Lisa Ashton praises PDC Women’s Series introduction but remains hopeful of full professional women’s tour
Lisa Ashton has praised the introduction of the PDC Women’s Series, which will see the likes of herself and Fallon Sherrock compete in four rewarding tournaments in October.
Ashton, 49, became the first female player to secure a coveted professional tour card in January, defeating the likes of Stephen Burton and Peter Jacques during a prosperous four days in Wigan.
The four-time women’s world champion, who has since won on six occasions on the ProTour, reflected on an apprehensive final day of Q School.
“It’s the most stressful day of your life,” she laughed in an interview as part of Inside the WDF’s Golden Arrows series. “I went out early, I was a bit gutted, I couldn’t finish and the guy played well.
“It then felt like hours and hours and hours of people saying ‘yeah’ and ‘no’, I didn’t really want to know.
“So what I just did was go and support the other guys who was with me and was playing in it, watching them, supporting them and trying not to take any notice of who was going out.
“It was the longest day of my life that day of waiting to see if I got one or not. I wasn’t going to believe anything until the guy on that desk came over to me and told me that I have the tour card, that’s when I’ll celebrate.”
Ashton following her defeat to Cross at last year’s Grand Slam of Darts (Photography: Chris Sargeant)
Weeks later Ashton would wander through the doors of another leisure centre in the north of England. This time Michael van Gerwen would headline her board, with world champion Peter Wright also amongst the field.
“It was unreal,” she said. “You walk in and they’re all there practising, and you think ‘oh my god, I’m playing in the same tournament as these, I’m practising on the same board as these’.
“It’s a dream, and that’s what you’ve been watching on the TV. To actually go and play against them, I was a bit nervous at first because it was different for me, but they’ve all made me feel welcome and been giving me advice – it’s been great, I’m enjoying it.”
After being ousted in the opening round on her ProTour debut, a mere 24 hours later Ashton would overcome Christian Bunse to secure her maiden victory in the professional echelons of her chosen sport.
“There’s still people saying ladies shouldn’t be in this and in that,” she said. “I just wanted to prove to myself that I can play against these. I know I’ve got the game, I’ve just got to settle in and play like I know I can.
“To get a win and to get a 100 average was just showing these men that I’m not just here to make the numbers up, I’m here to actually compete and try to get the wins.”
‘The Lancashire Rose’ during her Grand Slam of Darts debut last year (Photography: Chris Sargeant)
Ashton would have expected a debut season full of travelling, though, instead she has spend the majority of the year at her Bolton residence due to the season being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The former PDC World Championship qualifier returned to action at the Summer Series and will supposedly compete in the upcoming Autumn Series, before heading to Cannock for the inaugural Women’s Series in October.
It was recently revealed that all female throwers will be given the opportunity to participate in four £5,000 tournaments at the Chase Leisure Centre, with places at the World Championship and Grand Slam of Darts up for grabs.
“It’s absolutely fantastic news for all the ladies and for ladies darts in general as they‘re still believing in us,” Ashton said. “It’s what the ladies game needs, it’s given everybody something to aim towards.
“What’s going on with the BDO? People don’t know. And the WDF whether they are playing tournaments or not. It gives the ladies something to practise for which is absolutely fantastic.
“We can’t ask for anything better, it’s a start, it’s the beginning, and hopefully there will be more to come, but it’s brilliant to give all the ladies this opportunity.”
Ashton taking aim at the final BDO World Championship in January (Photography: Chris Sargeant)
Many female players will be hoping that the inception of the Women’s Series will spark a full women’s circuit being established.
Despite owning a tour card, Ashton remains optimistic of a women’s tour commencing due to some ladies not feeling comfortable when playing against the men.
“It would be brilliant if they did a ladies tour,” she expressed. “It would give all the ladies the opportunity to play in it because some ladies don’t feel comfortable playing against the men yet.
“It’s their preference as they may not feel they’re good enough against the men, but if they did a women’s tour you might get more involved because more would apply for that as they’re more comfortable just playing the ladies.”
(Featured Image: Chris Sargeant/Tip Top Pics)