James Wilson and Jose Justicia secured their PDC Tour Cards on the first day of Final Stage action at the 2022 PDC Qualifying Schools in Milton Keynes and Niedernhausen on Wednesday.
Wilson’s success saw him secure an immediate return to the PDC ProTour, as he defeated Cameron Menzies 6-1 to comfortably ensure his return to the professional circuit.
However, it wasn’t all easy going for Wilson, who had to survive missed match darts in a quarter-final deciding-leg victory over Kevin Burness, and he took out an incredible 170 finish in the 11th leg of his semi-final against George Killington to win 6-5 and book his spot in the final.
“I feel fantastic – I’ve played in the Worlds in the first round, and failed to keep my card. I knew I had to come here, kick on and things went really well,” said Wilson.
“I just had to keep focused all day and I’m delighted I have done it. With Covid, I couldn’t defend my money on the European Tour and fell down the rankings, as well as injuries hampering me.
“Here it is really hard work, but after competing at the World Championship I felt confident I could do it.”
The Huddersfield-born star has been a familiar name on the circuit, having been a Tour Card holder since 2015, and the 49-year-old believes he has unfinished business in the PDC.
Wilson added: “I turn 50 next month, so I’m coming for the older ones like Peter Wright and Gary Anderson to get my slice of the pie before I retire.”
Wilson started the day with a 6-1 victory over Shaun Griffiths and then whitewashed Lewis Dare before beating Shaun Wilkinson 6-3.
He then saw off Gary Blades 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals, before the narrow wins over Burness and Killington to reach the final.
Menzies started his brilliant run with a 6-2 win over Simon Stevenson, before a narrow 6-5 victory over Darren Johnson followed.
He then blew away Hong Kong’s Kai Fan Leung and Jordan Brooks, followed by victories Lee Budgen (6-2) and Welshman Richie Burnett (6-3) in the quarters and semi-finals.
Elsewhere in Milton Keynes on Wednesday, Josh Payne landed a nine-dart leg in the deciding leg of his second round victory over Sean Fisher, although he subsequently lost to Burness in the last 32.
In Europe, meanwhile, Spain’s Justicia produced a brilliant performance in the final as he beat Mario Vandenbogaerde 6-0 to secure his PDC Tour Card.
The Spaniard averaged a superb 104.86 in the final – the highest average of the day in both Europe and the UK – as he ensured his return to the professional circuit.
His run to the final started with a 6-0 demolition of Germany’s Frank Peters. He then beat compatriot Jesus Noguera 6-4 in the second round, before seeing off Dragutin Horvat 6-0 in the third.
This was then followed by a trio of victories over Dutch opposition, as he beat Derk Telnekes 6-1, Danny Jansen 6-2 and Damian Mol 6-3 to secure his place in the final.
Vandenbogaerde’s run to the final started with a 6-1 win over fellow Belgian Patrick Bulen, before beating Germany’s Stephan Griese 6-2 and France’s Thibault Tricole 6-3.
He then saw of Polish-born Radek Szaganski 6-4 to reach the quarters, where he progressed quickly with a 6-1 win over Ricardo Piertreczko.
In the semi-finals he saw off Denmark’s Vladimir Andersen before falling to defeat to Justicia in the final, putting himself in a strong position to secure a Tour Card from the European Qualifying School Order of Merit.
The action from 2022 PDC Qualifying School continues on Thursday with the second of four days’ action from Final Stage, with two more automatic Tour Cards available for the respective winners in Milton Keynes and Niedernhausen.
2022 PDC Qualifying Schools
UK Qualifying School Final Stage Day One
Cameron Menzies 6-2 Lee Budgen
Richie Burnett 6-2 Chris Quantock
George Killington 6-4 Jarred Cole
James Wilson 6-5 Kevin Burness
Cameron Menzies 6-3 Richie Burnett
James Wilson 6-5 George Killington
James Wilson 6-1 Cameron Menzies
European Qualifying School Final Stage Day One
Mario Vandenbogaerde 6-1 Ricardo Pietreczko
Vladimir Andersen 6-4 Roxy-James Rodriguez
Damian Mol 6-4 Martijn Dragt
Jose Justicia 6-2 Danny Jansen
Mario Vandenbogaerde 6-4 Vladimir Andersen
Jose Justicia 6-3 Damian Mol
Jose Justicia 6-0 Mario Vandenbogaerde