Duke claims Nationwide Tour Championship title

October 30, 2011
Doug Milne, PGA TOUR staff

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Ken Duke admitted early in the week that he had a thing or two to learn about patience if he wanted to win again. With a 4-under 68 on Sunday at the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island Club, something had sunk in. By two strokes, Duke emerged victorious at the season-ending event, good for a re-berth onto the PGA TOUR in 2012. With the win, he jumped from 36th on the money list to seventh.

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Duke and the Nationwide Tour's other 24 leading money winners earned PGA TOUR cards for 2012. J.J. Killeen of Fort Worth, Texas topped the money list with $414,273 in earnings.

Billy Hurley III began the week on the bubble in the 25th spot on the money list. His T18 at the Daniel Island Club allowed him to maintain his 25th-place-ranking and prepare for the PGA TOUR in 2012.

"The last few days have really been fun from a patience perspective," Duke said. "I realized that's the way it's supposed to be."

At nearly 43 years old, Duke becomes the second-oldest winner in the history of the Nationwide Tour Championship in the event's history. Allen Doyle holds the distinction of being the oldest having won the event in 1995 at nearly 48 years old.

"Things are nice. I'm older now, but I've hired a trainer and have worked very hard to keep up," said Duke. "I've lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of strength in my core. I have a lot more flexibility and hopefully I can keep right on going."

Duke followed an eagle-three at the sixth with a birdie at seven to open up a four-stroke advantage. He would never relinquish his lead coming down the stretch.

Duke, who had been a member of the Nationwide Tour for five years prior to 2011 (1995, 2003, 2005-2006 and 2010), previously won the 2006 BMW Charity Pro-Am. He played on the PGA TOUR in 2004, 2007-2009, where he collected three runner-up finishes.

"On the PGA TOUR in 2009, I didn't hit it good, I didn't putt it good. There were just a lot of variables why I couldn't keep my card," Duke said. "But I feel so much better now, so much more prepared."

On the Nationwide Tour in 2006, Duke lost in a playoff to Michael Sim on Sim's 22nd birthday at the Daniel Island Club at the Palmetto Pride Classic. That year, Duke went on to become the Nationwide Tour Player of the Year and leading money winner.

Third-round leader Scott Brown followed his 5-under 67 in round three with a 2-under 70 to finish at 8-under for the week. On a day where names were sliding up and down the leaderboard with the blink of every eye, Brown finished solo second. On the year-long money list, he finished eighth and is headed with Duke to the PGA TOUR.

"This is an absolute dream come true," said Brown. "I'm still numb. I'm sure it will come to me later on tonight. The year has been kind of like a rollercoaster....up and down, but the finishes have been up there. I can't wait to get to that next level and see how I measure up."

Final-Round Notes

• Duke followed an eagle-three on the par-5 sixth hole Sunday with a birdie on seven to open up a spacious four-stroke lead. He would never relinquish the lead and won the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship at the Daniel Island Club by two strokes at 10-under over Scott Brown

• At 42 years, 9 months and 1 day old, Duke becomes the second-oldest player to win the Nationwide Tour Championship. In 1995, Allen Doyle won the event at Settindown Creek GC in Roswell, GA at the age of 47 years, 8 days.

• Duke, who has played full-time on both the Nationwide Tour and PGA TOUR, began the week 36th on the money list, needing to get inside the top 25.

• Duke is making his 24th start of the season this week, with his best previous finish being a T2 at the Cox Classic. He did not make a start on the PGA TOUR in 2011.

• Prior to 2011, Duke played on the Nationwide Tour five seasons; 1995, 2003, 2005-2006 and 2010. His lone win on the Nationwide Tour prior to this week was the 2006 BMW Charity Pro-Am. He was a member of the PGA TOUR in 2004, 2007-2009, where he had three runner-up finishes.

• Duke has made it to the season-ending Nationwide Tour Championship three times prior to 2011, but not since 2006 (T14).

• Interestingly, Duke lost in a playoff to Michael Sim on Sim's 22nd birthday at the Daniel Island Club in 2006 at the Palmetto Pride Classic. That year, Duke went on to become the Nationwide Tour Player of the Year and leading money winner.

• Brown closed with a 2-under 70 on Sunday, good for solo second-place-honors. That distinction moved him to No.8 on the season-long money list, good for his first-ever exemption onto the PGA TOUR.

• Brown's previous best finish on the Nationwide Tour was a T2 at the 2011 Rex Hospital Open. Heading into the week, Brown had made 25 Nationwide Tour starts, four of which he converted into top-10 finishes.

• Despite a double-bogey at the 72nd hole, Daniel Chopra managed to post a final-round, 1-under 71, good for a share of third. The finish moved him to 19th in the year-long money standings. Chopra is a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR.

• Prior to 2011, 64 different players represented 17 different countries in graduating classes on the Nationwide Tour. The most from any one year was seven different players. However, as the game of golf continues to expand globally, it's interesting to note that of the top-25 money finishers on the 2011 Nationwide Tour money list, nine hail from overseas.

• Forty-three year-old Gavin Coles, who began the week 15th on the Nationwide Tour money list, ended the week +8 following his T47 at Daniel Island Club. By doing so, he joins Jeff Gove as the only four-time graduate of the Nationwide Tour in this week's field (2002, 2004, 2006, 2011).

• When the last putt dropped and Ken Duke received the Nationwide Tour Championship trophy, the 25 graduates were feted at a card ceremony on the grounds of Daniel Island Club. PGATOUR.COM streamed. The ceremony featured the graduates, PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem, Nationwide Tour president Bill Calfee and Nationwide Insurance's associate vice president John Aman, with player family, friends and associates in the audience.

Round Front 9 (36) Back 9 (36) Total (72)
R1 35.333 35.983 71.317
R2 35.467 35.550 71.017
R3 36.283 38.500 74.783
R4 36.867 37.033 73.900

• Course statistics this week: