AFTER four arduous days of competition, Simon Stevenson returned to Plymouth in the early hours of Monday morning, with a much-coveted two-year Tour Card from the PDC’s Q School.
Last Thursday, at the Robin Park Tennis Centre, Wigan, over 430 players began their campaign in the quest for one of just 23 tour cards that were on offer.
The final two players on each of the four days won an automatic PDC Tour Card but other participants were awarded ranking points throughout the event, which formed the Q School Order of Merit table.
A further 15 PDC Tour Cards were awarded to the leading players in the Order of Merit at the end of the four days which finished on Sunday evening and Plymouth marksman Simon Stevenson was one of the 15.
DONE IT: Simon Stevenson re-gained his PDC Tour Card with an epic performance on the final day of Q School.
There was disappointment though for fellow Plymouth marksman John Mann who missed out by just two points, despite achieving some excellent victories over the four days.
Mann started well on day one with a 5-2 defeat of Sheffield’s Steven Marfleet before ending the hopes of Paul Goodwin 5-1.
Mann was pushed the full distance in round three by the experienced York marksman Martyn Turner, but held his nerve in the ninth and decisive leg to win 5-4.
Stoke-on-Trent player Andy Boulton, a winner of five open tournaments was dispatched 5-0 in the next round before “The Pilgrim” came up against 35-year-old Tony Newell.
Newell was a Tour Card winner in 2014 and 2016 and qualified for the 2016 UK Open where he got to round three before being ousted by Adrian Lewis, but that form counted for nothing as Mann triumphed 5-1.
Now into the last 16, the 22-year-old Australian Corey Cadby now stood in Mann’s way of further progress but the 2016 World Youth Champion was just too good on the day, producing clinical finishing that earned him a 5-1 victory.
Cadby was widely tipped to win a Tour Card at some point over the four days and so it proved when he was one of the two winners on the opening day.
Simon Stevenson was in the hunt to regain his Tour Card which he lost at the end of the 2017 and made a bright start when defeating Bolton’s Stuart Stubbs 5-3.
He then won 5-2 against Cumbrian Harry Robinson before disappointingly being dispatched 5-1 by Matt Padgett.
Stevenson fared much better on day two though, winning his way through to the last 16.
He began with a 5-1 victory over Q School debutant Paul Jenkinson before he defeated Tom Lonsdale 5-4.
The Mirrorman was pushed the full distance again in his next encounter by the experienced Brian Woods who was a former BDO World Championship semi-finalist and a winner of 15 titles over the years, but Stevenson held his nerve to hit the winning double in the decisive ninth leg.
Scott Marsh, the winner of the Sheppey Darts Classic in 2013 was Stevenson’s next opponent and he was ousted 5-1 which took Stevenson into the last 32.
He was then drawn to face Lee Palfreyman, a former semi-finalist of the Las Vegas Dessert Classic but Stevenson showed good form to win 5-2.
Now into the last 16, the Tamerton Foliot marksman was up against Welshman Robert Owen, a player who Stevenson defeated as recently as last August in the International Darts Open but was let down by his finishing and crashed out in five straight legs, but not before picking up valuable ranking points.
John Mann could not repeat the heroics of the previous day and after a 5-0 victory over Kieran Evans, went out 5-3 to Scotland’s Luke Woodhouse.
The two Plymouth players were in unison on day three and more merit table points were gained when the duo both reached the last 64.
After receiving a bye in the opening round, John Mann had consecutive 5-0 victories over Scotland’s Evander Stevenson and 24-year-old Sam Head from Portsmouth, which put him into the last 64.
He then faced Cameron Menzies, another Scotsman and despite being only 28 years of age, had good pedigree after reaching the last 32 of the recent BDO World Championships and also in 2017 he reached the semi-finals of the World Masters and claimed the Scottish Open title.
John Mann matched him dart for dart over the first eight legs, but it was Menzies who eventually prevailed 5-4 to move into the last 32.
Stevenson also started with a 5-0 victory when defeating Andy Hutchings and followed that feat by ending the hopes of Adam Bowman 5-2.
Matt Jackson took the Mirrorman the full distance, but Stevenson clinched the winning double of the ninth leg to move into the last 64.
Ryan Meikle, a 22-year-old Suffolk barber, was Stevenson’s next opponent and although he played some of his best darts of the day, the Plymouth marksman was defeated 5-1.
Mann and Stevenson went into the final day of Q School with the Order of Merit table showing them in joint 11th place with eight other players, all on seven points, but only one point behind another five players who were tied in sixth place.
Mann won his opening match 5-1 against Alex Frith before disappointingly going out of the competition by the same scoreline when defeated by Ryan Meikle.
DISAPPOINTED: John Mann was left disappointed after missing out on a PDC Tour Card by just two points.
But it was a different story for The Mirrorman.
It all stated for him on an epic day at 12 noon in the round of 512!
He opened with 5-2 victory against Scotland’s Derek Brand before going on to win 5-3 against the 26-year-old Walsall thrower, Matthew Dennant.
His first serious test was against seasoned journeyman Andy Jenkins who Stevenson defeated last year in the World Series of Darts and he proved that victory was no fluke when he ousted the Portsmouth darter 5-1.
Now into the last 64, he defeated Will Harwood 5-3 before meeting 44-year-old Andy Boulton who had defeated Stevenson 6-2 back in October in Players Championship 20.
But the experienced Stoke thrower could not replicate that form and Stevenson moved into the last 16 by a 5-3 margin.
He now faced one of the brightest up and coming prospects in the game in 18-year-old Bradley Brooks who won the JDC European Open Championship in 2017 and was good value for his victory when defeating Stevenson 5-3.
But the 45-year-old had done enough and when the final Order of Merit table was made known soon after the event, Stevenson was in joint fifth place on 11 points, a remarkable achievement.
After having time to reflect on what he had achieved, Stevenson said: “It was a tough battle to grab the vital points needed. I feel delighted in my achievement considering the standard of the players taking part”.
He will start the 2018 campaign on the PDC Pro Tour as early as February 2, when he will return to Wigan and compete in the qualifying rounds of the UK Open.