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Jun 24

Ken Duke – Journeyman: Where Have You Been?

Ken Duke Wins His First Tournament

So, a complete stranger, or almost one, took the cup at the Travelers Champion of 2013 last week. It’s a tournament that’s famous for producing new and unexpected winners, but this one, for me at least, really came out of left field. Almost every news source that covered the Travelers referred to Ken Duke as a “journeyman.” What a word – whatever do we mean by it?

ken duke 2According to Wikipedia, a journeyman is an advanced apprentice, but not yet a master. Historically, they lived separately, and were entitled to charge for a day’s work  (from the French “journee,” – similar to journey, and indicates one day).
Every walk of life seems to have these people, these “journeymen,” and sports are no exception, bestowing a rather unflattering light on these grinders who show up for work every day and keep going until something gives. A popular boxing term, it refers to those participants who exist for no other reason than for the greats to step on or over them on their way to the top. In that case, I’ve spent my fair share of time as a journeyman, and think it’s terrific when one gets out of line and wins.

Puma
Anyone who plays excellent golf for four days and beats everyone else is a good golfer, and Ken Duke is no exception. He didn’t win the Travelers because the ground opened up and swallowed the competition. He beat them, and in particular, beat one of them, another “journeyman” in a sudden-death playoff. Sinking that putt on the final hole, the Travelers thought they had a winner, until Chris Stroud chipped in to start the playoff. A third “journeyman,” emerging Canadian Graham DaLaet, had his turn at taking charge, and appeared as though he might make off with the cup. All these journeymen around – weren’t there any masters to be found?

DaLaet’s best effort for this year came in this tournament, but his $1, 348, 387 in winnings for 2013 doesn’t seem like such a bad journey. He’s playing well, and likely to be heard from again. Stroud, about 31 years of age, made his best finish (10th) this week as well, and the $237,000 check was his best finish since turning pro in 2004.
TGW.com - The Golf Warehouse
But Ken “journeyman” Duke – Forty-four years of age, from Hope, Arkansas (aha, maybe that’s it) and winning for the first time on the PGA tour after 187 starts. Now, that’s persistence paying off. By his own description, he’s played them all – Canadian tour, mini-tours, Asian, South-American, you name it. He’s hovered around a ranking of 144th in the world, sometimes better, and almost every cent of his 2013 earnings, $1,600,045 came from one check – the winner’s check from Travelers. I’m glad to see that a journeyman can make such wages. It only seems fair as a reward for such stick-to-itiveness.

ken dukeOutside of one case of divine intervention, in which Duke blasted into the woods only to have it come back out five feet from the pin, he seems to have endured the four days by centering on a sense of self-belief, which he claims is the reason the great ones win so often. And the whereabouts of the greats…the non-journeymen who were supposed to walk over these three intruders on top of the leaderboard? Nowhere to be seen, except for Bubba Watson, who self-destructed golf-wise, and disappointed personally.

Is it my imagination, or are there fewer and fewer repeat winners these days? Is parity coming to the PGA? Maybe the journeymen, those guys who are supposed to bow as the Tigers and Rorys pass by are taking over. Who knows? But I’m up for a grand round of applause – for Ken Duke, Chris Stroud and Graham DaLaet – good journey!

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.