Former World finalists Peter Manley, Mark Dudbridge and Kirk Shepherd, as well as former BDO world number 3 Jeffrey De Graaf, will be among the field of 400 players competing to secure a PDC tour card at Q-School; after the full list of entries were confirmed on Monday evening.
The four day event, which takes place at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan from January 13th-16th, offers 16 automatic two-year tour cards, with the final four players remaining on each day securing a card.
Ranking points are awarded throughout the four days based on the overall finishing positions, and further tour cards are subsequently awarded based on the final standings on the Q-School Order of Merit.
Players who secure a tour card will be eligible to compete in all Players Championship events throughout the year. They will also be able to participate in UK Open qualifiers and European Tour qualifiers, with the potential incentive of qualifying for major TV events.
However, players who fail to secure a tour card will still be permitted to enter UK Open qualifiers, European Tour qualifiers and the PDPA World Championship qualifier.
They will also have the opportunity to compete on the PDC Challenge Tour, and may be able to enter certain Players Championship events, if and when some of the 128 Tour card holders opt not to enter.
Peter Manley, a two-time World Championship finalist and former Las Vegas Desert Classic winner, is one of the biggest names vying for a coveted tour card.
Manley, nicknamed ‘One Dart’, last held a tour card in 2011, but remains a key part of the PDC set-up, as the chairman of the Professional Darts Players Association. Yet, he still retains a burning desire to return to the professional circuit.
Mark Dudbridge, who was beaten in the 2005 World Championship Final by Phil Taylor, has endured a disappointing run of form on the Pro Tour over the last 18 months, which has seen him fall out of the world’s top 64. Despite this, ‘Flash’ will be aiming to make an instant return to the circuit by securing a tour-card at Wigan.
Kirk Shepherd, who was a shock finalist in the 2008 World Championships, will be looking to reclaim his card. He failed in a bid to secure a tour card twelve months ago, instead competing on the PDC Challenge tour. He enjoyed decent success, winning one event in March, whilst reaching another final in September.
Colin Osborne, a 2009 UK Open finalist and a former Championship League of Darts winner, is also vying to return to the circuit. Osborne made his last televised appearance at the 2014 World Championships, but the Teessider is determined to return to the big-time.
Mark Walsh and Barrie Bates, both of whom are also former UK Open finalists, will both be present at the Robin Park Tennis Centre this week. Walsh, the winner of 10 PDC ranking events, has suffered a significant dip in form, having been ranked in the top 20 just three years ago.
Bates meanwhile, has been plagued by injury problems for almost a decade. The popular Welshman, who was beaten in the 2006 UK Open final by Raymond van Barneveld, suffers with arthritis in both his hand and his leg, but continues to battle away regardless.
Former World-Youth champions James Hubbard and Arron Monk, who both secured their respective titles by beating Michael van Gerwen in the final, will also be present in Wigan and aiming to regain their tour cards.
The majority of preliminary qualifiers from this year’s PDC World Championships will be fighting it out for a regular spot on the circuit. Thanawat Gaweenuntawong, Mick McGowan, Per Laursen, Michael Rasztovitz, Warrick Scheffer, John Michael, Sven Groen and Michael Rasztovits will all compete at Wigan in the coming days.
Additionally, Rene Eidams, who took Michael van Gerwen to a deciding set tiebreak in the first-round at Ally Pally, is also present on the list of Q-School entrants. ‘The Cube’ was a relative unknown heading into the World Championships, but his performance against MvG was one of the stories of the tournament.
One youngster to look out for over the coming days at Q-School is 17-year-old Declan Salter. Salter represents Suffolk at county level, and he’ll be participating on the PDC Development tour in 2016.
Nevertheless, former world number 1 Colin Lloyd will not be competing at Q-School. Lloyd, a former World Matchplay and World Grand-Prix winner, has slipped to 121st on the Order of Merit, having not competed in a TV major since the 2014 World Championships. ‘Jaws’ opted to withdraw his entry, after appearing on the provisional list.
Elsewhere, Egypt’s Mohamed Gharieb will not be present at Q-School. Gharieb harboured aspirations of becoming the first Egyptian representative to play in the PDC, and still remains on the list of 400 participants. However, he was unable to secure a VISA, so his hopes of competing on the PDC circuit are on hold for another twelve months at least.
The most high-profile BDO switcher is young Dutchman Jeffrey de Graaf. The 25-year-old from Schagen was seeded 3rd for the BDO World Championships, but he suffered a surprise first-round exit against his compatriot and eventual semi-finalist Richard Veenstra.
De Graaf enjoyed a fruitful 2015, winning the Belgium Open, the Denmark Masters and German Open. He also reached his first major BDO final, losing in a last-leg decider to Geert de Vos in the World Trophy last March.
De Graaf will be joined at Q-School by his compatriot Ryan de Vreede, who also competed in this year’s BDO World Championships at the Lakeside.
De Vreede enjoyed a six year stint in the PDC from 2009-2015, and made his PDC World Championship debut against Dave Chisnall twelve months ago, where he was beaten in straight sets.
De Vreede was seeded 16th at Frimley Green last week, but he was beaten 3-2 in the first-round by former World Matchplay Champion and 2015 World Masters finalist, Larry Butler.
Michel van der Horst and Mark Oosterhuis, who were the two BDO Dutch qualifiers for last November’s Grand Slam of Darts, have also opted to make the switch and enter Q-School.
Elsewhere, Joshua Richardson, who was crowned BDO World Youth Champion at the Lakeside last Thursday, will also be competing at Q-School. The 17-year-old, who defeated 16-year-old Irishman Jordan Boyce 3-2 to clinch the title, will be competing alongside his father, James ‘Ruthless’ Richardson, for a tour card.
Despite this, BDO World Number 1 Glen Durrant, and former Lakeside World Champion Scott Mitchell, have both opted to remain with the British Darts Organisation.
There had been mounting speculation that Durrant would depart to the PDC if he failed to win the BDO World Championships, and these rumours simply intensified following his 5-4 defeat to Scott Waites in the quarter-finals.
However, any talk of Durrant switching to the PDC was dispelled by an official statement released by the BDO over the weekend, confirming that ‘Duzza’ would remain loyal to the BDO, as they look ahead to a ‘new era’, consisting of more major tournaments from 2016 onwards.
Mitchell was also the subject of media conjecture surrounding his future. When asked about his plans on twitter after his quarter-final exit to Richard Veenstra, he admitted: “I’ve got some thinking to do over the next two days.”
However, in an exclusive interview with the Bournemouth Echo last weekend, Mitchell stated: “I’ve been at the BDO for years and with potentially a few new tournaments round the corner, I’d be a fool to jump now.”
The full list of Q-School entrants can be found below, and Josh’s Dartistry will be providing comprehensive updates from across the four days of competition in Wigan.
PDC Q-School entrants:
de Graaf, Jeffrey
de Vreede, Ryan
Honey Jr, Dave
Lovett, Shaun Michael
Nagi, Coni Singh
Smith, Daniel Paul
ten Berge, Joey
van de Ven, Jeffrey
van der Horst, Michel
van Dijk, Dick
Vilerio Rodriguez, Manuel