Corey Cadby, Adam Smith-Neale, Richard Veenstra and Josh Payne
Corey Cadby, Adam Smith-Neale, Richard Veenstra and Josh Payne

Which of the 27 PDC Tour Card winners from Q School will shine in 2023 and who have reputations to repair?

There were 27 winners of PDC Tour Cards at the recent Qualifying School and Paul Nicholson assesses which of them have the best chance of making a mark in 2023.

The former major winner, commentator and pundit also shares his thoughts on a couple of the 'controversial' winners and looks at what lies ahead for those who missed out, including Fallon Sherrock.

UK Q School Winners

Ones to watch

In one of my columns a few months ago about the Modus Super Series, I predicted Graham Hall and Graham Usher would go on to win Tour Cards at Q School due to the performance levels and consistency they’d both produced.

Hall had also impressed me on the WDF Tour last year and by the end of 2022, he really was an obvious candidate to get himself into the PDC ranks.

People may not know too much about him yet but they’ll be aware of him soon, because I believe he’s got the talent and ability to average around 94-95 for an entire season. He could do what Andrew Gilding did last year and be a genuine threat to the big names.

Usher has been a bit of a slow burner since reaching the World Masters quarter-finals in 2019, but if you look at the amount of money and confidence he’s gained from the Modus Super Series over the last couple of years, it’s no wonder he clinched his card on day two of Q School.

Of all the first-time Tour Card holders, I’d say Hall has the best chance of success.

However, 20-year-old Irishman Dylan Slevin is another PDC debutant that everyone should be excited about. I didn’t expect him to get a card so soon but he’s seriously talented and will have plenty of Irish friends on the circuit to help him find his feet.

Welcome back

I’m not surprised to see Josh Payne win his card back after a season away from the PDC circuit.

Some young players get their first cards and just assume they’ll be on tour for their entire career, but every now and again it’s good to get a bit of a shock that makes you reassess your game and the dedication you need to put in to stay there.

Keegan Brown, who came through Q School via the Order of Merit after losing his card at the end of last year, said to me the other week “You don’t know how valuable something is until it’s not there.”

Josh won the very first week of the Modus Super Series last year and that set the tone for a very good bounce back year in which he averaged in the mid-90s for the season and often exceeded 100. He text me this week to say ‘the hard work starts now’ so he’s under no illusions that it’s all about how he kicks on from here.

Point to prove

Arron Monk was the first ever World Youth champion beating Michael van Gerwen way back in 2011 but sadly he’s never been able to fulfil his potential.

He’s certainly got the talent and technical ability but he’s become a bit of Q School yo-yo player having yet to figure out the mental side of the game.

This process of getting back on tour before falling off it a few years later will keep happening until he does. I would say this to his face because I firmly believe only his mind is holding him back from becoming a world class top-32 player.

He can get very hot under the collar and doesn’t like losing, to put it mildly. Nobody likes to lose but it’s reactions to certain situations that let him down and he spends too much of his mental bandwidth on disappointment. He needs to speak to some kind of sports specialist to develop an anchoring process in his mind that can keep him calmer in all situations.

Bad Dog

In all the time I’ve been involved in the sport, I’ve never known anyone as universally unpopular among the darting fraternity as Adam Smith-Neale. And that’s saying something considering some of the competition for that honour!

He’s got a tarnished reputation to put it mildly for how he’s behaved away from the oche and now he has the opportunity to try and repair it.

However, there’s a target on his back and when he’s in action on the Pro Tour, a lot of players will want to take him out and shut him up.

The fans don’t like him and even set up a petition to take away his Tour Card! I can’t ever remember that happening to anyone else.

When he played at the Lakeside on crutches with a broken leg a few years ago, a lot of players were laughing because he was the one who once jumped on Simon Whitlock and damaged his ankle. It hasn’t been the same since.

In the day four final at Q School, pretty much everyone wanted Nick Kenny to beat him because that would have meant Conan Whitehead would have earned a Tour Card ahead of him on the Order of Merit.

It was made even more agonising for Whitehead when everyone found out retrospectively that he would have actually clinched his card if he hadn’t played on the final day! There’s no way he would have risked not playing given how many players could have overtaken him, but the way results panned out, he’d have been better off not playing, but he wasn’t to know that.

Don’t get me wrong, The Big Dog is an excellent player with a lot of confidence but he’s got a reputation to repair and two years to do it.

We’ll get a clue as to whether that’s possible after the first half of the season when we’ve seen what attitude he brings to the practice room and whether he’s made any friends or allies on the circuit. If he hasn’t, it could be a very lonely place for him.

He must conduct himself well because when more players find out about what he’s done to others in the past they’ll want to stamp on him. Dart players stick up for each other like family.

Fallon’s future

Fallon Sherrock missed out on a Tour Card via the Order of Merit by just a couple of wins but she’s right to be proud of her efforts.

When you think how well she played at the Modus Super Series towards the end of last year and also during parts of her clash with Ricky Evans at the World Championship, she’d got herself in great shape and that carried on into Q School.

There were a lot of very good players who finished below her in the table and when you consider how much criticism she gets on social media compared to everyone else, she deserves every bit of credit.

Although she didn’t get a card, all is not lost because there’s an exciting year ahead. She got the Women’s Series, which will crank up a notch with the ever increasing standards, as well as her Women’s World Matchplay title defence, while there will also be opportunities to play in the Modus Super Series, the Challenge Tour and the WDF if she so wishes.

I think she needs more competitive action to get into the kind of mould she was in when performing at her A Grade level a couple of years ago, and this year she won’t have her priorities split with the World Series.

A realistic goal for her is to win a Challenge Tour event and that will be a huge step in the right direction for her and women’s darts, plus if she does dedicate enough time to that, don’t rule out her chances of winning a PDC Tour Card via that route.

Not many players finished above her in Q School that didn’t win a card, so if she enters enough events and stays consistent, there’s no reason why she can’t achieve this.

European Q School

The King is back

There wasn’t a lot of information as to how well Corey Cadby had been playing prior to Q School but we knew a player of his quality had a great chance of coming through.

His biggest obstacle was probably getting to Germany and being allowed to play because of the previous problems he’s had with the Australian authorities and possible visa issues.

After clearing that one and then subsequently winning his card pretty comfortably, he now has to get into the UK and stay here.

If he can get a sports visa like Damon Heta managed to and base himself in England, then there’s no reason why he can’t get back to winning ways and shoot up the rankings.

He put in some great numbers at Q School and he needs to do his best to make sure we focus on his ability rather than his chequered past and the things he’s said about certain people on social media, which I’m sure he regrets.

Corey has already given us one of the best stories of the season so far.

He turned up in Germany without his dart shoes and picked up a pair that he saw outside someone else’s room. They happened to be the right size so he wore them to Q School, won his Tour Card on day two of the final stage then thought he ought to return them.

But he did that only after writing “Corey Cadby, the King” on them in gold pen!

I’m happy he’s back on tour because he’ll ruffle feathers, play some exciting darts and get the public tuning in.

Dutch delight

Last time Jeffrey de Zwaan came through Q School he had a great first six months and reached the World Matchplay semi-finals.

I’m glad he’s getting a fresh start without the same ranking pressures for the next couple of years and maybe we’ll see him now fulfil his potential.

I’m also intrigued to see Jeffrey Sparidaans, who I’ve seen play a lot of BDO stuff down the years. His numbers weren’t amazing at Q School before getting his Tour Card on the opening day so although this will be a tough step up – it’s what he needs to find his next level among the ever-growing Dutch contingent.

Aside from the two Jeffreys, the Netherlands will also be represented by Gian van Veen, Owen Roelofs, Niels Zonneveld and Richard Veenstra.

Zonneveld is the ultimate Q School yo-yo player having now come through it three times! It’s almost like he enjoys the two-year process of losing his card before having to win it back!

Flying solo

With all due respect to everyone else who came through Q School, most eyes will be on Richard Veenstra because he really is a proper player and a threat for titles.

He has so much talent and an incredible mentality that nobody will ruffle. He’s fast, effective, dangerous and the one I’ll be watching closest over the next six months.

Flyers probably should have won at the Lakeside during his time in the BDO/WDF system – because he was always one of the best players on paper in his five appearances and although his best run was a semi-final, he did win plenty of other big titles.

He could have a career very similar to Gary Anderson, who also failed to land the biggest prize in the BDO before he finally moved to the PDC.

Like Anderson – and other players who found another level after switching – I think Richard will love the structure of PDC events and how you don’t have to wait a few hours for a match! This will play to his strengths. He has a fast style so expect him to challenge in the early Players Championship events this season and put himself in the qualification picture for several majors in his debut year.

This is the right time for Veenstra to make his name after years of treating darts as a ‘hobby’ away from his normal job.

He’ll have plenty of friends in the room and won’t be star struck whatsoever.

Waving the French flag

Last year we were all raving about Thibault Tricole and Jacques Labre being the future of French darts after they both won Challenge Tour events and enjoyed such great seasons.

It was crucial at least one of them picked up a Tour Card and now we do with Jacques – while I’m sure it won’t be too long before Thibault joins him.

I’m so glad we finally have a French presence on the PDC circuit and hopefully it’ll give the European Tour an excuse to go there!

Those who missed out

Jelle Klaasen will be bitterly disappointed to miss out on a Tour Card having gone to Q School ranked number one in the WDF system while Benito van de Pas is also another big Dutch name who also failed.

Max Hopp will be hurting right now but I think it’ll be good for him in the long run. He can enter events like the Modus Super Series and build his confidence up that way like many other Tour Card winners did.

There were high hopes for Polish teenager Sebastian Białecki so it was a shock to see him return home without success but he’s realistic about his goals.

He won’t be too disappointed and disappear off the scene, so expect him to be back very soon.

2023 PDC Qualifying Schools: Tour Card winners

UK Qualifying School

Daily Winners

Arron Monk (Day One)
Graham Usher (Day Two)
Josh Payne, (Day Three)
Adam Smith-Neale (Day Four)

Order of Merit

Keegan Brown
Stephen Burton
Dylan Slevin
Adam Warner
Lee Evans
Graham Hall
Nick Kenny
Christian Perez
Callum Goffin

European Qualifying School

Daily Winners

Jeffrey Sparidaans (Day One)
Corey Cadby (Day Two)
Jeffrey de Zwaan (Day Three)
Robbie Knops (Day Four)

Order of Merit

Maik Kuivenhoven
Pascal Rupprecht
Ronny Huybrechts
Karel Sedlaček
Richard Veenstra
Niels Zonneveld
Daniel Klose
Gian van Veen
Jacques Labre
Owen Roelofs

Darts: Related content

Like what you've read?


Sporting Life
Join for free!
Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee
Race Replays
My stable horse tracker
giftOffers and prize draws
newsExclusive content

Next Off

Fixtures & Results

Fetching latest games....