It was heartbreak for Ayrshire's darting stars this week.

It comes as three of the region's top players looked to secure a place on the sport's premier tour with the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC).

Andy Boulton, Robert Thornton and Jim McEwan were all taking part at qualifying school, also known as Q-school, in Milton Keynes as they vied hundreds of other players for the 14 available slots to players participating in the UK.

The trio were all hoping to join Cameron Menzies on the PDC tour, with the Muirkirk man being Ayrshire's only current card holder.

Q-school took place across two weeks. The first stage during week one saw the top players earning a spot alongside those who had already earned a place in the final round.

The final round took place in a tournament format from Thursday, January 11 until Sunday, January 14.

The four winners of each tournament would automatically earn a tour card, with the remaining 10 places afforded to the top 10 performing players across all four days.

Points were awarded for progression to the various rounds of the competition, with ties decided via leg difference.

Of the Ayrshire players, Stevenston's Robert Thornton was the first to exit Q-school.

Partaking in the first day of the first round of qualifying, the former UK Open and World Grand Prix Champion lost his first round match.

As he opted not to take any further part, 'The Thorn' exited the qualifiers at this stage.

While the other two Ayrshire men also missed out, it was in a far more agonising fashion.

Each day, the competition commenced with 128 players, and Maybole man Jim McEwan advanced to the last 16 once, reached the last 32 twice, and exited at the round of 64 once.

It earned 'Chucky' four points and 19th place on the order of merit.

Frustratingly for McEwan, one more win on any of the four days of competition would have been enough to see him earn a top 10 place and a PDC tour card.

Even closer to qualifying was Ardrossan's Andy Boulton.

'X Factor' earned himself five points across the four days competition, only finishing outside the top ten - in 14th place - on leg difference.

The hopes of Boulton, who has held a tour card on two previous occasions, were given a massive boost after reaching the semi-finals on the first day.

However, he would only earn further points on one other occasion when he reached the last 32.

A pair of exits at the first stage on two days of competition mirrored last year's outcome, where he found himself only a point away from earning a tour card.

Boulton and McEwan will now become PDPA Associate Members, allowing them to enter UK Open qualifiers as well as compete in Players Championship events in Q School Order of Merit order should the 128 Tour Card Holders not enter.

PDPA Associate Members also have their own Challenge Tour series of events, with 20 £10,000 tournaments being held across five double-header weekends.

The leading two players from the final Challenge Tour Order of Merit will win a two-year PDC Tour Card.