Andy Boulton and Cameron Crabtree clinched maiden titles on another intriguing day of Winmau Challenge Tour action in Milton Keynes on Saturday.
Saturday’s Challenge Tour double-header saw Boulton defeat Martijn Dragt to claim Event Three glory, while Crabtree battled back from 4-2 down to deny Owen Bates in a thrilling Event Four final.
Boulton kicked off Saturday’s action with a resounding 5-1 win over experienced Dutchman Ron Meulenkamp, before whitewashing Ireland’s Andrew Leigh to reach round three.
The Scot then accounted for Event Two winner Christian Kist in his board final, which he followed up with wins over Ciaran Teehan, Darryl Pilgrim and James Howard Hughes.
Boulton continued his charge with a whitewash win over Scott Marsh in the semi-finals, before reeling off four successive legs from 3-1 adrift to defeat Dragt in Saturday afternoon’s showpiece.
Dragt was bidding to become the third consecutive Dutchman to claim a Challenge Tour title on the opening weekend in Milton Keynes, producing a string of impressive displays at the Marshall Arena.
The 34-year-old defeated former World Championship runner-up Andy Hamilton, French star Thibault Tricole and his compatriot Jelle Klaasen en route to the semi-finals, where he came from 4-2 down to deny James Richardson.
Richardson and Marsh enjoyed impressive runs to the last four, with Klaasen and former World Youth Championship finalist Berry van Peer succumbing in the last eight.
Van Peer defeated Women’s World Matchplay winner Fallon Sherrock in the last 16, with Event One runner-up Lukas Wenig bowing out at the same stage.
Crabtree then stole the headlines in Event Four, defying a 103 average from Bates to prevail in a sensational final, after Bates had posted legs of 12, 13, 15 and 13 darts to lead 4-2.
Crabtree – one of the emerging stars on the Development Tour last year – then kept his cool to clinch his maiden Challenge Tour crown, which lifts him to second on the Order of Merit after four events.
The 19-year-old kicked off proceedings with a 5-4 win over Wayne Jones, and after sweeping aside Greg Ritchie in round two, he came through another deciding-leg tie against Thomas Lovely.
Crabtree continued his fine form with wins over Lynskey and Kist, and after edging out Czech star Vitezslav Sedlak in the last eight, he whitewashed American ace Alex Spellman to seal his spot in the final.
Bates, meanwhile, overcame former UK Open runner-up Colin Osborne earlier in the evening, before claiming the scalps of Steve Hine and Tricole in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
Tricole, a winner on the Challenge Tour in 2022, reaffirmed his credentials with another strong showing in Milton Keynes, while Spellman stormed through to the semi-finals for the loss of just nine legs.
Switzerland’s Stefan Bellmont underlined his quality by reaching the last eight in Event Four, defeating Sherrock en route, who made it back-to-back last 16 appearances on Saturday.
The opening weekend of the 2023 Winmau Challenge Tour concludes on Sunday, with Event Five taking place at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena.
The top two players from the final 2023 Challenge Tour Order of Merit will secure a PDC Tour Card for 2024/25 and a place in the 2023/24 Cazoo World Darts Championship.
PDC Winmau Challenge Tour
January 21, Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Martijn Dragt 5-2 Jelle Klaasen
James Richardson 5-4 Berry van Peer
Scott Marsh 5-4 Patrick Lynskey
Andy Boulton 5-3 James Howard Hughes
Martijn Dragt 5-4 James Richardson
Andy Boulton 5-0 Scott Marsh
Andy Boulton 5-3 Martijn Dragt
Cameron Crabtree 5-4 Vitezslav Sedlak
Alex Spellman 5-2 Stefan Bellmont
Owen Bates 5-3 Steve Hine
Thibault Tricole 5-2 Conor Heneghan
Cameron Crabtree 5-0 Alex Spellman
Owen Bates 5-3 Thibault Tricole
Cameron Crabtree 5-4 Owen Bates