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Lisa Ashton to make debut as a PDC Tour Card holder at Players Championship 1 & 2
"I knew I could play it, like I did last year at one point. But I just thought if I could do it again, seize the opportunity, and this time I've gone one step further"
Last Updated: 08/02/20 2:35pm
It has been just over a fortnight since Lisa Ashton made history by securing a two-year PDC Tour Card, and on Saturday she will take her place among a field of 128 players for the opening Pro Tour event of the year.
First it was days, and now it's hours. Ashton is counting down to her debut as a PDC professional. After securing her Tour card it's all about to become very real for the four-time women's world champion.
"I don't think it's sunk in, it's just been out of this world," she tells Sky Sports, admitting she's been saying that for a few days and interviews since her memorable display at Q-School in January.
"Ten years ago I didn't think it would be possible. I didn't think the ladies would be invited into the PDC.
"It's just fantastic. I know it's going to be hard. It's another chapter. I've got to up my levels and hopefully get a few games won, see how far I can go against the top players in the world."
The scale of Ashton's achievements can't be underestimated. She missed out by a solitary point on last year's Order of Merit, and returned this year to secure her spot as one of the eight players not to gain an automatic card over the four days in Wigan.
Ashton lost a semi-final in a last-leg shoot-out to Kai Fan-Leung that could have brought one of those automatic slots, but by the end of the weekend, despite an anxious wait, she was in courtesy of leg difference.
"I was still in the venue and still supporting the other guys who were there that I was with," she adds.
"Watching them play on and I was sitting there, waiting just in case there had to be a play-off. It was the longest two and a half hours in my life!
"There were 520-odd players there, and 16 ladies as well. So every board was tough, the people who were there, anybody could have got through.
"[The Order of Merit] showed it wasn't just one day of one good run. It was over the four days that you were consistent, and that was a level that you could play again."
It's a level that Ashton has achieved more than anyone else. 2020 was her second trip to Q-School and those two years have yielded more wins that anyone else.
"They’re saying I’ve now won 17 games at Q-School. I didn’t know I’d done that many until the statistics had come out. But I was quite chuffed. Hitting 20 180s and being the first woman ever to break these records is fantastic."
She'll get the chance to show that week-in, week-out on the Pro Tour, starting just across the Pennines from her Bolton home in Barnsley on Saturday and Sunday, with the first two of 30 Players Championship events for the year.
That's not to mention the European Tour events she can enter too - it will be quite busy for Ashton, who is going the whole hog as a professional, leaving her job as a plastics injection moulder to take on life on the circuit.
"I've packed that in, I'm going to have to take darts full-time because I'll be playing every week," she adds.
"It's going to have to take over, being a pro darts player. I've got my two-year Tour Card and see how far I can get, and see what opportunities it can open for me.
"It takes the pressure off to know I've got two years to work on it, just keep pushing myself, and see where I can get."
Ashton's achievement is just one of a host of them in an unprecedented couple of months for the women's game. Fallon Sherrock, to quote Rod Studd, smashed through sport's glass ceiling when she won two games at the World Championship.
Sherrock may have missed out at Q-School but at the weekend she was making headlines again, qualifying for the UK Open after winning her way through a field of more than 200 players. Sherrock beat Ashton on route to securing her place at Alexandra Palace and the pair have been good for each other, as Ashton has been quick to acknowledge.
"What Fallon has done is absolutely fantastic. She took it in her stride and we all supported her.
"Now I've come through the Q-School, and on that side she supported [me]. We'll just stick together and hopefully more ladies will follow."
The women's game has more momentum than ever before; suggestions of a stand-alone tour and one-off events are going hand in hand with exhibition invites.
Ashton, as a tour-card holder, a four-time world champion and trailblazer, is perhaps best placed to answer where the women's game goes next.
"We could all play together but it's still a learning curve for the ladies.
"In time, if the standards keep on rising and getting higher, hopefully we can intertwine one or two of the tournaments and see how they go.
"We are breaking through and are playing against the men. We're happy to take them on and have a go. Hopefully in time, we could do a mini Premier League thing or a ladies tour. Fingers crossed, one of them could come up."
Ashton is no stranger to the big stage, a serial winner on the women's BDO circuit with four women's world titles for good measure.
In 2018, she was the first woman in 10 years to feature at the PDC world championship, has played in the grand slam, but this is different, and it won't all be on the aforementioned big stage.
"It's going to be like Q-School every day for me. But I know I've got to do the work and push it, and hopefully I can succeed.
"I've got my Tour Card now so I'm going to take advantage of what I've got. I'll be hopefully taking every Pro Tour entry, I'm going to compete in them all, and just see how far I can get?
"I went on the Challenge Tour just to prove the levels I could get. It helped me a lot, and I upped my game. So now hopefully with getting my Tour Card, I can up my game even more and give the men something to fight for."
Ashton has been at the top of the women's game for longer than she cares to imagine and this year she'll have to work harder than ever but there are targets.
"Hopefully I'm going to win a few games!," she laughs when asked about her targets for the year ahead.
"Work my way up, win a few games then hopefully I can win some of the tournaments to get onto the TV stages."
Having already won her fair share against men and women, Ashton will compete on an equal footing for the next two years. She's earned the right the hard way and she's off to do what she does best, play darts - only this time as a professional.
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