Our recent assertion that Challenge Tour 2019 was not to be missed, (here,) was proven immediately at the first weekend of events from Wigan’s Robin Hood Centre. The first four events were claimed by Sean Carroll, Stephan Burton, Richie Edhouse and Boris Koltzov respectively. This, however, tells little of an outstanding weekend of darts.
Blitzing the Averages!
The CT usually averages around 80 points per throw, over the whole game. This is due to the “pay to play” nature of Q School leaving a wide range of players eligible for the CT. There are a lot of 85-90 results that offset the 60’s & 70’s recorded early on. 2019 however may well be very different.
Event 1 of 2019 featured no fewer than seven different players averaging over 100. Matty Dennant, more of whom later, chalked up 104 early on. The performance of the day, however, came from Dutchman Wesley Plaisier. Matched with former UK Open Finalist, and multiple tour winner, Colin “The Wizard” Osbourne, he produced an outstanding effort. Plaisier averaged over 127 with his first nine darts and hit more than 65% of his doubles. His overall average was dragged down to 107 by a pedestrian 16 dart leg to win the match.
Event 3 featured the highest average to be hit on the CT and one of the highest in PDC conditions. Matty Dennant, who narrowly missed out at the recent UK Q School, averaged 119 vs the hapless Scott Dale. Dennant completed a 5-1 win hitting legs of 11,14,12,12 & 11 darts. Only an average 5th leg prevented Dennant from recording and even higher overall.
Despite these outstanding efforts, Plaisier reached only 23 on the Order of Merit after four events and Dennant may not even make the qualifiers as he is only tied for 32nd place.
A couple of weeks ago AIM / Dart X tipped an outsider to do well at Q School and possibly gain a tour card. It cannot be denied that we looked a little optimistic, to put it mildly, when he underperformed badly and barely troubled the scorers. However, it turns out that we were not daft, just premature.
Sean Carroll has been working the BDO tour for a while and has been playing his league & open darts in a highly competitive area of the Midlands. Somewhat like last years “surprise package”, Jason Lowe, Carroll was respected by many knowledgable folk and good players. But had not quite achieved the breakthrough many, including us, thought he would.
As if to put the tough experience, of Q School, behind him Shaun blitzed the Challenge Tour event at the first time of asking. In his first few rounds, he overcame the talented, such as Vince Tipple (5-4), as well as the experienced including Steve Hine (5-1). His Qtr Semi & Final wins were even more impressive as defeated Edhouse (Winner of event 3), Mick Todd and the in-form Patrick Lynskey to complete a superb run to a maiden PDC title, at the first attempt.
Big Names are Fair Game!
If any of the illustrious names competing on this years CT were under the delusion that their past deeds or experience in matchplay situations would gain them much they will have been rudely awaked this weekend.
Multiple World Champions John Part & Scott Waites, Premier Leaguer Wez Newton, former UK Open Finalist Colin Osborne and many others bumped into some lesser known guys playing world class darts. Others such as Andy Hamilton & Andrew Gilding discovered progress was possible but they would have to graft through every game and play at near their current peak in order to get a few hundred quid on the board. A far cry from the thousands or tens of thousands they have been in the mix for until very recently.
For most of these guys, the path back to their peak level is proving very difficult. Some have ventured into the BDO hoping fresh players and venues would help them to find their footing. Others have struggled to accept the situation they are in and assume that the wheel of fortune will turn again. They seem to forget that there are hundreds of hungry, and less battle-scarred, players who are determined to jump on that wheel when it comes and they are more than happy to push those who have had their turn out of the way.
Don’t be surprised if any of these guys or others who have seen the glory, have a big run or put together some impressive performances. You don’t get where they were without being top quality dart players. However, don’t be surprised if they fall when the promised land is back in sight.
March of the Ladies
The Challenge Tour has seemed a lonely place for female players in the last few years. Rachel Brooks and more recently Lisa Ashton had often carried the flag alone or between them. Following Ashton’s success and the PDC’s efforts to involve women players in the 2019 World Championships a corner seems to have been turned. The ladies were represented by a group of famous names with talent and experience. Lorraine Winstanley, Deta Hedman, Fallon Sherrock and Anastasia Dobromyslova joined Brookes & Ashton.
Lisa again seemed to be the pick of the bunch with three last 64 appearances and £150 toward the OOM. Recording averages in the mid-high eighties regularly and into the 90’s at times. Fallon also reached the L64 on a couple of occasions, while Anastasia had a run to the last 32 in event 4. It is plain for anyone to see that this group and others are more than able to compete at this level and, should they wish to, it is only a matter of practice planning and time before the level playing field is a reality.
It will be interesting to see whether the interaction between the BDO and PDC, where the women’s game is concerned, will produce a big step forward for the integration of the game at the highest levels.
The Long & Short of It!
So, after four superb events, the CT 2019 is well and truly underway. The top section of the OOM looks like this:
|5||Nathan Rafferty||Northern Ireland||£1,300|
|18||Darren Herewini||New Zealand||£500|
|22||Jeffrey de Graaf||Netherlands||£400|
|25||Danny Van Trijp||Netherlands||£400|
|30||Cody Harris||New Zealand||£350|
Although the first four events are unusual, in as much as they count as qualifiers for various things, the top eight or so have put themselves in a very strong position for the rest of the year. The breadth of first and second level experience in the top thirty or so is very high indeed. Many have played at world championships, on the Pro Tour and some have done even mightier deeds. Yet there are debutants, younger players and those from foreign fields all making a name for themselves. New Zealander Darren Herewini for example impressed at Q School, beating Glenn Durrant along the way, and has started well here. It will be for the big names to put together a series of results over multiple weekends if they are to threaten the Tour Card and major qualifier places.
This tour will be one of the most competitive and interesting out there in 2019. Don’t miss the CT weekend or the AIM summary!