Aussie star Anderson among first four Tour Card winners

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Kyle Anderson, Benito van de Pas, Antonio Alcinas and Andrew Gilding were the first four Tour Card winners on the opening day of the 2014 PDC Qualifying School in Wigan.

Australian star Anderson followed up his brilliant nine-darter in last month’s Ladbrokes World Darts Championship by earning the chance to join the professional circuit full-time as he returned to England in style.

The 26-year-old, based in Mount Morgan in Queensland, won seven matches yesterday as he secured a Tour Card, which will enable him to play in all PDC ProTour events this year as he takes the step from being the leading player on the DartPlayers Australia circuit to the world stage.

He defeated Joshua Priestley, Philip Wathen, Mick Bushby, Darren Whittingham and Stuart White to win through to the day’s semi-final matches, where he enjoyed a 5-2 victory over former Lakeside Champion Christian Kist.

Anderson then defeated Keegan Brown – the youngster from the Isle of Wight who had defeated Phil Taylor in a Players Championship in 2013 – with a 5-3 triumph in their decider as he won a Tour Card at the first time of asking from a field of 340 competitiors in Wigan.

“I’m almost lost for words – it’s a very big day for me,” admitted Anderson. “To come all the way over to England and to do this in the first day of Qualifying School, you just can’t put a price on it.

“I was preparing myself for possibly four very hard days and when I walked into the venue and saw over 300 people, you realise just how tough it will be.

“I wanted to play well and I did that, and I really got on a roll towards the end. Playing Christian Kist was a big game and I was very much in the zone – someone said I hit seven 180s in as many legs, but I was only thinking about winning – and after that I couldn’t underestimate Keegan.

“It’s not sunk in yet and I’ll be getting straight on the phone to my family back home to let them know that I’ve won a Tour Card.

“I’d said to my partner that we could possibly look to move over to the UK if I won a Tour Card, bringing her and my son with me, so we’ll see if I can get the sponsorship for that now because I’d love to go all the way in the game.”

Benito van de Pas, a 20-year-old from Tilburg, won an all-Dutch decider with Joey ten Berge 5-4 as he also secured a Tour Card to turn professional on the PDC circuit – although he had to come from 4-3 down to take victory in a dramatic game.

Den Haag’s Ten Berge, 28, moved to the brink of victory only to be denied a shot at a double in the eighth leg as van de Pas took out 100 with two double tops to send the match all the way, and when his opponent missed three match darts in the decider, double ten gave the Tilburg ace victory.

The youngster, a PDC Challenge Tour winner in 2013 who recently made his third successive Lakeside Championship appearance, also defeated Mark Breakspear, William O’Connor, Andy Pearce, Mark Pritchard and Steve Hine on the day.

“It’s great and I’m so happy right now,” said van de Pas. “I played some good games today and beat some top players.

“The final game for me was so hard because I play Superleague darts with Joey and I know him so well. When I got back to four-all I thought I’d blown it when I missed one dart to win, but he missed three doubles and my double ten was brilliant.

“I’ve had some good experience so far but it’s been my dream to play on the ProTour and against all the big names. I’d planned to try and play the Youth Tour and Challenge Tour events but now I can play all the time on the ProTour and I’m targeting the European Tour events and the UK Open first.”

Spanish ace Alcinas had dropped out of the world’s top 64 – and the top 100 of the PDC Order of Merit – in the past year to mean that he was forced to head to Qualifying School to retain his PDC ProTour status.

However, the 34-year-old from Mallorca won through with flying colours, defeating Matthew Edgar 5-1 in his opener before whitewashing Belgium’s Rocco Maes and Kevin Bambrick.

He then overcame top young prospect Matthew Dennant 5-3 and defeated former UK Open qualifier David Dodds 5-2 to reach the last eight, where a 5-3 victory against experienced Brian Woods saw him seal his Tour Card.

“I’m really happy to have kept my Tour Card,” said Alcinas. “It’s my first time in Qualifying School and there was a lot of pressure, so I’m very relieved to have played so well today.

“It has been hard for me in the last year but I’ve put a lot of hard work in recently and it has all been worth it, and I hope this is the start of a good year for me.

“I’ll stay for the weekend to support the other players from Spain and Gibraltar now, but it’s great that I’ve managed to qualify on the first day!”

Two-time UK Open Qualifier Andrew Gilding, a Tour Card winner in 2012 who has enjoyed two years on the PDC circuit, joined Alcinas in retaining his Tour Card status in Wigan on the opening day.

The 43-year-old from Bungay, Suffolk, saw off Mark Forman, Gibraltar’s Dylan Duo and Stuart Bousfield before seeing off Scottish duo Jim Walker and Mark Barilli to reach the decider.

He saved his most comprehensive win for his final game, where he whitewashed Aberdeen-based newcomer Jamie Bain 5-0 to seal his Tour Card.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” said Gilding. “I started a bit slowly in the first couple of games but I came through and I’m really chuffed.

“It was a different experience this year in Q School than in 2012 because I know a lot more about the other players now, whereas I didn’t back then, and I’ve got a lot more experience.

“The last couple of years has been huge for me and I’m a better player because of that. I’ve played in the UK Open and on the European Tour and I love the stage – and I want to experience more of it!”

Dutch star Kist was joined in losing in the day’s penultimate rounds of games by left-hander Mark Hylton, Coventry’s Steve Hine, recent World Championship qualifier Ian Moss, York’s Terry Temple, Scotland’s Mark Barilli, County Durham’s David Dodds and newcomer Jason Lovett.

There was disappointment, though, for former world number one Peter Manley, 1996 World Matchplay champion Peter Evison and 2005 UK Open finalist Barrie Bates, who all lost their first games on the day.

The four players who lost in the day’s final all picked up nine ranking points which will count towards the Q School Order of Merit from which further Tour Cards will be allocated following the completion of the four days in Wigan.

The 2014 PDC Qualifying School continues today, as the field of over 300 players return to the Robin Park Tennis Centre to play off for four further automatic Tour Cards.

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