Christian Bunse gave himself an early birthday present by winning a PDC Tour Card on Day Three of European Qualifying School in Hildesheim on Saturday.
The German youngster, who reached three finals on the PDC Unicorn Development Tour in 2018, secured full-time status on the PDC circuit by triumphing at Halle 39 on the day before his 24th birthday.
Bunse began his glory charge with victories against Marius May, Karsten Koch and Andreas Harryson, before whitewashing Hungary’s Patrik Kovacs to reach the last 16.
There, he overcame former World Championship and UK Open participant Ryan De Vreede with a 5-2 win – which he followed up with a 5-2 quarter-final victory over 18-year-old countryman Nico Blum.
Bunse overturned a 3-0 deficit against Russia’s Boris Koltsov to win his his semi-final 5-3, hitting a 121 checkout in the crucial fourth leg to spark his comeback.
He then sealed his Tour Card with a 5-2 success over Czech opponent Pavel Jirkal, with Bunse taking out 100 to clinch the win.
“I’m over the moon,” said Bunse. “It was very difficult and there were no easy matches. You have to play well and the day went very good for me.
“If I would have reached the final Development Tour event of the year [in 2018] I would have had my Tour Card already and wouldn’t have needed to play in Qualifying School.
“I lost 5-4 in the final but it is amazing for me to come and win.”
Jirkal, who has previously appeared in the World Cup of Darts, enjoyed early victories over Arjan Konterman, Georg Kühweidner and Day Two finalist Madars Razma.
Further wins against Christian Goedl, Ricardo Pietreczko and Jesús Noguera saw him move into the semi-finals, where he defeated three-time Development Tour winner Kenny Neyens 5-2 – but defeat by the same scoreline in the decider meant he missed out on becoming the first Czech player to hold a PDC Tour Card.
Bunse joins fellow Development Tour players Niels Zonneveld and Mike van Duivenbode in earning their Tour Cards this week – meaning that all of the top ten players from the 2018 Development Tour Order of Merit will be competing on the ProTour in 2019.
Today sees the fourth and final day of the 2019 European Qualifying School, where one more player will earn a Tour Card outright.
2019 PDC European Qualifying School
Day Three, Saturday January 5
Niels Heinsøe 5-3 Sebastian Steyer
Boris Koltsov 5-4 James Bailey
Nico Blum 5-1 Roxy-James Rodriguez
Christian Bunse 5-2 Ryan De Vreede
Kenny Neyens 5-4 Yordi Meeuwisse
Jose De Sousa 5-4 Karel Sedlacek
Pavel Jirkal 5-3 Ricardo Pietreczko
Jesús Noguera 5-4 Maik Kuivenhoven
Boris Koltsov 5-0 Niels Heinsøe
Christian Bunse 5-2 Nico Blum
Kenny Neyens 5-1 Jose De Sousa
Pavel Jirkal 5-4 Jesús Noguera
Christian Bunse 5-3 Boris Koltsov
Pavel Jirkal 5-2 Kenny Neyens
Christian Bunse 5-2 Pavel Jirkal