Lisa Ashton became the first female darts player to earn a place on the PDC tour on Sunday.
Ashton came through the four-day qualifying school in Wigan to continue the recent surge in women’s success in the sport.
Here the PA news agency takes a closer look at the game’s latest headline-grabber and considers the implications of her success for the future of darts.
Who is Lisa Ashton?
The 49-year-old from Bolton has been one of the leading contenders in the women’s game since she won the first of her four world titles in 2014. Ashton successfully defended the trophy the following year, and after being knocked out in the quarter-finals in 2016, returned for two more back-to-back triumphs in 2017 and 2018. Ashton reached her sixth world final in London earlier this month, but she was defeated 3-0 by defending champion Mikuru Suzuki.
How did she qualify?
Ashton was one of 16 female players, along with the likes of Suzuki and Fallon Sherrock, to enter this week’s four-day qualifying school event. She almost qualified directly on Friday night, when she beat seven consecutive opponents – all men – before coming up short in the final four. But ultimately Ashton was one of those players who ranked highly enough in the Order of Merit – effectively the event’s overall rankings – to secure her place on the tour for the next two years.
What about Fallon Sherrock?
Sherrock made history when she beat both Ted Evetts and Mensur Suljovic to reach the third round of the PDC World Championship last month. In doing so she was rewarded with a challenger place in the Premier League next month, and a spot in all this year’s World Series events. But the qualifying school proved a different matter and despite a good start, Sherrock finished well down the four-day rankings, likewise Suzuki.
How will Ashton fare?
Sherrock’s success has proved there is no reason why female darts players cannot compete with – and beat – the men. And Ashton’s own achievement is no flash in the pan – she was one point away from earning her tour card last year. It is also worth noting that Ashton took the first set – with a 107 average – in her first-round match at this year’s PDC World Championship against Jan Dekker before losing 3-1.
What is the future for the women’s game?
The success of the likes of Ashton and Sherrock suggests the future for leading women’s players lies on what has been traditionally known as the men’s tour. And the future for women’s darts is in good hands after the performance of Doncaster’s Beau Greaves, who reached the semi-finals of the Women’s World Championship last month at the age of just 16. But the future of the major women’s event in itself has been cast into doubt due to the much-publicised financial issues afflicting its governing body, the rival British Darts Organisation.