On Wednesday afternoon the most gruelling four days on the darting calendar got underway, as the PDC’s Qualifying School hosted 375 players all aiming for one of four tour cards up for grabs.
Portsmouth’s Ricky Williams was among the elite quartet to win a two-year tour card on the PDC circuit, and is hoping this could be the start of big things for his career in the sport.
“My plan is to treat this as much as a job as I can,” the 26-year-old self-employed decorator said.
“Darts isn’t what it used to be. Now you have to treat this as a job, so it means doing everything properly. My lifestyle has changed over the last year, and now I need to do more of the right things and be practicing with the right people.
“There’s so many youngsters coming through now. I’m 26 and I don’t feel like I’m a youngster anymore.
“Go back to 10 years ago, at 26 you were considered a youngster in the game. Now you’ve got so many young English players, Dutch players and German players.
“They’ve got no fear in them so that’s why you have to keep practicing. I’m still young enough, so I can definitely do something in this game if I put my mind to it.”
Williams, along with Andy Parsons and Simon Stevenson, won seven straight games at Wigan’s Robin Park Tennis Centre on Wednesday to earn PDC tour card status for the first time.
After beating close friend Lee Evans 5-2 in the first round, wins over Jeffrey Beckema and Peter Martin sent Williams through to the last 64, and then within four victories of a tour card.
The 2013 Malta Open winner edged past Rhys Griffin in a deciding leg to set up a last 32 clash with Mark Dudbridge. A 5-2 triumph over the former World Championship finalist kept his hopes alive, before successive 5-4 wins over Marvin Wehder and Rhys Hayden sealed his place on the PDC tour for 2016 and 2017.
“It felt absolutely brilliant,” Williams said. “It was quite a hard struggle. A couple of games went all the way but I’m very pleased.
“I had a very hard first game against Lee Evans. I know him very well and I thought once I won that game, take it one game at a time and then before I knew it, I was playing in the last game to get through! Rhys was probably the better player in the game, but I did the right things at the right time.
“On my throw I was doing 15 darters and less and he couldn’t break me, which was quite pleasing and then I had a nice 96 finish to win it.”
Since making his PDC debut in a UK Open Regional Qualifier back in early 2007, Williams floated in and out of the circuit and even had a spell playing in the BDO.
This time last year Williams turned up for the last day of Q-School, so he could then enter the qualifiers for the two European Tour events the next day.
After making it through three rounds of qualifying, ‘Tricky’ had earned himself a spot in the German Darts Championship, and eventually lost 6-5 to Gary Anderson in the last 32.
“That was superb,” Williams said. “It was strange playing in the German Championship because I’d only really started playing for a couple of months.
“It was a great experience. I felt at home as soon as I got on the big stage. What I’m looking forward to again is seeing how I play against them top players.
“It means a lot to get a tour card. I’ve had the opportunity to play on the tour in the past and I didn’t do what I’m capable of.
“In the last year or two I’ve really knuckled down to this point. I know this is just the start.
“There’s a lot of hard work in front. Hopefully I can get some good results on the tour.”