7 Names to Look Out For at European Q-School
‘Lucky D’ was one of the stories of the 2019 PDC World Championships, a comfortable 3-1 victory over Matt Edgar setting the scene for a famous 3-2 win over former 5-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld. It was a result that sent shockwaves throughout the darting world, however, those who had been following the Lithuanian’s career over the last few years weren’t surprised. The former Lakeside quarter-finalist dominated the highly competitive Nordic/Baltic scene in 2018, winning two tour titles in addition to qualifying for 6 European Tour events where he impressed further, only narrowly missing out on the European Championships. Without a doubt, Labanauskas is one of the leading contenders to wrap up a tour card.
Few people suffered more heartache in missing out on Ally Pally than Madars Razma. ‘Razmatazz’ fell agonisingly close to making the Worlds on three fronts, falling just £250 short on the ProTour, finishing 4th on the Nordic/Baltic tour and missing a match dart against Aden Kirk in the final round of the last-chance PDPA qualifier.
Despite a slow start to his PDC career, Razma is a much improved player compared with this time 2 years ago. Towards the end of 2018, Razma beat Michael van Gerwen along the way to a ProTour final in Dublin, won two Nordic/Baltic tour titles and reached round 2 of his debut PDC TV event at the Players Championship Finals. Take this kind of form to Hildesheim, and he is well capable of winning his tour card back at the first opportunity
Despite playing in the UK version in Wigan last year, the New Zealander has opted to play at the European Q-School in 2019. ‘Codestar’ could be considered unlucky not to have a tour card already in the bag—a quirk in the system meaning that victory in the final Challenge Tour event of last year for Ted Evetts (who had already secured his tour card and place at the Worlds the weekend prior via the Development Tour) ended up handing a tour card to Rowby-John Rodriguez rather than Harris. Nevertheless, a good year for Harris (finishing 3rd on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit behind Michael Barnard and Ted Evetts) didn’t go completely unrewarded as he earned a return to Ally Pally, performing well in reaching the last 64 for a second year running.
Justin van Tergouw
Having won the last two world titles, the 18 year old Dutchman has now graduated from the BDO youth ranks. As is common at that age, he has tested the water on both sides of the darting divide, playing in the World Youth Championship, Development Tour (reaching a final in September) and European Tour in the PDC, as well as a wide range of BDO/WDF events (including narrowly missing out on qualifying for Lakeside). There have been some health concerns with the youngster (he is often unable to play the full weekend schedule on the Development Tour), however, if he can stay fit, 2019 is sure to be a great learning experience for van Tergouw
The youngest of the darting Rodriguez brothers, Rusty-Jake won the inaugural Junior Darts Corporation world title in 2017. His progress since has been steady, winning a Development Tour title in 2017 and occasionally qualifying for European Tour events. However, perhaps his most high-profile match to date came late last year as he came just one game away from qualifying for Ally Pally (losing in the final of the South/East European qualifier to older brother Rowby-John!). Like van Tergouw, this should be an interesting year of development for the young Austrian.
Jeffrey de Graaf
Prior to Ally Pally, de Graaf’s status as a PDC tour card holder was hanging in the balance. Eventually, a disastrous defeat to Filipino Noel Malicdem (where de Graaf looked understandably nervy), as well as a host of upsets elsewhere knocked de Graaf down to #67 in the world. It was a bitterly disappointing end to what had been a decent year on tour for the Dutchman, who despite a miserable record at world championships, is a player with solid pedigree in both the BDO and the PDC
The popular Canadian has bags of experience from his days in the BDO/WDF system, reaching the Lakeside final in 2016 and beating Australian namesake Raymond in the final of the WDF World Cup Singles in 2017. Smith has had an up and down time in the PDC, playing at the last 2 world championships, but failed in his attempts to win a tour card and qualify for the UK Open last year. However, he remains a very capable player on his day, can he get it all together in Hildesheim and win tour card?