By Alex Moss
19 JANUARY 2017 •9:04PM
There was a record field of 434 players all bidding to win one of four PDC tour cards up for grabs on the first day of this year’s Qualifying School today.
The list of players was headed up by three-time world champion, and recent PDC Hall of Fame inductee, John Part, along with former major winner Paul Nicholson, and a multitude of ex-major finalists.
Rugby-based Prakash Jiwa was the only previous tour card holder to win one of the four tour cards on day one, with the other three going to Lee Bryant, Stephen Burton and Jim Brown, three players who now own tour cards for the first time.
Jiwa became only the fifth player to become a three-time tour card winner at Q-School, since the event was introduced back in 2011, with his success today.
The 46-year-old claimed wins over James Young, Davyd Venken, Jim Walker, Richard North and Steve Douglas, before a 5-2 win over Irish youngster Steve Lennon secured a quick return to the main tour, after finishing outside of the top 64 at the end of last season.
“This is my third time and my experience of playing with the big boys in the PDC helped massively,” Jiwa said.
“When I saw the field of almost 450 players I went in with a mindset of how good I am.
“I’ve been on the circuit before but now, with my new equipment, I want to move to the next level, which I believe I can do.
“I want to get into that top 64 in two years to keep my tour card. I didn’t have that aspiration before, when I first started playing, but now I’m a seasoned campaigner and I believe that I can do some damage.”
Sussex-based Bryant joins his housemate Rob Cross, who won the PDC Unicorn Challenge Tour last year, on the PDC circuit after edging out Enfield’s Ritchie Edhouse 5-4 in their decider.
Bryant overcame Michael Huntley, Teuvo Haverinen, Mickey Mansell, Mareno Michels, Paul Russell, Callan Rydz and Edhouse to earn his first PDC tour card.
“I was over-nervous and maybe over-excited when I woke up this morning but it feels really good,” Bryant said.
“I had to pull some good darts out and I’m really pleased to have done that, especially in the final game.
“Seeing Rob get his tour card through the Challenge Tour has inspired me and he’s driven me up to Wigan and supported me, and that was a big incentive because he believed in me all the way.”
Ipswich-based window cleaner Burton will compete on the PDC circuit for the first time this year after securing a tour card on his Q-School debut today.
“I’m on cloud nine at the moment and it will probably sink in tomorrow when I wake up,” Burton said.
“The hard work has got to start when I get back home on the practice board ready for the UK Open Qualifiers and first Pro Tour events.
“It’s all a learning curve and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Scotland’s Brown was today’s final tour card winner in what was an emotional moment for the 45-year-old from Hamilton.
Brown had lost his wife Annette to cancer in July last year before opting to compete at Q-School.
“It’s an emotional day,” Brown said. “It’s been an incredibly tough time but I think it was just meant to be and I dedicate this to Annette. I didn’t think I could do this but it’s up there with anything I’ve ever done.
“I’ve only played for six years so I want to push myself and see how far I can go. I might not win one game on the Pro Tour but I’ve made it here and I’m looking forward to it.”