Gary Blades, Jason Lowe and Harald Leitinger were the first three players to win PDC Tour Cards on Day One of the 2020 PDC Qualifying Schools.
The trio all won a Tour Card for the first time in their career courtesy of their successes in Wigan and Hildesheim respectively, as over 800 players began their bid to secure spots on the PDC circuit.
Blades previously competed on the PDC circuit between 2005 and 2010, qualifying for two UK Opens before stepping away from the professional circuit for eight years. However, the planner for Anglian Water sealed his return to the big time with an emphatic 5-1 win over Tony Newell.
The 39-year-old was the epitome of consistency throughout the day and despite surviving multiple scares in the early stages, he grew in confidence as qualification progressed – defeating four-time women’s world champion Lisa Ashton in the last 32 en route to claiming a Tour Card.
Lowe – a builder from Cradley Heath, opted out of last year’s Qualifying School and only decided to enter this year’s event an hour before the deadline elapsed. The 47-year-old will feature full-time on the circuit for the very first time after easing past Steve Brown 5-1 in their decisive tussle.
Lowe recorded a number of scalps in Wigan, defeating recent World Championship qualifier Ritchie Edhouse, former Challenge Tour winner Peter Jacques and 2012 World Championship finalist Andy Hamilton, whilst averaging over 100 in wins over Corey Burton and Andrew Foster.
“I’m totally shocked,” said Lowe. “I only entered at the last minute and there’s nobody more shocked than me today – I’ve played well and I’m thrilled. I’ve got to up my game to stand a chance but I’ll put the practice in, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Austria’s Harald Leitinger was the third player to secure an automatic Tour Card, securing eight wins at the Halle 39, including deciding-leg wins over his compatriot Zoran Lerchbacher and former World Youth Championship runner-up Berry van Peer.
The 35-year-old has only twice competed on the PDC circuit in 2011 and 2017 and he overcame BDO number one Wesley Harms and Belgium’s Brian Raman in the latter stages, before edging out Martijn Kleermaker in the final, after the Dutchman spurned the chance to prevail in a last-leg decider.
Last year’s Welsh Open winner Kleermaker accrued valuable ranking points in his pursuit of a PDC Tour Card, while Raman and Croatia’s Boris Krcmar were semi-finalists on Day One of the four-day Qualifying School in Hildesheim.
‘Queen of the Palace’ Fallon Sherrock – who made history with her exploits at Alexandra Palace, registered three victories in Wigan, including an eye-catching 5-4 success over Paul Nicholson, before succumbing to Darryl Pilgrim in the last 16.
Lisa Ashton – who lost out in her sixth BDO World Championship final on Sunday, reached the last 32 alongside Brisbane Darts Masters winner Damon Heta and veteran duo Mark Dudbridge and Wayne Jones.
Elsewhere, former Premier League ace Andy Hamilton was joined in the last eight by Robert Collins, Ryan Murray and American ace Danny Lauby, as three-time world champion John Part and former World Championship finalist Kevin Painter both bowed out in round three.
Photo Credit: PDC
European Qualifying School Day One
Brian Raman 5-2 Tytus Kanik
Franz Roetzsch 5-4 Wesley Plaisier
Kay Smeets 5-3 Thomas Junghans
Harald Leitinger 5-2 Wesley Harms
Karel Sedlacek 5-4 Jeffrey de Graaf
Boris Krcmar 5-4 Dragutin Horvat
Martijn Kleermaker 5-4 Thibault Tricole
Tonny Veenhof 5-3 Derk Telnekens
Brian Raman 5-0 Franz Roetzsch
Harald Leitinger 5-2 Kay Smeets
Boris Krcmar 5-3 Karel Sedlacek
Martijn Kleermaker 5-3 Tonny Veenhof
Harald Leitinger 5-2 Brian Raman
Martijn Kleermaker 5-4 Boris Krcmar
Harald Leitinger 5-4 Martijn Kleermaker
UK Qualifying School Day One
Danny Lauby 5-2 Carl Hamilton
Steve Brown 5-1 Martin Atkins (Wigan)
Jason Lowe 5-2 Peter Jacques
Andy Hamilton 5-4 Adam Hunt
Ryan Murray 5-4 Justin Smith
Tony Newell 5-2 Andy Chalmers
Gary Blades 5-3 Dafydd Edwards
Robert Collins 5-1 Alan Tabern
Steve Brown 5-3 Danny Lauby
Jason Lowe 5-4 Andy Hamilton
Tony Newell 5-3 Ryan Murray
Gary Blades 5-3 Robert Collins
Jason Lowe 5-1 Steve Brown
Gary Blades 5-1 Tony Newell