Four-time women’s world champion Lisa Ashton came within one leg of making darting history in her bid to become the first female to win a PDC Tour Card at Qualifying School, although ‘The Lancashire Rose’ remains in a strong position following her heroics in Wigan on Friday afternoon.
Ashton was one win away from securing a card 12 months ago and the 49-year-old came even closer this time around by registering seven superb wins, as Kai Fan Leung, Bradley Brooks and Mike De Decker were the latest trio to secure automatic Tour Cards.
It’s been an incredible few months for the women’s game following Fallon Sherrock’s ground-breaking Alexandra Palace exploits and now Ashton is on the verge of creating her own slice of sporting history.
The Bolton ace currently occupies fourth spot on the UK Qualifying School Order of Merit, with the top 12 players on the UK Order of Merit after four days also guaranteed a two-year berth on the Pro Tour.
Three-time women’s world champion Anastasia Dobromyslova, three-time world finalist Deta Hedman and the late great Stacy Bromberg have all previously featured on the PDC Pro Tour, but ‘The Lancashire Rose’ would be the first to claim a place on the circuit via Qualifying School.
Ashton, who suffered defeat in her sixth BDO World Championship final on Sunday, progressed to the last 32 on Thursday but upped the ante on Day Two at the Robin Park Tennis Centre with a series of nerveless performances.
The women’s number one survived an early scare against Daniel Nicholls in round two, but her best performance of the day saw her claim the scalp of former Premier League star Wes Newton – averaging 93.60 to defeat ‘The Warrior’ 5-3.
Ashton also defeated former World Championship qualifier Stephen Burton and 2018 Pro Tour finalist Peter Jacques en route to reaching the semi-finals, but she was edged out in a decisive last-four showdown against Hong Kong star Kai Fan Leung.
Leung follows in the footsteps of his World Cup partner Royden Lam in becoming the second Hong Kong representative to seal a Tour Card, having also fired in two averages in excess of 107 on Thursday.
The 36-year-old produced impressive displays to defeat the likes of James Hurrell, Cameron Menzies, Adam Hunt and Dave Prins, featuring averages of 96.30, 102.30 and 98.50, before converting clinical 140 and 104 finishes en route to a narrow 5-4 success over Ashton.
The second player to triumph at UK Qualifying School was 19-year-old Brooks, who secures an instant return to the Pro Tour having relinquished his status on the circuit at the end of the 2019 campaign.
Brooks eased through to round three before edging out Damien O’Driscoll in a last-leg decider, despite averaging 13 points more than his opponent. He defeated Irish duo Niall Culleton and Michael Flynn in the latter stages, fighting back from 4-1 down and surviving match darts against Flynn.
This set up a winner-takes-all tussle against Brisbane Darts Masters winner Damon Heta, who posted a stunning 113.20 average against former BDO world finalist Jeff Smith earlier in the day, although Brooks held his nerve to defeat the Australian 5-3 and claim a Tour Card for the second time.
De Decker won back his Tour Card following a two-year absence with victory over Dennis Nilsson in Hildesheim. The 24-year-old Belgian previously featured on the Pro Tour circuit in 2016 and 2017 and after a quiet year on the Challenge and Development Tours, he sealed his return.
‘The Real Deal’ battled through his opening round tie, before storming into the last 16 by following up a trio of 5-1 wins with a whitewash victory over Wouter Vaes. De Decker then produced his best displays of the day, averaging 95 and 97 to clinch 5-3 wins against Kleermaker and Kevin Doets.
This set up a semi-final clash against 19-year-old Justin van Tergouw and after wrapping up his fourth 5-3 triumph of the afternoon, De Decker defeated Nilsson by the same scoreline, as ‘Iron Man’ fell agonisingly short of becoming the second Swede behind Magnus Caris to win a Tour Card.
Elsewhere, Wesley Harms was beaten in the last 64 of European Qualifying School despite posting a 105.10 average in his defeat to Danny van Trijp, although his compatriots Richard Veenstra and Martijn Kleermaker fared better, reaching the last 32 and last 16 respectively.
Kleermaker is well placed to secure a Tour Card via the European Qualifying School Order of Merit following his semi-final showing on Thursday, whilst two-time World Championship semi-finalist Michael Unterbuchner also progressed to the last 16.
Belgian veteran Ronny Huybrechts rolled back the years to reach the last 16, where he was edged by 2017 BDO World Youth champion van Tergouw, who fought his way through to the semi-finals in his bid to secure a maiden Tour Card.
At UK Qualifying School, 2012 PDC world finalist Andy Hamilton came within two wins of securing his qualification on Day One and ‘The Hammer’ produced another impressive showing in Wigan, recording four straight whitewash wins before succumbing to James Richardson in the last 32.
Three-time world champion John Part showed signs of form despite bowing out in round three, whilst former world finalists Kevin Painter and Mark Dudbridge exited early. Elsewhere, former Premier League star Wes Newton reached the last 64 before losing out to an imperious Ashton.
Fallon Sherrock was dumped out in the opening round following yesterday’s promising showing, with women’s world champion Mikuru Suzuki also falling at the first hurdle. However, Deta Hedman and Lorraine Winstanley registered wins before suffering second round defeats.
World Championship runner-up Jim Williams suffered another early exit at the hands of his former BDO colleague Dave Parletti, whilst former world champions Scott Waites and Scott Mitchell exited in the last 64 and last 256 respectively.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
European Qualifying School Day Two
Kevin Doets 5-4 Thibault Tricole
Mike De Decker 5-3 Martijn Kleermaker
Daniel Larsson 5-3 Danny van Trijp
Justin van Tergouw 5-4 Ronny Huybrechts
Jeffrey Van Egdom 5-1 Rene Berndt
Dennis Nilsson 5-1 Karel Sedlacek
Krzysztof Kciuk 5-1 Michael Unterbuchner
Ondrej Kysilka 5-2 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Mike De Decker 5-3 Kevin Doets
Justin van Tergouw 5-2 Daniel Larsson
Dennis Nilsson 5-2 Jeffrey Van Egdom
Krzysztof Kciuk 5-4 Ondrej Kysilka
Mike De Decker 5-3 Justin van Tergouw
Dennis Nilsson 5-2 Krzysztof Kciuk
Mike De Decker 5-3 Dennis Nilsson
UK Qualifying School Day Two
Lisa Ashton 5-4 Stephen Burton
Peter Jacques 5-4 Dom Taylor
Dave Prins 5-3 Prakash Jiwa
Kai Fan Leung 5-1 Adam Hunt
Ryan Murray 5-4 James Richardson
Damon Heta 5-4 Gary Mawson
Bradley Brooks 5-2 Niall Culleton
Michael Flynn 5-2 Steve Brown
Lisa Ashton 5-4 Peter Jacques
Kai Fan Leung 5-4 Dave Prins
Damon Heta 5-1 Ryan Murray
Bradley Brooks 5-4 Michael Flynn
Kai Fan Leung 5-4 Lisa Ashton
Bradley Brooks 5-3 Damon Heta