Lerchbacher & De Graaf head up first Q Schools Stage 1B qualifiers

Zoran Lerchbacher

Zoran Lerchbacher, Jeffrey de Graaf and Gary Mawson were among the first eight players to progress through PDC Qualifying Schools Stage 1B on Thursday.

The race to win PDC Tour Cards continued in Niedernhausen (European Q School) and Milton Keynes (UK Q School) with the fourth day of Q Schools seeing over 300 players competing to reach the Final Stage, where PDC Tour Cards will be awarded.

The opening day of Stage 1B in Europe saw former Tour Card Holders Lerchbacher and De Graaf joined by youngster Rusty-Jake Rodriquez and former UK Open finalist Gary Mawson to become the first players to secure automatic qualification.

Austria's 2019 World Cup of Darts quarter-finalist Lerchbacher and Dutchman De Graaf, who has twice appeared at Alexandra Palace, defeated Arjan Konterman and Danny van Trijp respectively in their last eight matches.

Former JDC Junior World Champion Rodriguez, the younger brother of two-time World Cup quarter-finalist Rowby-John Rodriguez, doubled the number of Austrian players to advance, while former UK Open runner-up Mawson also enjoyed a successful day.

Highly-rated North American talents Matt Campbell and Leonard Gates exited at the last 128 stage, while experienced Belgian Ronny Huybrechts suffered the same fate in the first of three days of action.

At Milton Keynes' Marshall Arena in the UK Qualifying School, former Irish Matchplay champion Kevin Burness was joined in qualifying for Final Stage by Alan Soutar, Darren Beveridge and José Marquês, who landed the first nine-dart leg of the year during his last 16 win over Rhys Davies.

Former Tour Card Holder Burness came through a last-leg shoot-out to defeat Lloyd Pennell in their decider, while former Challenge Tour event winner Beveridge saw off Ben Cheeseman in the last eight.

Soutar, a firefighter from Arbroath, impressed with a string of averages above 90 to begin his bid for a first Tour Card in impressive style.

Elsewhere in the UK event, former World Championship quarter-finalist Alan Norris reached the last 16, while American talents Danny Baggish and Daniel Lauby failed to reach the last 64 stage.

Stage 1B continues at both the UK and European Q Schools on Friday, the second of three days of action which will once again see four automatic qualification places up for grabs at both venues.

Click here for full results from Stage 1B Day One of UK Qualifying School

Click here for full results from Stage 1B Day One of European Qualifying School

2021 PDC Qualifying Schools
UK Qualifying School Stage 1B Day One
Last 16

Martin Thomas 6-5 Robert Owen
Alan Soutar 6-0 Gary Butcher
Darren Beveridge 6-3 Alan Norris
Ben Cheeseman 6-4 Brian Hallas
Reece Colley 6-4 Lee Evans
José Marquês 6-1 Rhys Davies
Lloyd Pennell 6-5 Mark Dudbridge
Kevin Burness 6-1 Daniel Lee

Last Eight
Alan Soutar 6-4 Martin Thomas
Darren Beveridge 6-2 Ben Cheeseman
José Marquês 6-3 Reece Colley
Kevin Burness 6-5 Lloyd Pennell

European Qualifying School Stage 1B Day One
Last 16

Jeffrey de Graaf 6-4 Ryan de Vreede
Danny van Trijp 6-5 Luc Peters
Gary Mawson 6-4 Marcel Gerdon
Davyd Venken 6-3 Jimmy Hendriks
Rusty-Jake Rodriguez 6-4 Martijn Dragt
Patrick Bulen 6-0 Maikel Venema
Arjan Konterman 6-2 Arsen Ballaj
Zoran Lerchbacher 6-2 Robert Marijanovic

Last Eight
Jeffrey de Graaf 6-2 Danny van Trijp
Gary Mawson 6-1 Davyd Venken
Rusty-Jake Rodriguez 6-2 Patrick Bulen
Zoran Lerchbacher 6-3 Arjan Konterman