Duke wins Nationwide Tour Championship; headed to PGA Tour

Ken Duke posted a four-under 68 on Sunday to come from behind and win the Nationwide Tour Championship at the Ralston Creek Course at the Daniel Island Club.

Duke finished at 10-under 278 and collected his second Nationwide Tour victory and first since 2006. Scott Brown's two-under 70 gave him second at minus- eight.

The victory was sweet for Duke, but the first-place check of $180,000 meant more. That vaulted him inside the top 25 on the final Nationwide Tour money list and that earned him a PGA Tour card for the 2012 season.

"It's great," Duke said in a televised interview. "I signed up for this year 18 years ago, to play professional golf, and this is what it's all about."

Duke began the Nationwide Tour Championship in 36th place on the money list. He will make his fifth trip back to the PGA Tour in 2012.

Only one player fell out of the top 25 that came into the week safe.

James Nitties was 23rd, but a tie for 35th at four-over par left him in 26th.

David Lingmerth began the championship in 50th place and had his five-foot birdie putt on the last hole fell, he would've gotten into the top 25. Instead, Lingmerth finished 27th and lost out on his playing privileges on the PGA Tour next year.

Lingmerth shot a two-under 70 and shared third place with Daniel Chopra, who carded a one-under 71 on Sunday. The duo finished at six-under 282.

On a day when every shot truly meant something due to a fluid leaderboard and money list, the story of the man who finished 25th is an awesome one.

Billy Hurley III signed for a one-over 72 on Sunday and when he walked off the course, he was in 26th. Lingmerth's bogeys at 15 and 16 inched Hurley into the mix and when it was all finished, Hurley earned his PGA Tour card.

Hurley was an officer in the United States Navy after graduation from the Academy. He spent part of his five-year commitment in the Persian Gulf, but next year, he'll be on the PGA Tour.

J.J. Killeen tied for 38th at five-over par, but it was enough to win the money title.

Third-round co-leader Jason Kokrak struggled immediately on Sunday with a double-bogey at one and a bogey at two. He struggled to a three-over 75 on Sunday and tied for fifth with Jeff Gove (72) and Camilo Benedetti (73) at four-under 284. Kokrak finished inside the top 25 on the money list, but Gove and Benedetti did not.

Duke played beautifully on Sunday. He birdied the third, rolled in a long eagle putt at the sixth and birdied No. 7 to build a four-stroke lead. Duke's lead shrunk to one when Chopra birdied the 13th and Duke three-putted the par- five 11th for a bogey, but a birdie at 12 gave him some breathing room.

Duke birdied the 14th, but missed the green at 16 en route to a bogey. He parred the last two for the victory and a return to the PGA Tour.

"It's going to be fun to go back out there," Duke said in his televised interview. "I hadn't won out here in a long time. I've been working really hard the last couple of weeks. It all came together this week."

NOTES: Duke finished seventh on the final money list...Duke's other victory on tour came at the 2006 BMW Charity Pro-Am at The Cliffs...Duke has three runner-up finishes in his PGA Tour career...Brown and Chopra both stayed inside the top 25...Other notable players to earn PGA Tour cards for next year via their placement on the money list were double heart-transplant recipient Erik Compton, Mathew Goggin and Danny Lee.