The battle to stay in the PDC
Mark McGeeney was at the top of the tree at the British Darts Organisation (BDO) just before making the switch to the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). He was at one point the ranked BDO the No.1 and used to winning some of the biggest darts titles on the BDO and World Darts Federation (WDF) circuit. But now the game just got a little tougher.
Mark had several ambitions within the professional darts and not least was to become World Champion a feat he nearly achieved in 2018. Marks had darts to win the BDO World Darts Championship but missed double cost him the match and Glen Durrant was crowned the BDO world champions for the second time. The good friends had shared a number of the BDO titles during their time with the BDO. However, it was Mark who won the biggest event of the year the Dutch Open on two occasions.
The Dutch Open attracts over 5,000 competitors each year and is said to be one of the hardest darts events to win. Mark won the event back-to-back 2017-2018 something few have ever done, and he looked at one point to be destined for even bigger things.
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In January each year, the PDC holds several qualification events to win a PDC tour card that allows a player to play on the more lucrative PDC darts circuit. With over £14M in prize money alone, the attraction to the PDC is hard for any player to resist.
A tour card allows a player to compete in the major darts events the PDC have to offer and to win a tour card is far from easy. In the mix of this four-day event is the bottom segment of the PDC Order of Merit. If a player hasn't reached a top 64 position after two years on the circuit, then they effectively lose their automatic right to continue to play on the PDC arena. These players, along with hundreds of hopefuls, try and win or win back a tour year tour card.
Mark gained his PDC tour card in 2019. On day one he got to the semi-finals, one more win would give him an automatic qualification. However, Mark lost out but won day two, and has now been a full member of the PDC since January 2019.
With mission one accomplished, Mark set his sights on winning big but easing himself into this new arena, Mark's main ambition is still to be a part of the PDC after his initial two-year tour card expires.
Played mostly behind closed doors and via the PDCTV-HD internet stream, the Players Championships is the bread and butter event for most PDC players. Played over thirty rounds players compete for the first prize of £10,000 first prize at each of these events with a further opportunity to win big in the championship's finals. For some, like the current PDC World No.1 Michael van Gerwen, a single win at one of these events is likely to secure his position at the finals and as such may not play on all the Players Champions rounds. For Mark, it is a different story. Only the top-ranking players make the automatic cut to some of the more significant PDC events and to get there players need to compete in as many events they can.
Beside the Players Champions, the European tour events and opens are the money makers for players working their way to the top.
Within his first year on the PDC darts circuit, Mark managed to win enough to boost his ranking and compete on the biggest darts stage, the PDC World Championships. Played over the Christmas period with the finals taking place on New Year's Day, the PDC World Championships is the event of each year. The winner receives £500,000 in prize money and the guarantee they won't be leaving the PDC too soon. Doing well at this event can also mean PDC survival for many and a good run can also bring further rewards such as a place on the Premier League or part of the non-ranking World Series.
To gain a place at this event is no easy feat to win at the event is even harder. A first-round loser picks up a cheque for £7,500, and this escalates each round rapidly. With the PDC Order of Merit based on rolling two-year prize money and few wins at such an event can secure another year for the lower-ranked player.
Like all the best players in the world, gaining support should be easy. With more TV events and world coverage, global brands are more than happy to be on board no more so than the dart and dartboard manufacture.
Just before switching from the BDO to the PDC, Mark signed up to new management, Dunvegan Enterprises Ltd. Dunvegan is no stranger to the sport and has some of the biggest names in its camp including two-time PDC World Champion Gary Anderson. With a new manager came a further contract with top darts brand Unicorn.
Unicorn has provided new darts to Marks specification, and with any new equipment, it can take time to make adjustments. However, the PDC circuit is unforgiving and time waits for no player.
It took Mark a while to adjust to the new darts, but with a nine-darter in the 2019 Players Championships, you could say things are okay. However, playing the best players in the world every week, every player needs to be at their best at all times.