Lorraine Winstanley has welcomed the Professional Darts Corporation’s decision to guarantee two female qualifiers for the 2019 World Darts Championship.
The move comes as the PDC increases the number of competitors to 96 while the prize fund rises to £2.5m, with the winner claiming a £500k jackpot and the Sid Waddell Trophy.
Female players have always been afforded the same chances as men in qualification but Monday’s decision will ensure there will be at least two women competing for the title.
Buxton’s Winstanley, who recently made it to the final of the British Darts Organisation World Trophy, said the PDC’s announcement was a step in the right direction for the sport.
She said: “I think it’s a great step in the right direction. It’s a small step but it’s an introduction.
“Barry Hearn has seen that there is room for the ladies and I know it’s only two slots for a UK qualifier and a non-UK qualifier but it’s a great start.
“If you get one of those qualifying spots then you’ve played really well and deserve to be there.
“I’m hoping it’s the chink of light to maybe do something more for the ladies and I think it’s exciting times.”
Winstanley was pleased with her performances at the Preston Guildhall in the BDO World Trophy at the weekend, beating Paula Jacklin, Anca Zijlstra and Anastasia Dobromyslova on her way to the final.
There the 42-year-old came up against an in-form Fallon Sherrock who had impressed in her semi-final win over Roz Bulmer, with a 90+ average, only to raise the bar once more in the final with a 94.22 average - better than two averages from this year’s Premier League Darts competition.
“I’m really pleased with the way I played as a whole,” said Buxton’s Lorraine Winstanley.
“Each round I seemed to get better and better and when I did get into the final I knew I had to pick it up because Fallon had been consistently good all tournament.
“I knew I had to pick it up a notch, I just didn’t know she was going to pick it up a notch on her side as well.
“She was on fire. She missed nothing and I had a few lazy darts which cost me from giving myself an opportunity. Fallon’s average over nine legs was really good going.”
But, despite a runners-up spot, Winstanley thought the final was a “great advert for women’s darts”.
“I think it was a really good game for people to watch. It was exciting and could have gone either way.
“It was a good standard to darts and opened people’s eyes a bit to that women can play.
“There’s been great games before but it was good that we both played well. I was happy with my game and Fallon was excellent,” she added.
Winstanley is back in action on 14th June at the England Open before returning to Selsey for the Six Nations on 22nd June.