Wins for the old guard, and a next-generation moment, provide the story of this weekend’s four events on the PDC Challenge Tour. Wayne Jones and Aaron Dyer lead the way overall.
Another Unicorn Challenge Tour weekend passes by and in many ways, it’s the same story. Three wins for former Pro Tour players, two for Wayne Jones and one for Mark Dudbridge, with others such as Kev McDine and Mark Frost making finals and semis. Jones is one of the game’s nice guys and a fierce competitor, it is good to see him bouncing back.
One exception to the normal run of events was the excellent win, in event 5, from Ryan Harrington. A number of darting dynasties have, or are being, formed in the last few years. Bobby and Richie George, Rod and Ryan Harrington and the two Alan Taberns are just three examples. In addition, a few of the up and coming generation have relatives who, although not household names, have strong reputations in the amateur game.
Outside the top two, the prize money is being shared around a little more with more new faces claiming Semi and Qtr Final places. Allen Edwards, Charlie Jackson and Luke Humphries all made the last four over the weekend’s events.
Another good weekend for Lisa Ashton (our review of Challenge Tour 1-4 pointed out the reasons for a special interest in her success) making progress in almost every event this weekend. Good wins over tough players resulted in a 5th round appearance in event 8. This last 16 appearance may be the furthest yet achieved by a female player in a non-invitational, PDC Tour event. She is currently sitting at a solid 58 in the rankings.
There are a number of players who have flattered to deceive at this or higher levels and are struggling this year. Barry Lynn, who came within a place or two of gaining a tour card last year, seems to be struggling badly. Former PDC New Player of the Year Mark Hylton was a no-show after a very poor start to his season. Steve Maish, Pro Tour event winner, also seems to be fading from view.
Wayne Jones now leads the order of merit with nearly £5000, w Aaron Dyer is in the other tour card claiming spot. Lee Evans, Mark Frost, Paul Milford, Alan Tabern, Ryan Harrington, Mark Dudbridge, Kev Dowling and Martin Lukeman make up the rest of the top ten spots. Less than £1000 separates position 20 from a place in the top ten and with more events than ever it could be a very interesting season. Some former “greats”, including Andy “The Pieman” Smith are struggling, to adapt and may come strong later, together with many who have recently proved themselves capable of winning at this level. Whether they can re-group time to make their mark on this years tour will be the deciding factor on whether the story will be “same old, same old” or ” Challenge Tour brings new life to PDC”.