Niels Zonneveld secured his PDC Tour Card after defeating Christian Goedl 5-1 on the opening day of PDC European Qualifying School in Hildesheim on Thursday afternoon.
The 20-year-old Dutchman- who won his first Development Tour title in April last year- performed superbly throughout the afternoon to claim his Tour Card and seal a coveted place on the PDC Pro Tour in 2019.
He kicked off his campaign with a whitewash victory over Stefan Nilles, before recording hard-fought 5-3 wins over Gabriel-Florin Olar and Patrick van den Boogaard respectively to reach the last 32.
Zonneveld recovered from 4-1 down to defeat former PDC Tour Card holder Mike De Decker, firing in legs of 15, 14, 17 and 17 darts to edge out the Belgian in a dramatic last-leg decider. The Dutchman then sealed his spot in the semi-finals with successive 5-3 wins over Polish star Sebastian Steyer and Hungary’s Gergely Lakatos.
In the last four, Zonneveld defeated his Development Tour rival Nico Schlund 5-3, after the German had claimed the scalp of Madars Razma in the quarter-finals. However, the Dutchman saved his best performance for the final, where he averaged 99 in defeating Austria’s Goedl 5-1.
The Dutchman kicked off the final by converting 114 and 90 combinations to secure the lead in 15 and 14 darts, but Goedl halved the deficit with an 18-dart break via tops. Nevertheless, Zonneveld then fired in consecutive 15-darters to move to the brink of victory at 4-1, before dispatching a classy 81 combination to triumph inside 12 darts.
However, Goedl remains well placed to seal a PDC Tour Card after his run to the final. He defeated his compatriot Roxy-James Rodriguez in the last 32 and also dumped out former World Championship participant John Michael in the quarter-finals.
Whilst the winner of each event is guaranteed a Tour Card, players will earn ranking points per victory in each full round of the event, which will be used to form the Q School Orders of Merit, with further PDC Tour Cards to be awarded to players from the European Qualifying School Order of Merit.
There was a field of 249 players competing at Halle 39, including former World Championship quarter-finalist Co Stompe. The popular Dutchman dropped just the solitary leg in beating Fredi Gsellmann and Rowdy Schoremans, before he was edged out 5-4 in the last 64 by eventual quarter-finalist Gergely Lakatos.
Former Lakeside finalist Jeff Smith was thrashed 5-1 by Germany’s Dragutin Horvat in his opener, whilst Lithuania’s Darius Labanauskas, who defeated Raymond van Barneveld in the second-round of this year’s World Championship, was beaten 5-4 by his former BDO colleague Madars Razma in a high-quality last 16 tussle.
Elsewhere, Geert De Vos and Jeffrey de Graaf faced off in the last 256, in a repeat of their 2015 BDO World Trophy final. De Vos beat De Graaf on that occasion and history repeated itself in Hildesheim, with the Belgian going on to reach the last 16 before succumbing 5-4 to John Michael in the last 16.
Two-time BDO World Youth champion Justin van Tergouw was beaten 5-2 by his fellow Dutchman Ryan de Vreede in the last 64, whilst Nico Blum, who became the youngest player to feature on the European Tour at the age of 16 at the 2017 German Darts Open, was beaten at the same stage by Michael Rasztovits.
The European Qualifying School action continues tomorrow from 12pm, with three more days of competition in Hildesheim. The UK Qualifying School, from January 17th-20th in Wigan, will see two players from each day securing an automatic Tour Card.
Photo Credit: PDC Europe