THE PDC Tour staged their first two European qualifiers yesterday at the Robin Park Tennis Centre, Wigan, with 24 places up for grabs in both the Belgian Darts Championship (ET1) and the European Darts Grand Prix (ET2) and there was joy for Plymouth marksman Simon Stevenson as he qualified for the latter.
Under the new qualification criteria for 2020, PDC Tour Card holders will now compete in one combined qualifier for a total of 24 places in each tournament, having previously been split into UK and European qualifiers.
Stevenson was drawn against Christian Bunse in the opening round of the Belgian Darts Championship qualifier but despite legs in 13, 17 and 15, and an average of 90.5, he was ousted 6-3 by the German.
The Mirror Man had to quickly put that disappointment behind him when, in the second qualifier of the day for a place in the European Darts Grand Prix, he was first up on board 10 against Robert Thornton, a former winner of both the UK Open and World Grand Prix.
The first two legs were shared before the Scotsman took a stranglehold when winning the next three in 17, 13 and 13.
In the sixth leg, Thornton recorded his third maximum in as many legs, only for Stevenson to take it in 16, before wrapping up a comprehensive 6-4 victory in 15, 14, 21 and 16, the third time that the Plymothian had defeated him in as many matches.
Simon’s next opponent was Scott “The Mod” Baker who had been one of the top players in the BDO, winning two tournaments in both 2017 and 2018, before claiming a two-year Tour card at 2019 Q School.
But his past form counted for nothing as Stevenson took the opening two legs in 15 with outshots of 104 and 102 respectively.
Baker pulled one back only for The Mirror Man to restore his two-leg advantage with a win in 14.
The 33-year-old from Dudley rallied though and levelled in 18 and 15 but those were the last legs he was to win as Stevenson took the next three, including the last leg in 18, which he won with a kill of 109.
This was an excellent performance by the Mirror Man as he not only produced a single dart average of 30.40, but he also achieved one of the best checkout percentages of the day with 75.3%.
The Plymothian was now just one win away from a European qualification spot but first had to overcome the former BDO World Champion Jelle Klaasen.
The first four legs were shared before Stevenson rose in confidence and rattled off four legs in succession for a resounding 6-2 victory, securing the match-winning leg in 12 darts when checking out from 81, following three consecutive 140s against the darts.
The Mirror Man will now take his place in the European Darts Grand Prix, which will be played over the weekend of March 20-22 at Glaspalast, Sindelfingen, in Germany.
His average over the two qualifiers was a very respectable 90.30 and Stevenson will be hoping he can maintain that form when he competes today and tomorrow in Players Championship 3 and 4.