WITH the start of the 2021 PDC Women’s Series just over a fortnight away, and with this year’s ‘tour’ now consisting of two treble-header weekends, there can be no doubt that the PDC has wholeheartedly begun a development process for Women’s darts which seeks to mirror its own development and latterly that of the Development and Challenge level systems.
The expanded PDC Women’s Series will see 12 events staged across two weekends this year after the events in Niedernhausen, Germany were canceled. The inclusion of a non-UK weekend, regardless of the unfortunate cancelation, from the start of the accelerated development should make it clear to all that the PDC intends to widen the scope and popularity of women’s darts at a rapid pace.
The structure and prize money is similar to the early Challenge and Development Tours: six events, each worth £5,000 in prize money, will be held across each weekend, with the top two players from the final Order of Merit qualifying for the 2021/22 William Hill World Darts Championship. Although it is unlikely that these events will justify themselves financially in the early days the drain on the PDC purse will not be over substantial.
The similarities between the early days of the WDC/PDC itself and the current position of the women’s game are clear. Last year’s two top stars, Lisa Ashton and Deta Hedman, along with Japan’s Mikuru Suzuki, will be amongst those competing and the trio together with Fallon Sherrock represent the elite of the women’s game. This small group is complemented by another of similar size with vast experience and similar, if not as consistent, ability this includes Anastasia Dobromyslova, Lorraine Winstanley, Corrine Hammond, Eileen De Graf, Beau Greaves with several others in or around it. All have won multiple titles and set various records.
If you take a trip down memory lane you may recall the original setup of the PDC being quite similar. There was a pair of dominant champions in Taylor and Priestley as well as some fiercely competitive challengers such as Alan Warriner and Rod Harrington. There was then a pack of storied names who were still capable on their day – Lowe, Anderson, et al – new names were able to come through and try their luck whilst at the same time swelling the numbers and adding to the variety of characters on show: Manley, Mardle, Wade and Lewis illustrate this group. It will be this area that Women’s darts will need to develop in order to extend the game and increase its popularity as a spectator sport, in its own right, as well as providing those who may enter the open ( men’s) fields to challenge the established names in the open (men’s) game.
It is not as easy to see where this group will come from, will more opportunity mean that existing players such as Maria O Brien develop into major champions? Or will it fall to newer names from a mix of nations to develop the next group of challengers (I steer clear of ‘generation’ as its likely many age groups will be represented). European players, such as Fie Skinnes and Karolina Podgorska may lead the way or possibly more global names could come through.
Yet the biggest opportunity is for UK-based players who have the talent but previously did not have the opportunity or the resource to dedicate themselves to full or even part-time darts. This year what could be described as a mini PDC Tour and a variety of WDF and other events will begin to provide such possibilities. Natalie Gilbert, for example, has appeared from almost nowhere and is now regularly seen in the same bracket as some of these names. Next year is likely to have an even wider range with perhaps a full PDC Women’s Tour, Challenge and or Development Tour opportunities, WDF calendar, and, possibly, MAD stepping up their involvement.
Two further weekends will be staged in the UK, on September 25-26 in Milton Keynes and October 23-24 in Barnsley – which will also feature streaming through PDCTV. Another ‘experience opportunity’ for the players less used to such exposure.
The two places in the Grand Slam of Darts will also go to the leading performers in the re-scheduled based on cumulative prize money won in selected. Again giving an opportunity for development as well as an immediate reward for achievement.
For any female player of talent, the chance of following the accelerated path of development is, surely, too good to miss?
Lead image: Lawrence Lustig.
Entry for the PDC Women’s Series is available via www.pdcplayers.com, with players who have not previously competed in PDC events needing to Register with the system first.
JR Lott contributes to Darts World and other publications
Article originally appears in Darts World ( 575 )
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