2020 Q-School recap: Ashton makes history and Smith, Waites come through

The 4 days of PDC Qualifying School concluded on Sunday with a thrilling final event which saw history made and hearts broken. Undoubtedly, the biggest story of the day was Lisa Ashton narrowly winning onto the PDC Pro Tour, becoming the first woman to win a tour card via Q School. She scraped through in the last spot on the Order of Merit after a tense day of eagerly following results, seeing if she would be overtaken after an early defeat on the last day left what seemed to be a comfortable spot in the top 12 hanging in the balance. However, Nick Kenny’s defeat of Stephen Burton in the quarter-finals was enough to secure Ashton’s place, and the 49-year-old has now guaranteed two years on the PDC Pro Tour.

It comes just a month after Fallon Sherrock’s heroics at the PDC World Championship, and its impact on the women’s game could be huge. Ashton isn’t the first woman to hold a PDC Tour Card nor the first to play full-time on the PDC circuit, but with more opportunities than ever, it really could prove a ‘golden ticket’ not just for the ‘Lancashire Rose’ but for women’s darts full stop. With the aforementioned Sherrock preparing to the toe the oche in the Premier League and the World Series and Ashton now with a place booked for 30 Players Championship events, 2020 may well be the year when ladies darts heads to new levels.

Ashton wasn’t the only high profile player to come through. Also winning a card on the last day, although outright, was Scott Waites. The two-time BDO world champion and Grand Slam winner knew it was do or die on the last day of the competition and most certainly did not have it easy, facing Adam Hunt and fellow BDO star Scott Mitchell on the last day to name a couple before defeating rising star Keane Barry in the semi-final to win a card. The man who Waites beat to win his second BDO world title, Jeff Smith, was also successful, winning through on Saturday. He previously held a card between 2012 and 2013 and, despite having plenty of success in the BDO since, had not won his place in the PDC back. He can now look forward to 24 months on the PDC Pro Tour, and despite living in Canada, is going to give the tour a good go.

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Four times women’s world champion Lisa Ashton is ready and raring to go for 2 years on the PDC Pro Tour

Former PDC World Championship finalist Andy Hamilton has also secured a return to the PDC tour. Hamilton has been plying his trade over in the BDO since he lost his card in 2017 and recently competed in its World Championship. ‘The Hammer’ has shown some good form of late and will be a force to be reckoned with on the circuit, arriving with bags of experience. Alan Tabern, Wayne Jones and Steve Brown are players who, also, are returning to the circuit. Brown had perhaps an even more tense wait to see if he had secured a card than Ashton, with ‘The Bomber’ in China on Junior Darts Corporation duties, for which he is the chairman. He was alright in the end though, and it will be interesting to see how his time back on the tour goes.

New stars in the making to look out for including William Borland, a Scottish thrower who has been steadily progressing through the game via the Development and Challenge Tours and Damon Heta, a likely familiar name to many, who won the Brisbane Darts Masters last year. He has already demonstrated his skills on TV and could have a very bright future ahead on the circuit.

Over in Hildesheim, where the concurrent European Q-School was happening, 11 places were up for grabs. Amongst those to win cards were BDO players Wesley Harms and Martijn Kleermaker, who appeared on Dartsweb last week, both winning through on the Order of Merit. Experienced players Daniel Larsson and Boris Krcmar were also successful, as well as Karel Sedlacek. Not successful in winning their cards, however were Mario Vandenbogaerde, recent BDO World semi-finalist, and Cody Harris, the New Zealand star. The 31 (see below) to come through have to be applauded for their achievements, and although the toughest challenges may be ahead, their perseverance to come through this some 800 strong field could serve them well going forward.

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Image Credits: PDC

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