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Ipswich's Stephen Burton on a successful Q-School which saw him win back his tour card onto the professional darts circuit





Ipswich's Stephen Burton is prepared to put more hours in on the practice board after winning back his tour card on the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) circuit on Sunday.

The former Debenham High School pupil was one of 13 players to clinch a two-year tour card onto the professional darts circuit at the UK Q-School in Milton Keynes last week.

Burton finished in third place on the UK Q-School Order of Merit to reclaim his place on the 128-player tour, having lost his first tour card after two years at the end of 2018.

Stephen Burton - a former Debenham High School pupil - in action at the Players Championship Finals in 2018 - Picture: PDC
Stephen Burton - a former Debenham High School pupil - in action at the Players Championship Finals in 2018 - Picture: PDC

And the 35-year-old, who is a self-employed window cleaner, believes the experience of his first run on the tour will benefit him when he toes the oche against the likes of new world champion Michael Smith, Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen over the coming months.

“I’d like to say it’s probably been a long time coming,” Burton said. “I’ve always competed quite well on the Challenge Tour and I’ve missed out on a tour card in that a couple of times narrowly.

“I had a completely different mindset this year. I wasn’t worried about the outcome when normally I put myself under so much pressure expecting to get one.

"You can't be like that. It's a bit of a lottery for the golden ticket.

“I now know how much time and dedication you have to put in. You can’t just expect to turn up at these ProTour events and think you’re going to be turning people over, not with the standard it is now.

“I’ve got to put a bit more effort in, especially on the practice board.

"Obviously I still work full-time. I'm a self-employed window cleaner and I've had my own business for 16 years.

"I really enjoy my job. I just love being outside, so I'll probably never give up work, but I've just got to put a bit more time and dedication in to darts because before you know it those two years could be over.

"I'm hoping not to make that mistake again. I've got to maybe take an extra day off than I normally would just to practice and get a nice balance of working and hopefully things will work out well."

Keith Deller (runner up), Stephen Burton (champion) and Russ Bray (referee) at the first Stonham Barns darts tournament in 2022
Keith Deller (runner up), Stephen Burton (champion) and Russ Bray (referee) at the first Stonham Barns darts tournament in 2022

Burton, who plays for Stowmarket-based Cedars Park in the Suffolk Super League, won his first two-year PDC tour card after winning outright on his first-ever day at Q-School in 2017.

A year later he made his major debut in the 2018 Players Championship Finals, beating Jermaine Wattimena and Darren Webster to reach the last 16, where he lost 10-4 to then world number one Michael van Gerwen on the main stage at Butlin's Minehead.

Burton won through the Tour Card Holder Qualifier just two days later to secure a first appearance in the PDC World Darts Championship, at Alexandra Palace.

A 3-0 defeat to Ryan Searle resulted in the Suffolk thrower finishing his two-year tour card outside the top 64 of the PDC Order of Merit, which meant a return to Q-School at the start of 2019 to try and regain his spot on the professional circuit.

Burton was unsuccessful at Q-School over the next four years, but enjoyed success on the PDC's secondary tour, the Challenge Tour, winning two titles in 2019, and a third title in April last year.

After finishing in fourth place on the final Challenge Tour Order of Merit for 2022, just one spot off of a tour card, Burton returned to Milton Keynes last week for this year's Q-School, where he entered in the final 128-player stage.

A run to the last four on the first day, and the last 16 on the third day, left Burton sitting well-placed on the UK Q-School Order of Merit on six points heading into the finale.

On the Sunday, Burton picked up two more points with another last 16 run, by which point his tour card was secure.

"After the first couple of days I knew I was playing well again and consistently well," he said.

"I thought I'm not going to be too far off. Sunday's draw didn't really go that kindly for me, but I managed to come through that all right in the end.

"Getting four points on the first day was massive. There's various things on social media saying how many points they predict you need to get and six points would be close.

"(Going into the last day) It was awful really. I could hardly sleep. I was that nervous thinking about it.

"At the end of the day I just said to myself 'people are chasing you, you're not chasing them. It's in your hands.'

"When I played my third game I was 3-1 up and someone gave me the thumbs up mid game.

"I haven't really had too much time to think about it as I was up at seven o'clock on Monday morning going to work!

"I'm sure it will probably sink in a bit later. I've got a good two or three weeks now to prepare for when the season starts.

"Before I was fortunate to win my tour card on my first-ever attempt and in the first year I sort of didn't really think too much of it.

"If I have the same mindset I had at the weekend then I think I'll do all right.

"The ultimate goal for the two years is just to stay in that top 64 so you don't have to go back to Q-School. That's really my main aim. I'll be chuffed if I can do that."