Jeff Smith, Aaron Beeney and Karel Sedláček were the latest three players to secure automatic PDC Tour Cards on Day Three at Qualifying School, as Seigo Asada, Darryl Fitton, Paul Nicholson and Andy Hamilton enjoyed strong runs to set up a dramatic conclusion on Sunday.
Former BDO World Championship finalist Smith will return to the PDC Pro Tour for the first time since 2013 after edging out Japanese No 1 Seigo Asada in a dramatic Tour Card play-off, taking out a nerveless 110 finish to prevail in a last-leg decider.
‘The Silencer’ kicked off Saturday’s action with a whitewash win over former Top 16 star Alan Norris and that set the tone for an impressive showing throughout the day, as the Canadian dropped just five legs en route to reaching the last 16.
Smith’s best performance of the afternoon saw him average an eye-catching 103.60 in his penultimate victory over William Borland, before he recovered from 2-0 down to defeat Japan’s World Cup of Darts semi-finalist Asada to confirm his return to the circuit.
“It’s so nice to be back finally, it’s life-changing,” said Smith, who saw his automative painting business burnt to the ground in August 2019. “The possibilities are endless now, I can’t wait to get back over and play, I’m excited to show what I can do.”
The Canadian will be joined on the Pro Tour next month by Beeney, arguably the surprise package of Qualifying School to date. The prison officer scooped just £150 on the Challenge Tour last year and posted averages below 70 as he suffered early exits on Thursday and Friday.
The 36-year-old came through a number of attritional tussles to reach the latter stages, winning three last-leg deciders and dumping out former Tour Card holders Martin Atkins and Dave Ladley, before defeating young Hertfordshire ace Jarred Cole 5-4 in his Tour Card decider.
“I’ve literally just competed the greatest thing that I ever expected to happen in my life,” said an emotional Beeney. “I’ve had the worst time ever here, I was nervous on Thursday and went out in the first round in the worst game I’ve ever played.
“I played even worse on Friday and now I’ve played really well all day today. I have no words, I have no idea how I’ve done this at all. To hit a bullseye to earn a Tour Card is the stuff dreams are made of. I’m still a pub player, I’ve only played for my county three times so this is unreal.”
Meanwhile at European Qualifying School, Sedlacek made history as he became the first Czech player to win a PDC Tour Card. The three-time World Cup of Darts participant defeated former World Youth finalist Berry van Peer 5-1 in the Day Three final in Hildesheim to complete the feat.
The man nicknamed ‘Evil Charlie’ reached the quarter-finals in his second European Tour event in April and he underlined his credentials with a series of fine victories at the Halle 39, defeating the likes of Andreas Harrysson and Daniel Larsson before his emphatic win over Van Peer.
“I am so happy, I don’t have the words to describe what this means to me,” said the 40-year-old. “It’s a fantastic moment for me and for Czech darts. I said to myself ‘you are playing well and you must wait for your chance,’ and I took it.”
It was a frustrating day for Lisa Ashton, who came within a leg of securing a Tour Card on Friday. ‘The Lancashire Rose’ won her opening game but spurned four match darts as she succumbed to Steven Beasley in the second round, which meant she didn’t accrue any ranking points.
The four-time women’s world champion currently occupies ninth spot on the UK Qualifying School Order of Merit with nine points, with the top 12 also set to secure Tour Cards. However, the 49-year-old is likely to require at least two wins on Sunday to seal a place on the Pro Tour circuit.
Former BDO World Trophy winner Fitton rolled back the years to reach the last eight and put himself in contention to seal a Tour Card, whilst 2010 Players Championship Finals winner Nicholson is level with ‘The Dazzler’ on seven points following his run to the last 16.
Former PDC World Championship finalist Hamilton occupies second spot with 12 points and looks strongly placed to secure his return to the darting big time, whilst Scotland’s Ryan Murray is a virtual certainty to claim a Tour Card, having claimed 14 points across the opening three days.
Brisbane Darts Master Damon Heta and Alan Tabern are also currently in the Top 12, whilst in the European Order of Merit, Saturday’s finalist Van Peer is tied at the top on 12 points, alongside the Dutch contingent of Dirk van Duijvenbode, Derk Telnekes and Martijn Kleermaker.
The 2020 PDC Qualifying Schools conclude on Sunday with Day Four in Wigan and Hildesheim. A further three players will secure automatic PDC Tour Cards, with the last two players in the UK Qualifying School joining the European Qualifying School winner in winning a place on the circuit.
The top 12 players on the UK Qualifying School Order of Merit and the top seven players on the European Qualifying School Order of Merit at the end of play will win Tour Cards and the latest standings can be viewed via the images below.
Photo Credit: Chris Sargeant/ Tip Top Pics