Their First Time

In his first start as a PGA Tour member,  Russell Henley won the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, running away from the field with a 24-under par score at Waialae Country Club.
In his first start as a PGA Tour member, Russell Henley won the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, running away from the field with a 24-under par score at Waialae Country Club.

By mid July, 11 PGA Golfers had earned their inaugural professional tournament victory


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Then, at the Travelers Championship, he won in a playoff with Chris Stroud at the age of 44. Duke had battled scoliosis as a child, was not a golf prodigy coming out of Henderson State University and had to fight just to make a living at the game. He did win here and there, just not on the PGA Tour.
“You’ve got to believe in yourself,” said Duke after his victory. “I’ve been on the Canadian tour, mini-tours, Asian tour, South America tour, all of them, the Web.com. You don’t know how it’s going to work out. Some people make it, some people don’t. I’ve always believed in myself.”
That self-belief was bolstered when he started working with teacher Bob Toski in 2006. Toski, in his gruff manner, asserts that Duke didn’t know much about how to play top-flight tour golf until he took him under his wing. “He didn’t know where to aim, he didn’t know where to swing,” says Toski.
Duke says his idol Larry Bird was inspirational. “Larry Legend, that’s my guy,” says Duke. “His work ethic, not growing up with a lot and always pushing yourself and always believing in yourself. And now I’ve got me a win. It’s really nice.”
Now 11 more players have got themselves a win, and everything that goes with it.
Michael Thompson sums it up for all the first-timers: “I feel I am part of the PGA Tour now,” he says. “It’s official. Winning is an elite group.”
Jeff Williams is a contributing editor for Cigar Aficionado.
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