Tag Archives: Challenge Tour

Challenge Tour 2019 Hits the Highs. (Events 1-4)

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.

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Richie Edhouse. Winner of Event 3 Performed well all weekend and tops the CT Order of Merit after 4 events.

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.

Debutant Shines

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!

Dennis Smith

Former PDC World No.4 Dennis Smith another to struggle this weekend.

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

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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!

challenge tour logo

So, after four superb events, the CT 2019 is well and truly underway. The top section of the OOM looks like this:

Rank Player Country Points
1 Ritchie Edhouse England £2,600
2 Boris Koltsov Russia £2,250
3 Stephen Burton England £2,250
4 Shaun Carroll England £2,000
5 Nathan Rafferty Northern Ireland £1,300
6 Dave Prins England £1,300
7 Mick Todd England £1,100
8 Patrick Lynskey England £1,050
9 Scott Taylor England £1,000
10 Jason Askew England £800
11 Andrew Gilding England £800
12 Andy Hamilton England £750
13 Diogo Portela Brazil £750
14 Jason Wilson England £600
15 Ricky Williams England £600
16 Dennis Nilsson Sweden £550
17 Brett Claydon England £550
18 Darren Herewini New Zealand £500
19 Martin Atkins England £500
20 Dave Ladley England £500
21 Darren Johnson England £400
22 Jeffrey de Graaf Netherlands £400
23 Wesley Plaisier Netherlands £400
24 William Borland Scotland £400
25 Danny Van Trijp Netherlands £400
26 Jesús Noguera £350
27 Stu Wilson England £350
28 Chris Quantock England £350
29 Michael Rasztovits Austria £350
30 Cody Harris New Zealand £350
31 Dafydd Edwards Wales

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Challenge Tour 2019, A Feast for Darts Fans.

If you’re a serious, perhaps even an old school, darts fan then you should follow the PDC Challenge Tour in 2019.  The PDC’s equivalent of The Championship retains many of the advantages of the Pro Tour, such as great playing conditions that are constant for every event, efficient and consistent organisation (and officialdom) as well as, thanks to DartsConnect.com, excellent real-time playing coverage and statistical / data availability.

challenge tour logo

Sure, there are a few drawbacks, limited spectator/guest space and no streaming (yet?) being the major ones. But if you like open, regular, competitive and less predictable darts, often of very high standards, this is the place.

Why it Matters.

Challenge Tour (CT) weekends have been of increasing importance, and standard, over the last few years and it appears they will continue to be so. The BDO’s decision to allow players to attend Q School without consequence lead to quite a few additional big names, and high-quality players, now being eligible for CT 2019. In addition, the number of former PDC major players, whether slightly past their peak or returning to winning ways, is growing every year as a generational change moves across the Pro Tour.

In its original format, the CT was a decent enough second division for up & coming players or those who had lost their way, combined with a majority of what could be described as journeymen ( & Women) dart players who could enjoy a great weekend’s serious darts for relatively little cost. It has turned into an extension of the Pro-Tour for many who, for one reason or another, narrowly failed to win a Pro Tour Card.

For those who can reach the higher echelons of the CT, after Events 1-4, they will be able to play the qualifier events for the European Tour as well as filling any missing spaces on the Pro Tour itself. The combination of regular highly competitive darts, in a similar environment, decent income and opportunities at the next level, can be highly effective and beneficial.

An Alternative Route to the Top or a Return Path for the Fallen?

Rob CRoss managed to use the CT as a staging post on his fairytale route to winning at every level of the PDC Tour and claiming the World ChampionshipMicheal Barnard demonstrated this very effectively in 2018. After missing out on a tour card  Barnard set about the CT with a vengeance. His two final appearances, & a Qtr final, ensured that he would be at every Euro Tour qualifier for 2018 as well as putting him at the top of the substitute list for the first few Pro Tour events. The £2,300 probably eased any financial worries as well! Thus a more relaxed Barnard reached the last 16 of his first Pro Tour event of the year, qualified for the UK Open and scored a Euro Tour qualification before the next challenge tour weekend was due! Needless to say, he did not stop there. Within weeks Barnard turned into a regular winner of early round money on the Pro Tour, boosted by his CT efforts, and over the season qualified for both the Players Championship Finals and then The World Championship itself. His earnings in this period exceeded £55,000!  The icing on the cake, for Micheal, took the form of an automatic tour card meaning no Q School and a place on the Pro Tour itself for 2019. How he will perform, without the second tier earnings, regular winning habits and camaraderie, is yet to be revealed.

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Micheal Barnard. The Ultimate Challenge Tour Success Story.

Overall the CT is usually about ten points below the main tour, with players averaging around eighty. This, however, includes a small number of players who are in the very early stages of development and thus can produce some very low scores. This type of player no longer features on the highest tour thus Pro Tour averages come from a selected elite group. It may well be that the difference is more like five points than ten when this is taken into account.  There are a very large number of players overall, over 500 are eligible to play, and a very large percentage are of similar ability.  As a result, players such as Wayne Jones and Alan Tabern have found the slightly lower average level useful in re-finding their feet and returning to Pro Tour. The CT even has its yo-yo players such as Mark Frost ( Frosty The Throw Man!) who seemed to be too good for one and not able to progress in the other.

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The Wanderer. Wayne Jones managed to use the Challenge Tour to return to the top level.

Better and Better

2019 promises a change, the experience level of many of the players is remarkably high. There are world champions, runners up, Premier League players as well as hardened semi-pro types from all over the UK and increasingly the rest of the globe! The talent and potential are virtually limitless and I suspect we will see very high-performance levels and possible records being set on a regular basis.

Add to the above the fact that the draw is totally open and fresh for every event, and you have a recipe for a very explosive and entertaining series of tournaments that may well prove better than ever before and a hidden highlight of the PDC. Surely Barry Hearn will not miss the opportunity to promote the PDC’s efforts for long and streaming will be extended to include the CT.

If your a darts fan and love unpredictable, high level and seriously competitive darts then the 2019 CT is not to be missed. Until then snag yourself a guest pass, boot up your laptop or get practising for next years Q School. 

501 or more: Challenge Tour 2017, Ashton & Dyer grab headlines.

challenge tour logo

The 2017 Challenge Tour (CT) season kicked off this weekend in its Wigan home. The PDC’s ‘second tier division’ has settled into a viable and consistent event over the last few years and is beginning to establish itself as part of a possible path for future professional players. Superb double wins from Aaron Dyer and the performance of Lisa Ashton draw most attention.

This year’s tour may see a significant move, away from the yo-yo process involving some former Pro Tour players, and some of the newer generation begin to break through. Yet at least some of those who have proven to be big fish in the smaller pond may prove difficult to dislodge. For example Alan Tabern (Semi Finalist in CT1 &2) and Mark Frost (Finalist CT1) have again made an impact during the opening weekends four events. Both players have had very strong performances on this tour, over the last two or three years, whilst still struggling to make a significant impact at the higher levels. Aaron DyerMartin Lukeman could be players to break through, based on recent efforts, with Lukeman also reaching the later stages of the UK Open as well as a final in CT 2.

A possible weakness of the tour, as a progression path, is the volume of players who have proven solid, and talented, but not able to survive on the main tour and are beginning to clog up the higher end of the second division. In addition players whose careers have dropped, after some very high peaks, are enjoying a bit of an Indian summer. It is reminiscent of footballers who are not quite good enough for the Premier League or those looking for an extended payday by dropping down a division, but whereas in team sports such movement can help young players, or unfancied teams, develope the opposite can be argued here.

At look at the last 16 from event 1 highlights the groups emerging. Aaron Dyer  (Winner CT2&4) and the aforementioned Lukeman  represent the newer players breaking through. Tabern, Wayne Jones, Kev McDine & Barrie Bates are examples of those who could be said to be trying to recapture former glory. Whilst Jim Walker, Mark Frost and Peter Hudson have proven, at best, inconsistent at the next level. There are many more in each group.

Ian Jones Whippet

Wolverhampton’s Ian Jones has finally entered a PDC tour and made a solid start. The Whippet is vastly experienced on both BDO and Open tours and has a fierce will to win. Given time to adapt he could prove a dangerous and valuable addition to the cast. At the other end of the age spectrum is Adam Smith Neale. If talent was the only factor Adam would already be a household name. Sadly his early development, as a player, went astray after a superb start. However lots of open success in the last 12 months, and what appears to be a solid return to form, should see progress made toward re-establishing himself as a threat. Pip Blackwell‘s entry into the event implies that the Challenge Tour is now being seen by BDO players as legitimate and perhaps a testing ground for deciding on future career paths.

Lisa Ashton’s strong performance could be a game changer for darts ,and the PDC, as well as the player herself. Already renowned in BDO circles, as a superb player, Ashton’s multiple victories, and close defeats to good quality players, may provide the template for a future unified sport. If this is indeed the turning point, the potential for TV, sponsors and all commercial area’s would be amazing. I cannot think of another mainstream TV sport in which there is a level playing field with Men & Women genuinely competing at the highest level.

BDO+Lakeside+World+Professional+Darts+Championships+g0JI8KN2O_Ul

In summary then the first four events of this year’s tour demonstrated its strengths and weaknesses. With twenty plus events scheduled for 2017 it should prove the most interesting yet.

 

Two Shots for Double Dekker?

PDC Dart player Jan Dekker, exploits ranking system to perfection as UK players disadvantaged.

Double Dekker. Former BDO World Semi Finalist Jan Dekker

Double Dekker. Former BDO World Semi Finalist Jan Dekker

Jan Dekker is a Dutch dart player of considerable talent. He has reached the later stages of the BDO ( British Darts Organisation) Lakeside World Championship on more than one occasion and has shown a strong big game temperament. He has always appeared an intelligent and well-informed person and player. He resisted the calls to run to the full-time professional circuit, after his early success, and returned to finish his education. Over the last couple of years he has again returned to the fore and this year made the decision to play within the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) system.

The PDC system involves a qualifying school, to gain one of 128 tour cards in order to be assured of playing on the Pro Tour events and then a number of tours, of differing levels, to qualify for various major & TV events over the year. Tour cards last for up yo two years but are given annually to those in the top 64 without the need for Q School attendance. Those who fail to get a tour card are ranked on their performance. They can still play some tours and are reserve players for the main Pro Tour events and as such may be able to play almost the entire Pro Tour whilst still being eligible for the lower tier tours as well.

To enable wider international participation, some events/tours have qualifiers in, or near to, their continental locations as well as a UK qualifying event. Therefore International players can choose either method of qualification.

The basic aim of the system is to provide qualification and ranking systems and well as allow new players to make an attempt to get into the elite Tour Card holding echelons of PDC Professional darts and to earn some of the £7 million plus prize fund available. As can be imagined this is incredibly competitive and, as in any sport, requires not only talent but financial backing / earnings, patience and determination.

Having met Jan on a number of occasions during the past few years I was interested to see how his move to the PDC would pan out and thus have kept an eye out for his result, I watched some of his games and assessed his progress as the 2015 season has progressed. As a dart consultant /coach and fan I was also in a position to compare this to the efforts of other, mainly UK, players who were in a similar position at the seasons beginning. Q School in Wigan January 2015.

As well as noting Jan’s relative success, many thought he would not thrive, it became impossible not to notice several flaws in the professional system, Jan was benefiting from, not available to other players.

This was again highlighted when I also looked out for a player that I had admired, for a number of years, and was well thought of elsewhere. Eddie Dootson is an experienced but little known player from the UK. It became impossible not to see how badly the odds were stacked against him.

Now that the floor / qualification season is over these anomalies can be shown in their true light.

No blame or allegation of the players mentioned or their teams is intended or implied. Both are simply attempting to gain the best start to their PDC career within the rules in place.

Q School

Dekker had a moderately successful Q school, although he did not gain one of the Pro Tour cards available, he finished high enough up the ranking table to ensure he would be able to compete in the vast majority of Pro Tour events should he wish to do so. By entering and playing the event he also became entitled to play the second level PDC tour known as The Challenge Tour. In addition to this he would be eligible to play in the qualifiers events for six The UK Open and nine European Tour events. The later of these he could do either via the UK qualifiers, which were open to all associate members, or the European/Home Nation Qualifier for each event. This becomes the first example of Two Shots for Dekker. For the 2015 season he can aim to get a tour card either by reaching the top 64 overall or by winning the challenge tour. At the same time his financial opportunities increase over new tour card holders who cannot compete in the Challenge Tour.

Eddie Dootson had a similar overall Q School experience, although he finished higher up the ranking table and was thus assured of gaining access to every event.

Eddie Dootson Reaches L16 of UK Open 2015

Eddie Dootson Reaches Last 16 of UK Open 2015

UK Open.

With this security net, of his two shots at every aim, Jan Dekker is able to relax and play in the qualifiers for these events. As these events are not seeded and he is a highly experienced international player, this should provide a happy hunting ground. A very average performance by his own standard means he qualifies but only in the lower group. Here however his talent for big game match play comes storming through. Jan reaches the last 16 of his debut PDC major and adds £5000 to his bank account but more importantly to his overall ranking position.

Eddie starts superbly and reaches a semi final and finished in the top group in qualifying finishing in 22nd place. He then goes on to reach the last 16 of his debut major. Superb performance to add £5000 to his qualification winnings.

The Challenge Tour

Dekker has previous experience of the challenge tour so a quiet start, picking up a few hundred pounds on the first weekend, does not put a dent in the proceedings. By weekend two however Jan is in a much better place, this sees him win one event and reaches Semi and Qtr finals over the weekends four competitions. The consistent playing of events on most weekends and constant opportunities for him to improve and adapt are beginning to pay off. Over the next two Challenge Tour weekends things have changed on the Pro Tour and a confident Dekker wins two more events and picks up money / ranking points in three more. He even misses event twelve completely. In total he has picked up almost £7,500 in cash and by winning the order of merit has earned himself a tour card for 2016/17. No Q School for Mr Dekker next year. Achieving this by September removes a lot of pressure.

Eddie does not shine on the challenge tour. having not previous tour experience and having to play at the highest level in other events, it is not surprising that something gives and the Challenge Tour is not a priority.

Pro Tour

His Q school ranking ensures Jan has played in almost every Pro Tour Floor event this year. As for all newer players it has proved a tough baptism. However his talent has come through in stages and he has regularly won through to claim between £250 & £750, with one last 16 appearance earning him £1500. His total from his 19 appearances at Players Championship & UK Open qualifiers was £4750. Whilst respectable for a first season it hardly sets the world on fire with the last 16 being his best performance. Here again though, double shot, Dekker has benefited from the slanted rules. Josh Payne for example has earned over £8,000 from the same 20 Pro Tour events but is struggling to qualify for the World Championships. Dekker will have no such problems even with an overall Pro Tour finish of 73rd place.

Eddie Dootson has an excellent Pro Tour first year. As suspected he is eligible for all events and in the 20 players champs and 6 UK Open Qualifiers he reaches a Semi Final and steadily accumulates ranking money with L64 and L32 places. His earnings, of £5,250 are again higher than Jan’s.

European Tour

Since 2012 The European Tour has altered the balance of the PDC Rankings

Since 2012 The European Tour has altered the balance of the PDC Rankings

These nine events ( there will be ten in 2016) have transformed the PDC rankings. They are superb opportunities for up and coming players who get to them. They are held on stage and give great experience, as well as being the best rewarded stand alone element of the Pro Tour. Each event accepts the top 16 seeds from the appropriate order of merit and then has qualifying places open to players at the UK , European & Host nation qualifiers. Qualifiers receive £1000 for the first round and thus can easily cover expenses and concentrate on getting through a round or two to swell their ranking coffers. Often with at least one game against an opponent not from the top 16. Despite playing in the, relatively, easier qualifying events Jan has only qualified for two of these events. However they have made all the difference. Both events came at the right time in terms of financial / ranking boosts and without them life may well have been much tougher!

The £2500 gained here has meant that Jan is sitting in second spot for the European qualifying places for the World Championships. Despite being 73rd in the Pro Tour Order of Merit he will line up at Ally Pally in December. With his record, on TV, and experience meaning he is an opponent that very few would wish for.

Eddie had to enter the much more difficult UK qualifiers for all these events but still managed to qualify for 2 events and gain an additional £2,000. Despite these efforts he will not qualify for the World Championships via the Pro Tour and unless he can gain a place at the qualifying event his PDC season is complete.

Overall Rankings & Earnings.

As noted earlier the top 64 in the overall rankings gain automatic tour cards for a minimum of one year. To avoid Q School in 2016 a reasonable guess would have been for a player to gain in the region of £17,000 in ranking prize money over the season including the World Professional Championships. It is safe to say that were Dekker a UK player he would have had a solid first season and be planning Q School and then a decision on whether to keep his ranking money for 2016/17 or start again from zero. Due to the above double opportunities though he has one further card to play. The prize money from the World Championships will put Jan into the top 64. If he starts in Rd 1 it will put him into the top 55 and any wins will see him rocket up the table. Thus again the double elimination loophole is working overtime for Jan here. He has gained entry to European Tours via an event not open to all. The funds generated from this have earned him a place at Ally Pally, that is also not open to all, and the accumulation of funds will mean he is rewarded with a place in the elite top 64.

As well as the top 64 place is it safe to say that Jan’s first season has hardly been one of financial struggle against the odds. By early January 2016 he will have been in the PDC system for 12 months. He will have claimed prize money  £30,000+. This is basically for failing to win a tour card and finishing outside the top 70 on the Pro Tour. He will start 2016 with nothing to defend and with every chance of moving further up the rankings, even with another steady year.

Meanwhile Eddie Dootson, despite having matched or bettered Dekker in every ranking arena, will have earned a little over £12,000. He will decide on whether to return to Q School and, if he achieves a tour card, whether to start again or gamble on a lesser amount in the ranking bank.

Whilst acknowledging that it is important for darts to attract players and financial interest from other nations, surely it is time to remove some of the more glaring unfairness from a system that works against highly talented players who, cannot work the system financially or, are simply born in the nation that drives the darts boom!

Barry Hearn

Put simply, it is time for Barry Hearn & Matt Porter at the PDC and Peter Manley & Alan Warriner-Little at the PDPA to stop tweaking the rules, and ranking system, and overhaul it to take account of the changes that their superb success, in creating the modern game, has created. It is clearly time for as level a playing field as possible.