Gian van Veen and Luke Littler claimed a title apiece as the 2023 Winmau Development Tour season drew to a close in Milton Keynes on Saturday.
The Marshall Arena played host to a crucial double-header on Saturday, with World Championship and Grand Slam of Darts qualification up for grabs for the sport’s brightest young stars.
Fittingly, it was Van Veen and Littler – the top two players on the Development Tour Order of Merit – who signed off from this year’s campaign in style, adding to their title tallies in Milton Keynes.
Van Veen secured his sixth Development Tour title of the year in Event 23, defeating Littler to confirm top spot on the Order of Merit and seal his spot at November’s Grand Slam of Darts.
There was little to separate the pair throughout, but a 127 checkout in leg four saw Van Veen level, and the Dutchman survived match darts in a last-leg shoot-out to scoop the £2,500 top prize.
Van Veen kicked off Saturday’s double-header with successive whitewash wins against Lara Frerking and Moreno Blom, and he lost just four legs in breezing through to the quarter-finals.
There, the Dutchman won a high-quality last eight showdown against his compatriot Wessel Nijman, producing leg of 13, 12, 17, 13 and 15 darts to close out a 5-3 victory with a 101 average.
Van Veen then edged out Ireland’s Dylan Slevin in the semi-finals, firing in a 14-dart break in the decider to set up his mouth-watering showdown against Littler.
Littler won four of his first five games without conceding a leg, edging out Event 22 champion Sebastian Bialecki in a seven-leg affair in round three.
The 16-year-old then averaged 109 and 103 in whitewash wins against Marvin Kraft and Keane Barry, before seeing off Owen Bates and Rune Van Damme in the latter stages.
However, following his defeat to Van Veen, Littler made amends with Event 24 success, dispatching Cam Crabtree to secure his fifth Development Tour title of 2023.
The Warrington thrower survived a scare against fellow teenager Thomas Banks in his opener, but soon returned to form, easing past Charlie Large before averaging 113.43 in a stunning four-leg blitz of Owen Roelofs.
Littler made it 13 legs without reply to whitewash Alfie Busby, and he battled past Reece Colley and New Zealand’s Kayden Milne to progress to the semi-finals.
The JDC World Champion faced Dutchman Jarno Bottenberg in the last four, and a terrific four-leg spell midway through proceedings inspired him into his seventh final of the season.
Crabtree – a two-time winner on the Challenge Tour in 2023 – dumped out Van Veen earlier in the competition, despite the Dutchman averaging 111 to kick off his Event 24 bid.
The 19-year-old also dumped out Japan’s Shusaku Nakamura and Event 22 runner-up Dominik Gruellich in the closing stages, which saw him pocket the £1,000 runner-up prize.
Elsewhere, Nijman joined Littler in claiming World Championship qualification and a PDC Tour Card for 2024-25, with the Dutchman finishing third on the final Development Tour Order of Merit.
Table-topper Van Veen already has a Tour Card and is set to seal his World Championship qualification via the ProTour Order of Merit, which ensures Nijman will make his debut in the sport's flagship event later this year.
Following the culmination of this year’s Winmau Development Tour, the early rounds of the Winmau World Youth Championship will take place on Sunday afternoon in Milton Keynes.
The World Youth Championship final will then be played on Sunday November 26 during the Cazoo Players Championship Finals in Minehead, as two players compete for £10,000 in prize money and the coveted title.
2023 Winmau Development Tour
Saturday August 19
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Dylan Slevin 5-0 Jenson Walker
Gian van Veen 5-3 Wessel Nijman
Rune Van Damme 5-2 Llew Bevan
Luke Littler 5-3 Owen Bates
Gian van Veen 5-4 Dylan Slevin
Luke Littler 5-1 Rune Van Damme
Gian van Veen 5-4 Luke Littler
Luke Littler 5-3 Kayden Milne
Jarno Bottenberg 5-1 Viktor Tingstrom
Dominik Gruellich 5-4 Marvin Kraft
Cam Crabtree 5-1 Shusaku Nakamura
Luke Littler 5-2 Jarno Bottenberg
Cam Crabtree 5-3 Dominik Gruellich
Luke Littler 5-1 Cam Crabtree