SOME of the world’s leading lady darts players were flying the flag for the fairer sex at the Professional Darts Corporation’s Q School for the first time, but nobody flew it higher than the Lancashire Rose herself, Lisa Ashton.
On Day One, at the Robin Park Tennis Centre in Wigan, no fewer than 397 players were in the line-up with their eyes on one of the 19 two-year Tour Cards that were available over the four days of competition.
Lisa began with a 5-3 defeat of Adam Shanks, claiming the winning eighth leg in 15 with a 120 outshot, before losing by the same score-line to Lewis McGurn.
The draw on day two paired the Bolton thrower with Andy Jenkins, a former semi-finalist of the PDC World Championship, World Grand Prix and UK Open, but that form counted for nothing as Ashton moved into a 3-1 lead, aided by an 11-dart leg.
Jenkins won the next three on the bounce to lead for the first time at 4-3 before Lisa made it 4-4 with a leg in 13 and sealed victory when finishing a 12-dart leg with an outshot 126.
Sadly, she was then beaten 5-1 in the next round by Thomas Lovely, despite achieving a three-dart average of 86.40.
But what a difference a day makes.
Day three of Q School was a different day, a day when the four times BDO World Champion showed what she was capable of and Lisa (85.4) ended Paul Neate’s hopes of progress when beating him 5-1, winning the last two legs in 13 and 15, aided by a checkout of 103.
Brian Hallas was Lisa’s next opponent and in defeating the Yorkshireman 5-2 achieved the highest average of any player on the day with 106.0.
The 48-year-old won the opener in 13 and then doubled her advantage when taking the next in 12 when following a ton and two 140s with a checkout of 121.
Hallas pulled one back in 17, but Lisa moved 3-1 ahead with a leg in 13 before finishing a 15-darter with a kill of 100.
The sixth leg was won by the man from Huddersfield in 15 before Ashton repeated the scores of leg two, again checking out from 121 for a win in 12.
Fellow Lancastrian Ian Lever was next in line, but he was edged out 5-4 by Ashton (83.80) whose best legs came in 13 and 14.
The two times winner of the World Masters and Finders Masters was now on a roll and she carried that form into the round of 64 where she blew away Dylan Duo 5-0, aided by two maximums and finishing with a 92.8 average.
After a nervous opening leg, which Ashton won in 24, she then moved into the last 32 when taking the next four legs in 13, 14, 14 and 16.
Lisa’s next opponent was Steve Hine, affectionately known on the circuit as “The Muffin Man” but he also fell by the wayside as two 15-dart legs, helped Ashton to claim a 5-2 victory.
Her amazing run came to an end in the last 16 when defeated 5-3 by Martin O’Boyle but it was a match she should have won.
After the first two legs were shared, Lisa went 3-1 up in 15 and 13 and had darts to make it 4-1 but it went to O’Boyle.
He then won the sixth and despite Ashton having nine darts to win the seventh, he also claimed that one when firing in an outshot of 101 for a 15-darter before a kill of 110 in the next put him into the last eight.
Lisa began the fourth and final day of competition in joint 35th place on five points but did not have the best of draws in her opening match when she was paired against Robert Rickwood.
Rickwood had previous good form on the PDC circuit and only last June in Players Championship 15, defeated Plymouth’s only Tour Card holder Simon Stevenson 6-2.
But it was Lisa who won the first leg in 17, aided by a maximum only for Rickwood to level in 12 darts, aided by a maximum of his own and a checkout of 136.
Lisa took three of the next four to lead 4-2 and although her opponent claimed the seventh, it was the Bolton thrower who progressed to the next round when winning the eighth leg in 14 after hitting another 180.
Lisa was still only in the round of 256, which seemed a long way off from the finishing line but gave another outstanding performance when ousting Dean Owen.
She took the first two legs both in 17 before a 15-darter from her 51-year-old opponent halted her progress but cleaned up when taking the next three in 16, 16 and 14 for a terrific 5-1 victory, giving her a three-dart average of 92.50.
Shaun Griffiths was her next opponent and although he was an outstanding youth player, winning consecutive Winmau World Youth Masters titles, he has never fulfilled his promise at senior level.
None the less he is still a marksman to be respected as he showed when pulling it back to 3-3 with a 14-darter which he finished with a kill of 100.
Ashton edged in front for the fourth time with a win in 20 to lead 4-3 before winning against the darts to clinch a 5-3 victory in 14.
The former Danish and French Open champion Dave Askew was next in line and he won the opener in 18, aided by a maximum before Lisa hit a 180 of her own and equalised also in 18.
She then moved in front for the first time when taking the next in 13 and despite having darts to move 3-1 up, the Redhill man levelled in 20.
But that was the last leg he was to win. Lisa won the next in 17 followed by a 15-darter and aided by her second maximum of the match, took it in 16.
That victory enabled her to win board 11 with a 91.00 average which put her into the last 32.
Kevin Lane was the next player to stand in her way of progress. but she took the opener in 15 following a checkout of 151 and took the next three as well before the Welshman won the next in 16.
But Lisa (85.6) knew that victory was only one leg away and she took that one with aplomb when finishing a 12-darter with an outshot of 124.
For a place in the last eight, Lisa had to dispatch Nathan Rafferty, a player who had just won his previous match with a 108.2 average but that counted for nothing as Lisa won the opener in 15 with a kill of 106.
Rafferty though won three on the bounce before Lisa, at the start of leg five, threw back to back 180s to set herself up for a nine-darter but had to settle for victory in 13.
Her opponent won the next in 14 and clinched a 5-2 victory taking the next in 16 to finish with a 90.4 average, but not as good as Lisa’s 93.5.
Rafferty went on to claim one of the last Tour Cards of 2019 Q School along with Kirk Shepherd.
From a starting field of 397 players, Lisa finished in 20th place. An awesome achievement and just one more victory on the opening day would have seen her win a much coveted two-year PDC Tour card.
For the statisticians, Lisa won 13 of her 17 matches and finished 36th in the averages with a three-dart average of 86.28. She recorded 158 throws of 100+, 75 scores of 140+ and 17 maximums.