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Amateur sport doesn’t get much more competitive than the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) qualifiers, otherwise known as ‘Q School’. Every January, the hectic four-day event sees fading legends show up for another swing at the big-time, new careers launched, and others broken before they ever begin.
All you need for a crack at Q School is the 450 quid entry fee and a set of darts, making for an interesting mix of former champions, young upstarts and chancers from the local pub. A year ago, 397 hopefuls made their way to the Robin Park Leisure Centre in Wigan for the bruising schedule of knock-out darts, fighting to capture one of the 19 tour slots available and in doing so, unlocking the riches of the professional game. The PDC is a land of opportunity with seemingly higher and higher rewards for those who make it. In 2020 there will be £15,000,000 in total prize money on the circuit, with Chairman Barry Hearn recently describing a Tour Card as a “golden ticket”. The scrapping for those 19 golden tickets starts this Thursday.
Among the many hundreds at the venue will be Clubbie’s very own Ryan Hope, who is based on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. This will be Ryan’s second attempt and he is optimistic about making an impact. Eighteen months ago Clubbie teamed up with Ryan as part of its mission to bring opportunities to promising grassroots sportsmen and women looking for support to elevate themselves to the next level. Ryan had just become the first ever local winner of the prestigious Sheppey Darts Classic and it’s £1,000 first prize. Clubbie has been backing him ever since with the development of his game: sponsoring entry into better tournaments to sharpen him up, enlisting the help of renowned practice coach Mikko Laiho (who very sadly passed away last year) and arranging a visit to Red Dragon Darts who kitted him out with new darts tailored to his throwing style. The last Q School appearance was an early test, with Ryan convinced he is a far better player this time around. We caught up with him during a practice routine earlier this week - click the link below for some of the footage.
Ryan’s confidence is backed up by statistics recorded and monitored by Clubbie every month. Since switching to the new darts in June 2019, his monthly three-dart averages in practice matches have improved by a whopping 12 points. Of course, the trick will be producing the same standard when it matters – when other hungry, wannabe pros are going for his jugular. The pressure for Ryan though, who is looking to forge a new career, is arguably less than for those flailing professionals who are trying to save one. As such, Q School is often a bubbling cauldron of edgy competition between people at vastly different stages of their own journey.
However Ryan performs this week, we are immensely proud of his progress and the dedication shown to becoming a hugely improved player. And we're sure there’s plenty more to come.
Good luck Ryan!