De Graaf & Kantele triumph as 2024 Nordic & Baltic ProTour season begins

Jeffrey de Graaf (PDC)

Jeffrey de Graaf and Marko Kantele clinched titles as the 2024 PDC Nordic & Baltic ProTour season began in Riga last weekend.

Kantele and De Graaf were the top two performers on the Nordic & Baltic ProTour circuit in 2023, and they reaffirmed their credentials in the Latvian capital.

De Graaf - who secured a PDC Tour Card at last month's European Qualifying School - stormed through a 110-player field to clinch the Event One title on Saturday.

The Dutch-born Swede recovered from 3-2 down to defeat Iceland's Arni Agust Danielsson in round one, before overcoming Danish trio Michael Ladefoged, Claus Bendix Nielsen and Mikkel Knudsen to reach the last four.

There, De Graaf dispatched former World Championship quarter-finalist Darius Labanauskas 6-1, and he swept aside Finland's Jani Laurila by the same scoreline to celebrate his third Nordic & Baltic ProTour title.

Kantele then took centre stage in Event Two on Sunday, conceding just seven legs across his six matches to win a record-extending 14th Nordic & Baltic ProTour crown.

The 55-year-old defied a late rally from Sweden’s Johan Engstrom to win an entertaining final, kicking off the contest with legs of 12, 15 and 14 darts, before landing a 13-darter on tops to complete a 6-4 success.

The five-time World Championship qualifier also saw off his fellow countrymen Kim Viljanen and Teemu Harju in the semi-finals and quarter-finals respectively, whitewashing Harju in the last eight.

Kantele produced a mid-game burst to account for Hakon Bjorge Helling midway through the event, having followed up a six-leg blitz of Nauris Gleglu with successive 6-1 wins over Bent Lambertsen and Pär Riihonen.

Last weekend also saw qualifiers for the opening three European Tour events of 2024 take place, with three different players progressing through the respective events.

Andreas Harrysson booked his place in next month’s Blåkläder Belgian Darts Open (ET1) after winning through a high-quality encounter against his fellow Swede Engstrom. 

Harrysson averaged 100.39 on his way to a 6-4 victory, registering winning legs of 17, 14, 15, 11, 13 and 15 darts to cap off a terrific performance.

The 48-year-old also edged out Sweden’s World Cup quarter-finalist Oskar Lukasiak in the semi-finals, having accounted for Labanauskas and Vladimir Andersen earlier in the event.

Harrysson’s hopes of a qualification double were curtailed by his compatriot Viktor Tingström, who raced to a 6-1 win in the semi-finals of the ET2 Qualifier.

Tingström also claimed the scalps of Kantele and Lukasiak, while a crushing 6-2 victory over Laurila saw him seal qualification for the German Darts Grand Prix (ET2).

Cor Dekker also enjoyed a weekend to remember in Riga, qualifying for the International Darts Open (ET3) to clinch his European Tour return after a five-year hiatus.

Former World Cup star Dekker won five consecutive games to seal his spot in Riesa, defeating Tingström in the semi-finals, before closing out a 6-4 victory against Kantele to confirm his big stage return.

The 2024 Nordic & Baltic ProTour season continues from April 4-7, as ProTour Events 3-4 and Qualifiers for ET4-7 take place in Gothenburg, Sweden.

At the conclusion of ProTour Event Six, the top two players from each competing nation will represent their respective country at the 2024 World Cup of Darts.

Nordic & Baltic ProTour Event One
Jeffrey de Graaf 6-1 Jani Laurila

Nordic & Baltic ProTour Event Two
Marko Kantele 6-4 Johan Engstrom

Blåkläder Belgian Darts Open (ET1 Qualifier)
Andreas Harrysson 6-4 Johan Engstrom

German Darts Grand Prix (ET2 Qualifier)
Viktor Tingström 6-2 Jani Laurila

International Darts Open (ET3 Qualifier)
Cor Dekker 6-4 Marko Kantele

Click here for more information on the PDC Nordic & Baltic circuit.

ProTour 3-4 + ET Qualifiers 4-7
April 4-7, Apple Hotel, Gothenburg, Sweden

ProTour 5-6 + ET Qualifiers 8-10
May 31-June 2, Hotel Tallukka, Vääsky, Finland

ProTour 7-8 + ET Qualifiers 11-13
July 26-28, Copenhagen, Venue TBC

ProTour 9-10
August 24-25, Bullseye Reykjavík, Iceland