Raymond van Barneveld sealed his return to the PDC circuit on the final day of 2021 Qualifying School as the…
Raymond van Barneveld sealed his return to the PDC circuit on the final day of 2021 Qualifying School as the 29 new Tour Card holders were finalised.
Just 14 months after retiring from professional darts, five-time World Champion Van Barneveld completed his comeback at European Qualifying School in Niedernhausen, Germany.
The 53-year-old’s fate went down to the final day of action, but he ended the campaign on nine points to progress in third spot via the European Order of Merit.
Van Barneveld produced a flurry of ton-plus averages throughout both stages of Qualifying School and reached the Quarter-Finals on Wednesday before eventually losing out to fellow Dutchman Niels Zonneveld.
He notably defied a nine-dart finish and a 103.3 average from Martin Schindler in their high quality Last 16 contest and ended the hopes of compatriot Benito van de Pas along the way.
“I’m feeling really happy,” said Van Barneveld. “I was so desperate to do well today, because I had a bad run yesterday losing in the first round.
“I was really nervous, but when I won the second game against Benito van de Pas, it was [such] relief, that one single point.
“I accomplished that and I feel renewed and I feel really good now to be back on the tour, and hopefully next week I can show the world again what Raymond van Barneveld can do.”
A dramatic final day of action in Milton Keynes and Niedernhausen saw 21 players progress through the respective Orders of Merit, as well as an additional two automatic qualifiers.
Former BDO World Champion Scott Mitchell stormed to victory at UK Qualifying School, having entered the final day with just one point to his name and knowing only a run to the final would be sufficient.
Mitchell, who missed out on a Tour Card last year but made numerous ProTour appearances due to his exploits on the Challenge Tour, saw off Alan Norris, Gary Butcher, Graham Usher, Shaun McDonald, Carl Wilkinson and Andrew Gilding in his run to the final.
There, he defeated American ace Danny Baggish 6-2, sealing victory in style with a 121 checkout.
“It’s massive, honestly,” said Mitchell. “I’m a farmer’s kid from this little village in the New Forest – this isn’t normal for us!
“They know me as Scotty the tractor driver, and I just keep trying to be me. I’m just so pleased – today I’ve been in tears.”
Baggish pulled off a spectacular revival to snatch the 13th and final Tour Card via the UK Order of Merit, having failed to register a point across the opening three days of Stage Two.
The former North American champion, who left it until the last day of Stage One to keep his hopes alive, took out 125 to seal a Semi-Final win over Peter Hudson and went on to win the one leg he needed in the final to get over the line.
The Florida ace admitted that he only realised after the final that he had secured his Tour Card, conceding: “I put so much pressure on myself, I felt like I had to win it.
“I wear my emotions on my shoulder, it’s unbelievable – a dream come true. I’m a professional dart player.
“I’ve always thought that was always well, and as long as I could get my doubles in check I could compete with anyone.
“I believe it in myself and it’s only the start. The first step is done. I’m looking to compete with the best and I can’t wait to make it happen.”
Meanwhile, Boris Koltsov created history as the first Russian to win a PDC Tour Card as he defeated Niels Zonneveld in Wednesday’s final in Niedernhausen.
Koltsov has qualified for four World Championships since 2014 and also competed five times in the World Cup of Darts during his emergence in the sport.
The 32-year-old had already earned his Tour Card prior to reaching the final, with his run including wins over Michael Rasztovits, Michael Unterbuchner and Adam Gawlas.
“I was very nervous before this day, and now I’m feeling fantastic,” said Koltsov, who dedicated his success to his father, who passed away last November.
“I had seven points but I was not through and you need to play [to] the last darts.
“That’s why I won today, because after the first two or three games I was feeling free and I got to the final and won.”
Zonneveld, Unterbuchner and Czech Republic ace Gawlas – a former World Youth Championship finalist – also secured their place on the PDC circuit among the eight players to win a Tour Card from the Order of Merit in Niedernhausen.
Schindler finished top of the European Order of Merit to secure an immediate return to the tour and was joined by Greece’s John Michael, Austria’s Zoran Lerchbacher and fellow German Robert Marijanovic.
Austrian brothers Rowby-John and Rusty-Jake Rodriguez both narrowly missed out despite reaching the Quarter-Finals on Day Four.
Former UK Open semi-finalist Andrew Gilding and Peter Hudson secured their Tour Cards with runs to the Semi-Finals in Milton Keynes, while Eddie Lovely’s Quarter-Final run was enough to seal his spot on the PDC ProTour.
Australia’s Gordon Mathers, who first arrived in the UK in November ahead of his World Championship appearance, made his stay worthwhile by securing his Tour Card for the first time.
John Brown, a 21-year-old from Bristol, joins father Steve on the professional circuit after he claimed the 12th spot in the rankings, while Brett Claydon, Jonathan Worsley, Joe Murnan and Alan Soutar also secured their Tour Cards.
Jack Main, Martin Lukeman and Lewis Williams were the other Tour Card winners, having already secured their progression after three days of action at the Marshall Arena.
UK Final Stage – Automatic Tour Card winners
European Final Stage – Automatic Tour Card winners
Geert De Vos
UK Final Stage Order of Merit Tour Card Winners
European Final Stage Order of Merit Tour Card Winners
Raymond van Barneveld
UK Qualifying School Stage Two Day Four Results
Sam Cankett 6-4 David Ladley
Eddie Lovely 6-4 Darren Johnson
Kevin McDine 6-2 Jason Askew
Peter Hudson 6-4 Scott Williams
Shane McGuirk 6-2 Brett Claydon
Liam Meek 6-3 Jaikob Selby-Rivas
Daniel Baggish 6-3 Derek Coulson
Matt Jackson 6-4 John Imrie
Scott Mitchell 6-1 Graham Usher
Shaun McDonald 6-2 Reece Robinson
Jim Williams 6-5 Richard North
Carl Wilkinson 6-5 Jim McEwan
Andrew Gilding 6-3 Adrian Gray
Jamie Clark 6-3 Matthew Dennant
Mark Dudbridge 6-1 Jon Worsley
Kevin Garcia 6-4 Simon Stevenson
Eddie Lovely 6-2 Sam Cankett
Peter Hudson 6-5 Kevin McDine
Shane McGuirk 6-5 Liam Meek
Daniel Baggish 6-2 Matt Jackson
Scott Mitchell 6-2 Shaun McDonald
Carl Wilkinson 6-4 Jim Williams
Andrew Gilding 6-2 Jamie Clark
Mark Dudbridge 6-4 Kevin Garcia
Peter Hudson 6-3 Eddie Lovely
Danny Baggish 6-5 Shane McGuirk
Scott Mitchell 6-3 Carl Wilkinson
Andrew Gilding 6-3 Mark Dudbridge
Danny Baggish 6-2 Peter Hudson
Scott Mitchell 6-4 Andrew Gilding
Scott Mitchell 6-2 Danny Baggish
European Qualifying School Stage Two – Day Four Results
Rowby-John Rodriguez 6-4 Andreas Toft Jorgensen
Kenny Neyens 6-2 Johan Engstrom
Adam Gawlas 6-3 Steve Wollener
Owen Roelofs 6-5 Ryan De Vreede
Michael Rasztovits 6-5 Jeremy van der Winkel
Boris Koltsov 6-1 Niko Springer
Michael Unterbuchner 6-2 Danny van Trijp
Stefan Nilles 6-4 John Michael
Niels Zonneveld 6-2 Christian Jentschke
Patrick Bulen 6-4 Thibault Tricole
Raymond van Barneveld 6-0 Willem Mandigers
Martin Schindler 6-4 Gary Mawson
Robert Marijanovic 6-2 Damian Mol
Lukas Wenig 6-1 Gino Vos
Christian Kist 6-2 Luc Peters
Rusty-Jake Rodriguez 6-4 Sebastian Bialecki
Rowby-John Rodriguez 6-1 Kenny Neyens
Adam Gawlas 6-3 Owen Roelofs
Boris Koltsov 6-4 Michael Rasztovits
Michael Unterbuchner 6-3 Stefan Nilles
Niels Zonneveld 6-3 Patrick Bulen
Raymond van Barneveld 6-4 Martin Schindler
Robert Marijanovic 6-5 Lukas Wenig
Rusty-Jake Rodriguez 6-5 Christian Kist
Adam Gawlas 6-2 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Boris Koltsov 6-5 Michael Unterbuchner
Niels Zonneveld 6-5 Raymond van Barneveld
Robert Marijanovic 6-3 Rusty-Jake Rodriguez
Boris Koltsov 6-2 Adam Gawlas
Niels Zonneveld 6-4 Robert Marijanovic
Boris Koltsov 6-4 Niels Zonneveld