Lisa Ashton: What's next after securing her PDC Tour Card at Q-School?
"I've not just come to make the numbers up. I know I've got to do the hard work and hopefully I can compete, get there and give them a go"
By Josh Gorton
Last Updated: 24/01/20 6:12pm
Lisa Ashton created her own slice of darting history by becoming the first woman to progress through Q-School and secure a PDC Tour Card, but what next for The Lancashire Rose?
After a gruelling four days of action, Ashton claimed the final qualification place on the UK Qualifying School Order of Merit following a dramatic conclusion to proceedings in Wigan last Sunday.
The four-time women's world champion was denied an automatic Tour Card on Day Two, losing out to Hong Kong's Kai Fan Leung in a deciding-leg - having won seven games earlier in the day.
Ashton also reached the fifth round of Thursday's opening day, although successive second-round exits across the weekend ensured she faced a nervous wait to discover if she had accumulated enough points to claim a card.
The 49-year-old was denied by a solitary point last year and it appeared that history may repeat itself, only for results to fall in her favour - marking another seismic success for the women's game.
"I'm so proud of myself. 500 men and to come out with a Tour Card for the ladies. I couldn't be more happy," Ashton told Sky Sports News.
"This achievement is another level. To get the Tour Card and know I'm going to play against the top men in the world, it's just another massive achievement for me."
Ashton is no stranger to the PDC big-stage, having featured in the 2019 PDC World Championship and more recently - November's Grand Slam of Darts.
Nevertheless, Ashton's first foray into life as a PDC player will take place at the Barnsley Metrodome next month, when she competes in the first Players Championship double-header on February 8-9.
She will make her first televised appearance as a PDC player during March's UK Open, with all 128 Tour Card holders guaranteed qualification to the tournament dubbed 'The FA Cup of Darts' due to the unique open-draw format.
'The Lancashire Rose' will have the chance to compete in 30 Players Championship events throughout 2020 and she will qualify for November's Players Championship Finals if she finishes in the top 64 of the Players Championship Order of Merit.
Her performances on the floor will also determine whether she features in the World Matchplay and World Grand Prix, both of which will be televised live on Sky Sports.
The world's top 16 will be joined by the top 16 players on the one-year Pro Tour Order of Merit in the respective events and Ashton could become the first female to compete in Blackpool and Dublin.
"It's going to open a lot more doors for me, more tournaments. I know I've got to do the hard work and keep going but hopefully I can get more opportunities and see what happens.
"I've not just come to make the numbers up. I know I've got to do the hard work and hopefully I can compete, get there and give them a go," added the four-time world champion.
Ashton can also enter qualifiers for the 13 European Tour events taking place across the course of the season, featuring tournaments in Germany, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Gibraltar, Denmark and Hungary.
"There are other ladies capable of doing it, just hopefully more will follow us"
Ashton on the strength in depth within ladies' darts
The top 32 players on the European Tour Order of Merit will qualify for the European Championship in Dortmund, although her principal focus will be on securing a return to the Alexandra Palace.
Ashton became the third woman to feature in the PDC World Championship when she faced Jan Dekker just over 12 months ago - having progressed through the UK women's qualifier.
She lost out in the semi-finals of this year's qualifier to Fallon Sherrock, who subsequently went on to make darting history. However, Ashton will be targeting Ally Pally qualification via the Pro Tour Order of Merit route this time around.
Comparisons have inevitably been drawn between Sherrock and Ashton's accomplishments over recent months and although they've been achieved in completely contrasting environments, they're equally significant.
Sherrock will appear as a 'challenger' in this year's Premier League and she'll be a permanent fixture in all six World Series events in 2020. Whether Ashton is afforded similar exposure on the World Series circuit remains to be seen.
Irrespective of this, Ashton's debut year in the PDC will be one of the most captivating darting stories of 2020. The women's game is growing on a consistent basis and the evidence is compelling.
There were a record 16 female entrants for this year's Q-School, with reigning women's world champion Mikuru Suzuki, last year's world finalist Lorraine Winstanley and 16-year-old sensation Beau Greaves among the hopefuls.
"Ladies darts is in the best place it's ever been," Ashton continued. "The ladies are raising their game, with Fallon getting through [to the third round of the World Championship] and me getting this Tour Card.
"It is just showing that the ladies are slowly coming through and hopefully we get more through. I've done it, Fallon has done it. There are other ladies capable of doing it, just hopefully more will follow us."
Ashton is testament to this growth and the flag-bearer of the women's game will be pitting her wits against the world's best for the next two years - an incredible opportunity that she's determined to savour.
Coverage of the Premier League gets underway on Thursday, February 6 in Aberdeen at 7pm on Sky Sports Action with newly-crowned world champion Peter Wright going up against Michael van Gerwen. Gary Anderson and 'Challenger' John Henderson also take to the stage.