The women's game has been in great health over the past few years, attracting great talent, growing audiences and sponsors with deeper pockets. By giving female dart players the opportunity to develop their games, it is helping to prove a point that anyone who regularly plays at their local pub will already know – in a perfect world, separate tournaments for women would not even be needed.
That's a message that Bolton player Lisa Ashton helped to amplify over the past month, with a performance at the Player Championship event in Milton Keynes that sent a buzz around the whole arena. The 50 year old breezed in and blew away Adrian Lewis, the man who lifted the World Championship crown two years running in 2011 and 2012.
Anyone who thinks modern darts has become too predictable was forced to eat their words as the third round match turned the darts betting odds on their heads. There was nothing wrong with Lewis's game; he was simply outclassed and outscored by Ashton. Her 6-3 victory included an incredible 125 finish of bull-25-bull to go 5-3 up and a single leg from victory.
Ashton's win meant that she made the quarter-finals, and the fact that her tournament went no further than that is beside the point. Ashton is the first female player to earn a tour card at Q-school, and she has proved that her graduation to the main tour is completely justified. She set up the encounter with the former World Champion by dispatching Nathan Aspinall, the former UK champion and current World No.11, in the first round and the wily Aaron Beeny in the second.
It's not the first time Lisa Ashton has put darts towards the top of the back pages in recent weeks. Those who have been keeping up with the Players Championship action in Milton Keynes will have noticed that this is the second time she has played Aaron Beeny over the past month, and it's the second time she has come out on top. On Day One of the marked her TV debut with a comprehensive win at a scoring average of 100.3, a new world record for a female player.
Ashton now stands at number 78 in the PDC Order of Merit, and with the form she has shown at Milton Keynes, she can surely only progress in one direction. As it is, she is ranked higher than some very familiar names, including Dutch legend Raymond van Barneveld, who is currently ranked 88th.
Van Barneveld has also been hitting the headlines at Milton Keynes, but for non-sporting reasons, having brought the tournament to a standstill when he collapsed and needed medical attention shortly after losing to Ryan Searle. He has since told fans via his social media accounts that he is feeling much better and plans to return to the oche in April.