5 Feb, 2021
Events

Seven senior players from Team Target will head to Q School this year, looking to earn themselves a spot on the professional darts circuit.

For some, it is a chance to step up to the PDC ranks for the first time in their careers, whilst for others it is an opportunity to regain their place on the tour. Five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld is the most high profile name among the 650 entries, which are split between two sites in Germany and England.

The format has been revamped this year, making it an even more gruelling process to win a coveted Tour Card. Instead of Q School being contested over four days of action, most players must first win through one of two three-day events (labelled A or B) to progress to the final stage - which is when players who have dropped off the tour, or done well on the Development and Challenge Tour circuits enter the fray.

A total of 29 Tour Cards are up for grabs in Milton Keynes and Niedernhausen, and below we set out who among Team Target are looking to win one.

Raymond van Barneveld

Years in PDC: 2006-2019

Location: Niedernhausen

Stage: 1A

The five-time World Champion made the decision to retire from the sport at the start of 2020, only to then change his mind. However, "Barney" had already returned his Tour Card, and must now win his place back on the circuit in order to compete.

Raymond will have to start from scratch, coming through the first stage of the European Q School if he is to complete the comeback.

Nobody among the 650 entrants has anything like the pedigree of "Barney", but he will have a figurative target on his back - and it is not always the very best who prevail in the qualifying carnage each year.

Danny Baggish

Years in PDC: N/A

Location: Milton Keynes

Stage: 1B

The sheer logistics involved for players outside of mainland Europe to head to Q School this year are problematic, but the American has sacrificed a lot to chase his dream of becoming a PDC darts professional. "The Gambler" produced heroics at Alexandra Palace, beating the fancied Damon Heta and Target's two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis, before losing to Premier League winner Glen Durrant in the third round.

The 37 year old Floridian burst onto the PDC scene with victory at the 2019 North American Championship, but by then already had a string of North American titles to his name. A first taste of Q School has the potential to be daunting, but the USA needs a strong leading light in the sport, and Danny could well be the man for the job.

Alan Norris

Years in PDC: 2015-2019

Location: Milton Keynes

Stage: 1B

"Chuck" was very well established on the PDC circuit until personal tragedy struck. The loss of his late wife coincided with Alan losing his place on the tour, and his attempt to regain his spot last year was not successful.

With opportunities for competitive play limited in 2020, it is difficult to gauge where his game is right now. However, a big 180-hitter with three PDC ranking titles to his name (as well as two televised finals in the BDO), Norris will be one to watch at the Marshall Arena.

Lorraine Winstanley

Years in PDC: N/A

Location: Milton Keynes

Stage: 1A

This will be a third attempt for Lorraine at Q School, as she aims to become just the second woman to win her place on the tour via this route.

Lorraine's victory at the Women's World Masters, along with her runs to the final of the Lakeside and World Trophy, put her firmly in the elite female ranks. She acknowledged last year that she was primarily looking to enjoy the experience of Q School, but having seen Lisa Ashton's success in getting onto the professional circuit, Winstanley might feel like the unlikely has now been shown to be possible.

Chris Quantock

Years in PDC: 2017-2018

Location: Milton Keynes

Stage: 1A

The Yorkshireman has already enjoyed a two year stint on the PDC circuit, but despite reaching a ranking quarter-final was unable to keep hold of his place there. "Quanny" was impressive in winning through Q School on points back in 2017, but his recent attempts in the last two years did not see him get close to matching that. In fact, for a man who has two Challenge Tour titles under his belt, his efforts on the second tier circuit have been disappointing since he lost his Tour Card.

However, if ever there was an opportunity for a reset and a new start, then the last 12 months have provided it. For a man who is not even 30 years old, there is plenty of time to put things right.

Jarred Cole

Years in PDC: 2018

Location: Milton Keynes

Stage: 1B

Jarred agonisingly missed out on winning a two year Tour Card in last year's Q School, being beaten in the final leg of the deciding match by Aaron Beeney. However, he has tasted life on the circuit before thanks to a one year scholarship via the Junior Darts Corporation, where he has had great success.

The 20 year old from Hertfordshire is a graduate of Target's Elite 1 training and mentoring programme, and has been highlighted by Target's World Youth Champion Bradley Brooks as one to keep an eye on this year. Bradley came through Q School himself (for a second time) last year, and the pair both reached their first senior ranking quarter-finals during the same weekend in 2018; it would be fitting if they were reunited on the pro circuit in 2021.

Darryl Fitton

Years in PDC: N/A

Location: Milton Keynes

Stage: 1A

Nowadays "The Dazzler" has his hands full with heading-up Target's Elite 1 system, but that does not stop him from competing himself. Ironically, his campaign to win a PDC Tour Card for the first time was ended last year by one of his own proteges, Jarrod Cole in the penultimate match.

The BDO stalwart may not be at the very peak of his powers, but his knowledge and experience is unrivalled. Do not rule out a genuine challenge from the former World Trophy Champion, although he may want to avoid running into some of the Elite 1 youngsters he has been mentoring these last few years.

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