Laura Turner experienced mixed fortunes at the inaugural Women’s Series last weekend, but the Sky Sports commentator relished her first real taste of PDC action and admits Lisa Ashton, Deta Hedman and Fallon Sherrock have set the benchmark.
The esteemed trio dominated proceedings at the Barnsley Metrodome, with Ashton and Hedman securing PDC World Championship spots at the expense of Sherrock, who narrowly missed out despite winning the fourth and final event on Sunday.
Ashton, who secured Grand Slam qualification on Friday, shared victories with Hedman on Saturday before adding to her tally in Sunday’s opening event, reaffirming her status as the leading light in the women’s game.
Having progressed to the quarter-finals in Friday’s Grand Slam qualifier, Turner suffered three consecutive opening-round exits over the weekend, only to bounce back emphatically in Event Four with an impressive semi-final showing.
Speaking on the Darts Show podcast, the 37-year-old admitted that nerves were a factor, but she was full of praise for the professional and competitive environment cultivated by the PDC, insisting it was an opportunity to savour.
“I managed to speak to Lloydy (Colin Lloyd) whilst we were there and I think it’s one of those things – you want to embrace the opportunity so much, but I think there was almost a point of desperation that I wanted to play well.
“The more pressure I put on myself, seemingly the worse I got and by the last event, I thought you might as well just relax and go for it and actually, I finally made it through to a semi-final, so it was a mixed bag.
“As a whole, I absolutely loved the experience and I can speak for most of the players there that really enjoyed playing in that kind of environment.”
Turner is no stranger to the big stage. She was a quarter-finalist in January’s World Championship and prior to the BDO’s demise, was an established part of the world’s top 10.
Despite this, the former British Classic winner concedes that she needs to elevate her game if she’s to challenge for major honours on a regular basis.
“If I want to start doing better, I need to bring my standard up now to Lisa, to Deta, to Fallon, to Corrine (Hammond). That’s what I need to do and I know that as a player and you’ve kind of seen that in the professional game before.
“People got better because Phil Taylor was so good that you had to progress it up. Michael van Gerwen brings up the field. Look at Gerwyn Price now compared to MVG.
“I just think this is the way to keep pushing it forward and the women’s game has just been slightly overlooked and it’s great to hear that it is now having the attention that I think it really does deserve.”
The amateur side of the game has been plunged into uncertainty over recent months, due to the combination of lockdown coupled with the collapse of the British Darts Organisation.
Despite the popularity of online darts during the hiatus, for many – Turner included – the Women’s Series marked their first competitive outing for months, and she claims the experience has fuelled her hunger.
“I think a lot of the players, especially the ones I had spoken to felt because of the scenario, we hadn’t actually played a physical tournament against other players. That hasn’t happened for the majority of us since March, before the lockdown and everything else came into place.
“That ability to keep playing at a competitive level, you could see perhaps with Deta, Fallon and Corrine Hammond, I was really impressed with how Corrine played all weekend, but they were all there last week at the Challenge Tour and for Lisa, she has done the Pro Tour.
“I think going into this they were the standout players anyway, but they just had that ability to hit the oche running, whereas a lot of us felt very tentative, trying to feel our way in.”
“I know my game isn’t quite up there with the likes of Fallon, Lisa, Deta, Corrine, but I know I can do better and it just gave me that bug. I want to come back, I want to do it again next weekend! That’s how it has made me feel which is fantastic.”
The leading female players have been crying out for the opportunities they were afforded at the Women’s Series, and PDC chief executive Matt Porter has indicated that this could just be the start of the organisation’s long-term commitment to growing the women’s game.
Turner is enthused about the sport’s future and believes that making women’s darts a more visible concept will improve the depth of quality and encourage more youngsters to come through the ranks.
“The PDC extend their game to various age groups, geographical demographics, so the fact that he’s really identified the women’s game as an area of investment and development, you’ve got to be positive about that,” Turner added.
“I was saying it this weekend, you kind of look at it as a pyramid system. Anyone that plays and wants to be better, your target will be the Pro Tour – getting a Tour Card, that’s where you want to be, that’s where Lisa is.
“This is a great opportunity to not just encourage more people to play because you’re making it more visible, but also it’s going to develop the standard.”
Turner on growing the women’s game
“From a women’s darts perspective, we haven’t really had anything other than the grassroots game. We haven’t had those professional opportunities where you can invest the time because you’re getting rewarded for playing. We haven’t had such a visible sport.
“Our World Championship started 23 years after the original one that Leighton Rees won and you just think, it’s playing a bit of catch-up.
“As you’ve seen with the Asian Tour, this is a great opportunity to not just encourage more people to play because you’re making it more visible, but also it’s going to develop the standard.
“I think it sounded quite positive, something where we can start developing and encouraging more women and young girls to start playing.”
Darts in back on Sky Sports in November with a double bill, starting with three days of coverage from the World Cup of Darts (Nov 6-8) and continuing with nine days of the Grand Slam of Darts which gets underway on November 16.
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