Three-time world champion John Part has revealed that he will compete at Qualifying School next week in a bid to regain his place on the PDC circuit.
Part relinquished his PDC Tour Card 12 months ago after 21 years on the circuit and he was unable to secure an instant return, although the Canadian is relishing his latest retreat to Qualifying School at Wigan’s Robin Park Tennis Centre.
The 53-year-old successfully came through Q School in 2017 to retain his status as a PDC professional therefore he’s well aware of the gruelling nature of the event, with a record number of entrants expected to feature in 2020.
There are a growing number of young stars progressing through the PDC ranks, with four of this year’s World Championship quarter-finalists aged 30 or under. With Dutch legend Raymond van Barneveld joining Phil Taylor in retirement, it’s fair to say a changing of the guard is developing apace.
Yet Part – the first man to win World Championship titles at three different venues, has no intentions of curtailing his competitive commitments and dismissed speculation of his retirement by telling Josh’s Dartistry that he ‘loves the challenge’.
“I love it. It’s fun and I love the challenge of it. I like the fact that it’s preposterous – the idea for me to go and try and win a card, so I want to do it. I will be dedicated to the CDC Tour though. If I had a card and I had a choice between the CDC Tour and the tour here, I will opt for the CDC Tour.
“I will, if I get a card, take every opportunity I can to get over, aside from prioritising the North American game because I want to see this whole thing work in North America. I think we’re getting somewhere and we have a lot of talent there,” he added.
Part competed on the North American circuit last year and also appeared fleetingly on the Challenge Tour, although his most recent notable outing saw him roll back the years to reach the 2018 UK Open quarter-finals, defeating Mervyn King and Ron Meulenkamp en route to the last eight.
‘Darth Maple’ was the first non-UK player to win the World Darts Championship and he remains the only non European representative to lift the coveted Sid Waddell Trophy, although as evidenced at Alexandra Palace last month, there is a growing darting presence emerging in North America.
Darin Young, Danny Baggish and Matt Campbell were flying the flag for North American darts in the capital and the trio acquitted themselves well, although Young was the headline act – defeating five-time world champion Van Barneveld in the Dutchman’s final match of his professional career.
Young narrowly lost out to Jeffrey de Zwaan in round two, whilst Danny Baggish succumbed to semi-finalist Nathan Aspinall having beaten Andy Boulton in his opener. Meanwhile, Part’s fellow Canadian Campbell was beaten in round one by former Lakeside finalist Mark McGeeney.
Part, a prominent feature of Sky Sports’ commentary team, praised the performances of his colleagues at Alexandra Palace and he believes that it’s testament to the effectiveness of systems such as the Championship Darts Circuit.
“I thought [Matt] Campbell played well and he really had a tough opponent in [Mark] McGeeney to deal with. He purported himself well and was a good flag-bearer for our CDC Tour in North America.
“Darin Young won his first round match. That’s less of a surprise. He’s been around for so long, I felt like he was due something good to happen to himself, it was unfortunate for Barney but for Young it was probably a long time coming and some kind of joy.
“Unfortunately he missed a match dart in his next match against Jeffrey de Zwaan or it could have really developed into something but I think the North American game – it’s all about the systems, these tours we can play in.
“We’ve seen it all over the world now, the Asian Tour, here with the Development Tour and the Challenge Tour. All these different things add up to opportunities to play more, to compete more and build yourself as a dart player and it works.”
One of the stories of the World Championship was the retirement of Van Barneveld, who bows out from the sport following a glittering career. Part has shared many memories with the doyen of Dutch darts, defeating Barney to win his fourth major title at the 2006 Las Vegas Desert Classic.
There is also a compelling symmetry within their respective career paths. Part won the BDO World Championship before joining the PDC and conquering the omnipotent Taylor in a deciding-set thriller at the 2003 World Championship, before Barney repeated the feat in the 2007 finale.
Van Barneveld inspired a generation of Dutch darters with his ground-breaking exploits and Part has been similarly influential in North America. The Dutchman was desolate following his underwhelming departure from the sport, but Part claims RvB will reflect positively when the dust settles.
“He will certainly look back with pride on his career, he just won’t look back with pride at his final year. It’s as simple as that. He might think I wish it had gone differently but you know what, he’s had a lot more fanfare and a lot of celebration than players get who just fade into the distance.
“Overall I don’t think he’s had too bad a deal. He’s done really well. He’s done so many great things and those things will always be there. He knows that,” added the three-time world champion.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC