Lisa Ashton made darting history by becoming the first woman to progress through Qualifying School and secure a PDC Tour Card, as two-time BDO world champion Scott Waites and former Premier League star Andy Hamilton also sealed spots on the PDC circuit on Sunday.
22 players secured Tour Cards on a dramatic conclusion to the respective Qualifying Schools in Wigan and Hildesheim, although Ashton stole the headlines with her ground-breaking feat, having registered 13 wins across the four days of qualification.
Ashton came within a leg of securing an automatic Tour Card on Friday, before her fairytale run was curtailed by Hong Kong’s World Cup star Kai Fan Leung and ‘The Lancashire Rose’ faced a nervous wait after suffering a second round exit on Sunday.
The four-time women’s world champion missed out on securing a Tour Card by a solitary point 12 months ago and it appeared that history may be repeating itself, although Adam Hunt’s victory over Steve Hine ensured Ashton retained the all-important final qualification place.
The 49-year-old was tied on nine points alongside six other players, although she and Darren Penhall won through by virtue of the number of legs accumulated across the four days, which ensures Ashton will feature on the PDC Pro Tour in 2020 and 2021.
She will be joined by two-time BDO world champion and former Grand Slam winner Waites, who found his form on the final day of action at the Robin Park Tennis Centre, whitewashing 17-year-old BDO World Youth champion Keane Barry in their Tour Card decider.
The other man to secure an automatic Tour Card in Wigan was Nick Kenny – seeded sixth at the recent BDO World Championship. The Welshman produced a sensational display in his Tour Card play-off against Scott Taylor, averaging 110.50 to seal his place in the darting big-time.
2012 World Championship finalist Andy Hamilton headlines the 11 other players along with Ashton who qualified via the UK Order of Merit, with ‘The Hammer’ confirming his return to the PDC circuit following a two-year absence.
Brisbane Darts Masters winner Damon Heta and his compatriot Penhall also did enough to qualify, whilst Wigan’s Martin Atkins and Scottish duo Ryan Murray and William Borland also joined the duo in securing a Tour Card for the first time.
The trio of Adam Hunt, Alan Tabern and Wayne Jones secured immediate returns after relinquishing their Tour Cards last month, while former Pro Tour finalist Peter Jacques is back following a one-year absence.
Nevertheless, another remarkable story saw Steve Brown clinch a return to the PDC following a five-year hiatus. The chairman of the Junior Darts Corporation was sat on 10 points heading into Sunday’s showpiece but missed out due to prior JDC commitments and his loyalty was rewarded.
At European Qualifying School, Germany’s Stefan Stiepmann booked his place on the Pro Tour circuit for the first time in his career, defeating BDO number one Wesley Harms 5-3 in their final at Halle 39.
Nevertheless, it proved immaterial for two-time BDO World Championship semi-finalist Harms, who captured one of the seven available spots on offer via the European Qualifying School Order of Merit.
Harms’ fellow countrymen Martijn Kleermaker and Derk Telnekes also won maiden Tour Cards, whilst fellow Dutchman and former World Championship qualifier Dirk van Duijvenbode returns at the first attempt.
There was an international flavour to the rest of the qualifiers, with Sweden’s Daniel Larsson, Poland’s Krzysztof Kciuk and Croatia’s Boris Krcmar all sealing places on the Pro Tour for the very first time.
All 31 Qualifying School graduates will get the opportunity to sample the Pro Tour when the first Players Championship double-header of the new season gets underway at the Barnsley Metrodome on February 8-9.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC