Emerging star Bates claims landmark Winmau Challenge Tour title

Owen Bates (PDC)

Owen Bates defied a late fightback from Wesley Plaisier to secure a maiden Winmau Challenge Tour title in Milton Keynes on Sunday.

The 20-year-old produced a host of impressive displays to clinch the Event 19 title, edging out Event 15 champion Plaisier to scoop the £2,500 top prize at the Marshall Arena.

Bates was a runner-up in Events Four & Five back in January, but he came through a field of 182 players on Sunday to move up to fourth on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit.

Having whitewashed Robert Whybrew in his opener, he followed up a hard-fought 5-3 win over Moreno Blom with a 5-2 success against Event 18 finalist Stefan Bellmont, averaging over 100 in his victory against Switzerland's World Cup star.

Bates continued his progress with an impressive win over Order of Merit leader Berry van Peer, before averaging almost 105 to dispatch France's World Cup quarter-finalist Thibault Tricole in the last eight.

The emerging youngster then edged out Poland's Sebastian Bialecki in a deciding-leg tie to set up a showdown against Plaisier, where he won through another nine-leg affair to round off this weekend's action in Milton Keynes.

Bates fired in a brilliant 11-darter to race into a 4-1 lead, and although Plaisier reeled off three legs without reply to force a last-leg shoot-out, Bates kicked off the decider with a maximum before sealing the deal with a 15-dart hold.

Plaisier, meanwhile, continued his impressive form to pocket the £1,000 runner-up prize, falling just short in his bid to land a second title of the weekend.

The Dutchman dumped out former Lakeside Championship runner-up Mark McGeeney earlier in the afternoon, and also averaged 103 in his third round victory against Ireland's Ciaran Teehan.

Plaisier then breezed through to the semi-finals with consecutive 5-1 wins over Lewis Gurney and Martijn Dragt, before surviving match darts in his semi-final success against nine-dart hero Dan Read.

Read achieved perfection in his quarter-final win against Ryan Furness - the second nine-darter of the weekend in Milton Keynes - with former UK Open quarter-finalist Bialecki also enjoying a run to the last four.

The fifth and final weekend of Winmau Challenge Tour action in 2023 will be held from October 28-30, with Events 20-24 set to take place at Wigan's Robin Park Tennis Centre.

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 Paddy Power World Darts Championship.

With just five events remaining, Van Peer boasts a £5,600 lead at the top of the Order of Merit, ahead of former Lakeside Champion Christian Kist in second spot.

Cam Crabtree - a two-time winner on the Challenge Tour in 2023 - occupies third position, with Bates in fourth and Scotland's former World Cup winner John Henderson further adrift in fifth.

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2023 Winmau Challenge Tour
Sunday August 13
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Event 19

Wesley Plaisier 5-1 Martijn Dragt
Dan Read 5-3 Ryan Furness
Owen Bates 5-2 Thibault Tricole
Sebastian Bialecki 5-4 Alexander Merkx

Wesley Plaisier 5-4 Dan Read
Owen Bates 5-4 Sebastian Bialecki

Owen Bates 5-4 Wesley Plaisier