2016 PDC Qualifying School Day One

2016 PDC Qualifying School Day One

JOHN BOWLES, Andy Parsons, Ricky Williams and Simon Stevenson were the four Tour Card winners on the opening day of the 2016 PDC Qualifying School in Wigan, as Ross Smith hit a nine-dart finish in Wigan.

A field of 371 players took part in the first of four days of action in Qualifying School, as hopefuls from as far afield as Australia, America, Japan and South Africa competed to earn a full-time spot on the PDC ProTour.

Former rugby league player Bowles won back his Tour Card status at the first time of asking, having dropped out of the world's top 64 at the end of 2015.

The Widnes thrower, 48, had initially won his Tour Card in 2012 and will maintain his status amongst the world's elite players after defeating Justin Broton, Fabian Herz, Colin Fowler, Harry Robinson, Dick van Dijk and Brian Woods on Wednesday.

Bowles never lost more than three legs in the best of nine leg matches as he won back his Tour Card, and he said: "I played quite decent darts all day, and with a big field like it was it's very hard, so I'm absolutely made up to get my Tour Card on the first day.

"I was really disappointed to lose my Tour Card, but with the way that the system works it keeps you on your toes and it's really good. If you don't win as much money as you did a couple of years ago you'll drop down the rankings.

"I've had four years and everything's been a learning curve. I've got to be more consistent than I have been in the last two years - the next goal now is winning a place in the UK Open in Minehead in March."

Bristol-based plumber Parsons also won back his Tour Card to retain his status on the PDC ProTour, having competed for the past two years on the circuit.

After edging out Thailand's Thanawat Gaweenuntawong 5-4 in his opening game, he then overcame Michael Gans, Michael Dawson, Colin Littlecott, Joey Palfreyman, Ross Smith and Mark Barilli - in a deciding leg - to complete a successful day.

"I'm over the moon, really happy," said Parsons. "I won't be taking it lightly and I'll be practising hard and giving it my best.

"I'm a plumber and that's still my day job, before I go back to the family and practice in the evenings, but it would take a lot of stress off if I can get to a stage where I play darts full-time.

"With the prize money increases which the PDC have introduced, it will really help and I want to kick on from here now. I'll take it one tournament at a time and I'll focus on the two European Tour qualifiers this weekend now and then try win a UK Open place."

Portsmouth's Williams, 26, secured Tour Card status for the first time in his career through his success on Wednesday, although the decorator has played in spells on the circuit since 2007.

He defeated Lee Evans, Jeffrey Bekema, Peter Martin, Rhys Griffin, Mark Dudbridge, Marvin Wehder and Essex youngster Rhys Hayden - edging their decider 5-4 - to claim his Tour Card.

"I'm very, very proud," said Williams. "It's an excellent opportunity for me and I'm really looking forward to the next two years.

"I was playing really well in the middle of last year but I came to Q School with no expectations and won my Tour Card.

"I've got a good sponsor and good family and friends supporting me and I think I'm definitely a better player now than I was when I've played before. I never give in now where perhaps I showed some immaturity a couple of years ago when I went a few legs down.

"I've got more experience and hopefully this is the time where I'll step up. I know I'm more than capable but I've never shown it before."

He added: "Getting through on the first day means even more because I've got a friend's wedding back in Portsmouth on Saturday and I was gutted when I realised that the date clashed with Q School.

"He's just come out of hospital and a few weeks ago we didn't know if he was going to live, but he's recovered and he urged me to come up to Wigan, win my Tour Card and get back for the wedding - and I'm going to make it to the wedding!"

Plymouth-based Stevenson, 43, will compete on the PDC ProTour for the first time after being the day's other Tour Card winner - having previously competed as an amateur in the 2014 and 2015 UK Opens and on the second-tier PDC Unicorn Challenge Tour last year.

Stevenson won ties with Krit Middleton, Barrie Bates, Peter Walford, Gary Stone, Ted Evetts, Brett Claydon and Rob Owen - where he survived two missed match darts from the Welshman - to secure his success.

"It's my best achievement ever," said Stevenson. "I didn't expect it to come on the first day but I'm really looking forward to the future now.

"A couple of years ago I had a really good UK Open and got to the last 32, and that set me thinking that I could compete.

"I've got County level experience with Devon and I played on the Challenge Tour last year, and I wanted to see what I can do by coming to Q School, so to get a Tour Card on Day One is brilliant."

There was disappointment, though, for Ross Smith after he enjoyed the thrill of hitting a nine-dart leg during his 5-0 whitewash of Holland's Ryan De Vreede in the third round, only to lose out to Parsons two games short of a Tour Card.

The 2016 PDC Qualifying School continues on Thursday with the second of four days of play, with a further four automatic Tour Cards on offer, with ranking points also being given to players based on their finishing positions.

Runs to the last eight on Day One saw Woods, Owen, Barilli and Hayden all pick up nine valuable ranking points, giving them a head start in the bid to win a Tour Card following Qualifying School based on the final rankings.