Kirk Shepherd and Geert De Vos became the first Tour Card winners of the 2021 PDC Qualifying Schools as the Final Stage began in the UK and Europe on Sunday.
Shepherd, who stunned the darting world by reaching the PDC World Championship final on debut in 2008, secured his Tour Card at Qualifying School for the fourth time in his career, courtesy of seven straight wins in Milton Keynes.
The 34-year-old came through a trio of last-leg deciders against Matthew Dennant, Matt Jackson and Martin Lukeman to seal a place in Sunday’s showpiece, having also claimed the scalps of Michael Barnard, Jonathan Wynn and Chas Barstow at the Marshall Arena.
This set up a showdown against Jack Main, who defeated the likes of David Pallett, Simon Stevenson, Jason Askew and Jon Worsley en route to the final, but Shepherd ran out a convincing 6-1 winner in their decisive tussle to secure his Pro Tour return in emphatic style.
Fallon Sherrock is bidding to join Lisa Ashton in becoming the second female to claim a Tour Card via Q-School, and ‘The Queen of the Palace’ registered a notable win against former Lakeside winner Scott Mitchell in her opener, before succumbing 6-1 to Sean Fisher in round two.
Sherrock was not the only high-profile casualty in the last 64 however. Kevin Painter, Alan Norris and Danny Baggish all bowed out in round two without a point to their name, whilst 2018 World Championship semi-finalist Jamie Lewis exited in round one, at the hands of Eddie Lovely.
Meanwhile, over at European Q-School, former BDO World Trophy winner Geert de Vos delivered the goods to clinch a coveted two-year Tour Card. The Belgian began with a bang in Germany, following up a 6-2 victory over Jerry Hendriks with an impressive whitewash win over Patrik Kovacs.
De Vos advanced into the last eight with successive wins over German opposition; defeating Steven Noster 6-2 before posting a ton-plus average in victory over former BDO World Championship semi-finalist Michael Unterbuchner.
The 39-year-old dispatched his former BDO colleague Richard Veenstra and the day’s surprise package Lorenzo Pronk to reach Sunday’s final, where he defied a spirited fightback from another Dutchman Geert Nentjes to prevail 6-4 and claim a place on the PDC circuit for the first time in his career.
Nentjes – who relinquished his Tour Card at the end of the 2020 season – was denied at the final hurdle in Niedernhausen, but he is well placed to seal his return via the European Tour Order of Merit – from which eight players will clinch Tour Cards following the four days of competition.
The talented Dutchman defeated former World Cup of Darts quarter-finalist Martin Schindler in the semi-finals, after ‘The Wall’ had accounted for five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld in the last 16.
Van Barneveld boasted an average of 98 throughout the afternoon – the highest across both Q-Schools – but having posted a ton-plus average in his 6-4 win over Patrick van den Boogaard, the doyen of Dutch darts succumbed to Schindler by the same scoreline, despite averaging 101.3.
Van Barneveld’s compatriot Jan Dekker and former World Youth finalist Adam Gawlas crashed out at the same last 16 stage, whilst the likes of Benito van de Pas, Matt Campbell, Ronny Huybrechts, Christian Kist, Nico Kurz and Rowby-John Rodriguez all suffered early exits.
Image: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
European Qualifying School Final Stage Day One
Geert De Vos 6-1 Michael Unterbuchner
Richard Veenstra 6-2 Ryan De Vreede
Lorenzo Pronk 6-3 Adam Gawlas
Mario Vandenbogaerde 6-3 Jan Dekker
Wesley Plaisier 6-2 Toni Alcinas
Geert Nentjes 6-1 Robert Marijanovic
Martin Schindler 6-4 Raymond van Barneveld
Zoran Lerchbacher 6-4 Rusty-Jake Rodriguez
Geert De Vos 6-3 Richard Veenstra
Lorenzo Pronk 6-5 Mario Vandenbogaerde
Geert Nentjes 6-5 Wesley Plaisier
Martin Schindler 6-3 Zoran Lerchbacher
Geert De Vos 6-2 Lorenzo Pronk
Geert Nentjes 6-2 Martin Schindler
Geert De Vos 6-4 Geert Nentjes
UK Qualifying School Final Stage Day One
Chas Barstow 6-5 Brett Claydon
Kirk Shepherd 6-5 Matt Jackson
Martin Lukeman 6-0 Andrew Gilding
Martin Heneghan 6-4 Robert Thornton
Jack Main 6-4 Jason Askew
Lee Evans 6-0 Paul Holloway
Gavin Carlin 6-4 Alan Soutar
Jon Worsley 6-5 Sean Fisher
Kirk Shepherd 6-1 Chas Barstow
Martin Lukeman 6-1 Martin Heneghan
Jack Main 6-4 Lee Evans
Jon Worsley 6-1 Gavin Carlin
Kirk Shepherd 6-5 Martin Lukeman
Jack Main 6-4 Jon Worsley
Kirk Shepherd 6-1 Jack Main