when you have dreamt about it, is just wonderful.”
Jeffrey De Zwaan is certainly a name to look out for in the near future. He has talent in abundance, maturity, and under the stewardship of van Barneveld, we could be looking at Holland’s next big darting star!