Adam Gawlas and Richard Veenstra were among the first eight players to advance to the Final Stage of PDC Qualifying School via Stage1A on Monday afternoon, as Raymond van Barneveld made his highly-anticipated return to the sport.
The opening day of Q-Schools saw Stage 1A begin in Milton Keynes (UK Q School) and Niedernhausen (European Q School) respectively, as over 300 players began their bid to reach the Final Stage, which gets underway on Sunday.
At European Q-School, Adam Gawlas, Richard Veenstra, Michael Plooy and Lorenzo Pronk were the first four players to progress, while Eddie Lovely, Chas Barstow, Derek Coulson and Dale Hughes were the quartet to advance in Milton Keynes.
Former World Youth finalist Gawlas was one of the most impressive performers of the day; the Czech youngster boasted a tournament average of over 92 and relinquished just four legs across his five matches, sealing his progression with an emphatic 6-1 success against Croatia’s Pero Ljubic.
Former BDO World Championship semi-finalist Veenstra also enjoyed a successful start to his Q-School campaign despite a modest set of averages, while Plooy and Pronk made it a trio of Dutchmen through to the Final Stage, courtesy of wins over Nico Kurz and Geert de Vos respectively.
Much of the attention surrounding European Q-School centred around five-time world champion Van Barneveld, who is aiming to make his return to the professional circuit having retired from the sport following the 2020 World Championship.
The doyen of Dutch darts made a confident start to proceedings, dropping just two legs across his first three matches, featuring a ton-plus average in a 6-0 whitewash of Gillian Koehoorn. However, Van Barneveld spurned three match darts as he suffered a surprise 6-5 exit to Ljubic in the last 16.
The Dutch legend will now return for day two of Stage1A on Tuesday, where the final four players will once again advance to the Final Stage. However, van Barneveld knows that another strong showing in Niedernhausen will all but guarantee his place in the latter stages of this year’s event.
In Milton Keynes, experienced arrowsmith Lovely overcame former BDO World Youth Nathan Girvan in their qualification decider, whilst Barstow marked his third Q-School appearance with victory over World Master Adam Smith-Neale, posting an average of almost 94 across the day.
Gerwyn Price’s World Championship win has coincided with a resurgence in Welsh darts and that pattern continued at the Marshall Arena, as fellow countrymen Coulson and Hughes defeated John Imrie and Josh McCarthy to advance to the Final Stage.
Nevertheless, a host of big names were condemned to early exits. BDO world champion Wayne Warren and former world finalist Kevin Painter failed to make it beyond the last 128, whilst Fallon Sherrock and ex Premier League ace Wes Newton crashed out in the last 64 and last 32 respectively.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
UK Qualifying School Stage 1A Day One
Eddie Lovely 6-2 Stephen Gallimore
Nathan Girvan 6-2 David Wawrzewski
Adam Smith-Neale 6-5 David Airey
Chas Barstow 6-5 Kevin Thomas
John Imrie 6-1 Kevin McDine
Derek Coulson 6-0 John Scott
Josh McCarthy 6-2 John Brown
Dale Hughes 6-3 Connor Scutt
Eddie Lovely 6-2 Nathan Girvan
Chas Barstow 6-4 Adam Smith-Neale
Derek Coulson 6-4 John Imrie
Dale Hughes 6-5 Josh McCarthy
European Qualifying School Stage 1A Day One
Nico Kurz 6-3 Dennie Olde Kalter
Michael Plooy 6-3 Mario Vandenbogaerde
Pero Ljubic 6-5 Raymond van Barneveld
Adam Gawlas 6-1 Jiri Brejcha
Geert De Vos 6-5 Moreno Blom
Lorenzo Pronk 6-2 Michael Unterbuchner
Remo Mandiau 6-4 El Abbas El Amri
Richard Veenstra 6-2 Niko Springer
Michael Plooy 6-4 Nico Kurz
Adam Gawlas 6-1 Pero Ljubic
Lorenzo Pronk 6-4 Geert De Vos
Richard Veenstra 6-4 Remo Mandiau