A historic Q-School triumph is not the end of the road for Lisa Ashton, but the beginning; now she has a Tour Card, she’s ready for at least two of the most important years of her career.
Ashton has written her name in the history books plenty of times. As a four-time world champion, the first player to appear at a PDC World Championship after qualifying through a dedicated women’s qualifier and a leading light in women’s darts, she has been used to making headlines.
In Wigan, the Lancashire Roses’ neck of the woods, more history was made. The 49-year-old went to PDC Q-School a year ago, and was denied agonisingly on countback. All the bad luck of 2019 reversed in 2020. A brilliant run on Day Two helped her towards nine points. Then, during a tense final day where rivals consistently fell just short of ending her chances again, Ashton clung onto the final spot.
It makes her the first woman ever to gain a PDC Tour Card through Q-School. The occasion was momentous; the celebrations modest.
“My family were like: ‘What do you want to do to celebrate?’ And I said I just wanted to go home and have a brew.
“It was all so stressful, I just needed a brew to calm down. So I went home, my family came round and we had a Chinese takeaway and a brew. I was in heaven. It tasted like champagne to me,” Ashton told the Daily Telegraph.
The attention from the likes of the Telegraph tells a story in itself. Women’s darts is driving the sport as a whole into the spotlight. Barry Hearn recognised it, rewarding Fallon Sherrock’s brilliant World Championship performance with Premier League and World Series slots. Ashton is hopeful that her pioneering, coupled with Sherrock’s ascent into stardom, will propel the women’s game forwards.
“The ladies are coming through, so hopefully with Fallon and me and others having a go, hopefully Barry Hearn might do a little ladies tour.
“The opportunity is there. Fallon has shown she can play and she’s opened doors to ladies darts to show that we are ready to compete,” Ashton said.
Earning a Tour Card gives Ashton two years to earn enough ranking money to stay on the Pro Tour circuit. In that time, she qualifies for two UK Opens, and will have the chance to qualify for European Tours and every major tournament, as well as having automatic entry into the 30 Players Championship events.
It’ll be a big step beyond what the Lancashire Rose has been involved in before. Ashton recognises that her game will need to evolve, but the calibre of opponent and the challenges ahead are only likely to galvanise her.
“My life is going to change a lot because I’m going to have to play more hours and give more commitment to darts – it’s another level to what I’m used to,” said Ashton.
“I won’t be able to do all the family life I’ve been doing. I’ll have to play during the day. I’ll have to turn professional.
“I know I have to do the hard work now and push my level even higher against these men and see how far I can go.”
Ashton added: “No disrespect to any of the ladies, but we do play better against the men. I think it’s because we know we have to because they are stronger – they are hitting higher scores, so it’s pushing us.
“Every step is a new challenge. That’s what I like about it. I’m not there just to make up the numbers. Let them worry about me and not me worry about them.”
Author: Ed McCosh