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PGA Tour Champions Ken Duke gives scouting report on TimberTech Championship’s new course


Craig Dolch  |  Special to The Post

WEST PALM BEACH — Ken Duke has become a popular guy on the PGA Tour Champions.

That’s because he’s one of the few guys who have played Royal Palm Yacht and Country Club, site of next month’s TimberTech Championship.

His fellow players all want some of Duke’s local knowledge after the TimberTech Championship switched venues this year because its usual site, the Old Course at Broken Sound, is being renovated.

“A bunch of guys have come up to me and asked about the course,” Duke said Monday during TimberTech Championship’s Media Day at First Tee Palm Beaches. “I used to play it a bunch when I lived in Boca Raton in the early 2000s.”

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And his scouting report?

“It’s a ball-striker’s course,” Duke said. “It’s not as long or as open as Broken Sound, but you still have to get it around out there. It’s a typical Florida course. It’s a wonderful place to play.”

Royal Palm was originally designed by Hall of Fame architects Robert Trent Jones and “Gentleman Joe” Lee before legend Jack Nicklaus did a re-design in 2003 and updated it in 2014.

Duke has locked up one of the 54 spots for the Nov. 4-6 TimberTech Championship, which again serves as the middle tournament in the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs. The Stuart resident is 21st on the money list with earnings of almost $700,000 with two events left in the regular season.

The 53-year-old Duke has yet to win on the 50-and-older circuit, but he’s getting closer: He has had nine consecutive top-20 finishes and five top-10s this year. Duke finished 17th at last year’s event.

TimberTech Championship officials were on hand Monday to announce they donated $400,000 to the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Foundation, the tournament’s primary beneficiary, from last year’s tournament.

“We have three priorities: People, product and planet,” said Paul Kardish, Tournament Director for the AZEC Company and TimberTech. “Through this tournament and the donations, we want to make sure that in those communities in which we operate and serve, we’re doing better for the people around us.”

The tournament has raised more than $2.4 million for the hospital in the last 12 years. Most of that money has been directed to the Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute, which serves 65,000 women a year after being opened in 2015.

“It’s all about having a health-care system that is strong and able to serve everybody who needs it, because we all will need health care at some point in our lives,” said Mark Larkin, president of the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Foundation. 

In March, TimberTech donated an upscale 30,000-square-foot environmentally-safe deck to the First Tee Palm Beaches. TimberTech also is in the process of building a similar deck for the Boca Raton Regional Hospital. The First Tee serves more than 3,500 children and military veterans in South Florida.

“This deck is an extension of this place,” said Carl Mistretta, executive director of the First Tee Palm Beaches. “People are either using the range or nine-hole course or they are on the deck watching. This deck will be around a long time.”

Hopefully for area golf fans, so will the TimberTech Championship. Duke said finding a respected course like Royal Palm during the Old Course’s renovation was vital to keeping the PGA Tour Champions event in Boca Raton.

“The players love coming to Boca Raton,” Duke said. “It’s a great area and I think it’s really important we keep the tournament here.”

As for imparting local knowledge to his competitors, Duke knows he’s not giving away too many secrets.

“When you get to the top 54 players in the playoffs,” Duke said, “they all can play.”

Langer, Els, Goosen expected in TimberTech field

Among the top stars expected to play in the TimberTech Championship are Hall of Famer Bernhard Langer, a Boca Raton resident who is the only two-time winner of the event; Hall of Famers Ernie Els of Palm Beach Gardens, Retief Goosen and Colin Montgomerie; and former major champions Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, David Toms, Y.E. Yang, Mike Weir, Lee Janzen, Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk.

Once again, the TimberTech Championship will be a net-zero waste event, meaning all waste from the tournament week will be recycled. Kardish said TimberTech recycled a half billion pounds into its products last year.

The tournament is looking for volunteers. If interested, go to www.timbertechchampionship.com.

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