Former Lakeside world champions Stephen Bunting and Mark Webster headlined the eight bwin Grand Slam of Darts Qualifiers on Monday night, as the field for the unique cross-code event in Wolverhampton was finalised.
The last-chance qualifier for PDC Tour Card holders saw 93 players competing at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan, in a bid to secure one of the eight precious Grand Slam spots.
Stephen Bunting was the first man to seal his qualification. ‘The Bullet’ received a bye through to round-two, where he defeated Canadian youngster Dawson Murschell 5-3. The St Helen’s star then eased past Tony Newell, before whitewashing Rowby-John Rodriguez to confirm a spot in his third Grand Slam of Darts.
Three-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Mark Webster will make his 10th appearance in Wolverhampton after progressing in dramatic fashion. The Welshman battled past Mario Robbe before thrashing Matthew Edgar 5-1, which set up a decisive showdown against World Matchplay semi-finalist Jeffrey de Zwaan, but ‘Webby’ edged a nine-leg thriller.
Former World Youth champion Keegan Brown will feature in his third Grand Slam after reeling off four straight victories. The 2014 quarter-finalist dropped just four legs in disposing of Lee Bryant, Brendan Dolan and Darren Johnson, before recording a 5-3 win over Irishman Steve Lennon- who made his Wolverhampton bow twelve months ago.
Bolton star Joe Murnan will compete in the cross-code event for the second straight year, after coming through four gruelling tussles in Wigan. Murnan won all of his matches via last-leg deciders; defeating Ritchie Edhouse, Prakash Jiwa, Luke Humphries and Tytus Kanik en route.
Andrew Gilding claimed a host of big scalps en route to sealing his Grand Slam debut. The 2015 UK Open semi-finalist was in sensational form as he recorded consecutive 5-1 wins over Ricky Evans and Adrian Lewis, before easing past Alan Tabern to set up a board final against Alan Norris, which ‘Goldfinger’ edged in a nervy last-leg decider.
German youngster Martin Schindler capped off a sensational day in Wigan to confirm his Grand Slam debut. ‘The Wall’ qualified for the PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship Final earlier in the day, and he saw off Simon Stevenson and Jamie Lewis in nine-leg thrillers, before defeating Jan Dekker 5-3 in his decisive rubber.
Ryan Searle was the third debutant to come through Monday’s qualifier at the Robin Park Tennis Centre. Searle followed up a comfortable win over Mark Wilson by edging out Sven Groen 5-4, and the Somerset ace then dumped out both Darren Webster and Kyle Anderson to secure his qualification in style.
Finally, Steve Hine rolled back the years to secure his debut in this event. ‘The Muffin Man’ followed up a deciding leg win over John Goldie by thrashing Kevin Burness 5-1. The former UK Open quarter-finalist then beat Scott Taylor by the same scoreline, and went on to beat former World Youth champion Arron Monk in his final tie.
However, there was real disappointment for a host of big names in Wigan. World number five Daryl Gurney was the highest ranked player to miss out, after losing to Jan Dekker. The former World Grand Prix champion reached the last eight twelve months ago, but he won’t be returning in 2018.
Former Grand Slam finalists Dave Chisnall and Robert Thornton were beaten by Jeffrey de Zwaan and Kyle Anderson respectively, whilst two-time world champion Adrian Lewis was dismantled by an inspired Andrew Gilding in his opening tie.
Joe Cullen, Kim Huybrechts, Steve Beaton and James Wilson were all beaten in the last 64 stage, whilst Alan Norris, Jeffrey de Zwaan and Kyle Anderson suffered heartbreak as they missed out on qualification at the final hurdle.
The Grand Slam of Darts will be held from November 10th-18th at the Aldersley Leisure Village, and the draw is expected to take place on Tuesday.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2018 bwin Grand Slam of Darts
Tour Card Holders’ Qualifier
Jan Dekker 5-2 Stephen Burton
Martin Schindler 5-4 Jamie Lewis
Stephen Bunting 5-2 Tony Newell
Rowby-John Rodriguez 5-3 Chris Dobey
Andrew Gilding 5-2 Alan Tabern
Alan Norris 5-2 Davy Van Baelen
Arron Monk 5-4 Wayne Jones
Steve Hine 5-1 Scott Taylor
Jeffrey de Zwaan 5-2 Dave Chisnall
Mark Webster 5-1 Matthew Edgar
Joe Murnan 5-4 Luke Humphries
Tytus Kanik 5-1 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Keegan Brown 5-2 Darren Johnson
Steve Lennon 5-3 John Henderson
Ryan Searle 5-3 Darren Webster
Kyle Anderson 5-2 Robert Thornton
Martin Schindler 5=3 Jan Dekker
Stephen Bunting 5-0 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Andrew Gilding 5-4 Alan Norris
Steve Hine 5-3 Arron Monk
Mark Webster 5-4 Jeffrey de Zwaan
Joe Murnan 5-4 Tytus Kanik
Keegan Brown 5-3 Steve Lennon
Ryan Searle 5-4 Kyle Anderson