Shaun McDonald insists he is not putting pressure on himself to earn a PDC tour card as he gets his Q School campaign under way tomorrow.
Aberdeen darts player McDonald is part of a packed field at the Marshall Arena, part of the Stadium MK complex in Milton Keynes, all of whom are trying to earn a spot on the pro tour.
Because of his performances on the Challenge Tour – the PDC’s secondary tour – McDonald is already through to the last 128. Competition started at the weekend with more than 600 entrants bidding to come through.
Eight tour cards will be awarded for the winners of each day’s play in both the UK and European version, with the latter being held in Germany. The remaining 24 cards will be decided on a pro-rata basis from the order of merit from the week’s play.
McDonald has already enjoyed a memorable 12 months on his return to darts and already has a place booked at the WDF World Championships at Lakeside in April, should he not earn a tour card this week.
Winning one or not getting one would not change his life significantly, meaning he can play with a degree of freedom.
He said: “You don’t enter this unless you think you’ve got a chance. But at the same time, I’m not putting myself under any pressure.
A space has become available on my shirt for the 2022 season. Please DM me if interested and for more details! Depending on my Q school result I’ll either be playing PDC Pro Tour or PDC Challenge Tour/WDF tour (where I’ve already qualified for Lakeside in April).
— Shaun McDonald (@Shaunymac04) January 1, 2022
“I think I’m in the UK Open and I’ve qualified for Lakeside, if it doesn’t happen. The opportunities in amateur darts are bigger than they’ve ever been at the minute.
“We’ll try our best and see what happens.
“Getting a tour card doesn’t really change anything from a personal point of view, other than greater opportunity. It doesn’t mean I’ll be packing up my job and going pro.
“It just means I’ll be going to pro events, as opposed to amateur events.
“It’s nice to be in that position; I’m not a 20-year-old kid chasing a dream with only one or two more years to do it, or you need to think about something else. I’ve been there before.
“This is just a really nice hobby. If I’ve got a tour card then great, I can go test myself against the best in the world. The opportunities that come from that are huge.
“If I don’t get that one, that’s OK, I’ll do the alternative tours. There’s good opportunities there as well.”
There are plenty of big names trying to earn one of those valuable spots on the tour.
Former BDO world champion Scott Waites, Andy Hamilton, Darren Webster, Nick Kenny, John Part, Ted Evetts, Nathan Rafferty, James Wilson and Lisa Ashton are just some of the names competing at the final stage in Milton Keynes this week.
Fallon Sherrock entered in the first round as she seeks to win a tour card for the first time, while McDonald’s fellow north-east players Scott Campbell and Jason Hogg also enrolled.
The 36-year-old, who is finance director at Xeretec in Aberdeen, has enjoyed a quiet festive period on the board, practising by himself to reduce any risk of catching Covid.
Earlier last month he had taken on a couple of sessions with Arbroath’s Alan Soutar, who made waves with his run to the last 16 of the World Championships at Alexandra Palace.
McDonald added: “I’ve thrown every single day. On some of the busier days it might only have been half-an-hour. Some days it might have been for three hours. I’ve just made sure I’ve picked up the darts every day and thrown them.
“I’ve probably picked up from the middle of December and started to play better going into it, which is a good sign.
“The practise sessions with Soots were really beneficial, but I’ve just been on my own since then. You do get benefits from practising with someone, but, with the risks of contracting Covid at the minute, I’ve just kept myself to myself.”
Players will be on-site for the full week and there will be extra care taken to avoid any unnecessary risks, given a positive Covid test would see them forced to withdraw from play.
Three players – Vincent van der Voort, Dave Chisnall and three-time world champion Michael van Gerwen – saw their Ally Pally hopes eradicated after contracting Covid during the tournament.
McDonald said: “The good thing about the arena at Stadium MK is it’s all interlinked. You don’t need to come out.
“The only place you need to go is for food and drink and there’s an Asda next door.
“There’s a decent walk out the back for exercise, where you can keep yourself to yourself. I won’t be going near the gym.
“I think we’re going to be testing every day – having to take a lateral flow before you go in – and that does bring a bit of fear.
“You could be doing so well, sitting in a good position, then test positive and you’re out.
“It’s small-scale compared to what the guys in the World Championship went through.”