Tyler Duncan had played on professional golf’s mini-tours for four years, but at the beginning of 2017, he wasn’t much closer to earning his PGA Tour card than he was when he started.
Nine months later, Duncan, 28, is headed to the big show. The 2008 Columbus North graduate has clinched his tour card for the 2018 season.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Duncan said. “It’s been a lot of hard work. It’s a relief. It’s something I’ve been working at my whole life, and to know that I’ve done it is pretty special.”
Two events remain in this year’s Web.com finals. Duncan currently is No. 6 on the money list from the Web.com finals, and the top 25 earn exemption to at least some of next year’s PGA Tour events.
The top 25 from the Web.com Tour’s regular season also earned their PGA Tour cards, and Duncan finished 31st on that money list. But he has made the most of his second chance in the postseason.
This weekend, Duncan led the Albertsons Boise Open — the second of four Web.com Tour finals events — after three rounds and held on to finish fifth.
“Usually, for these events, a top-five finish will get it done,” Duncan said. “When I was on 17 (Sunday), I saw the leaderboard, and I was in fifth place, and I told my caddie (Mike Mollet), ‘Let’s get one more (birdie). He said ‘One more will be awesome, but we don’t need one more.’ I would have loved another birdie, but it was just about getting that par and getting over that threshold and playing free these next two weeks and climbing up the priority list.”
The No. 1 finishers from both the Web.com Tour regular season and finals earn fully-exempt PGA Tour status. They also will be exempt into The Players Championship, but not the four major tournaments. A story in Monday’s Republic incorrectly stated that Duncan’s status was still uncertain.
The No. 2 finishers will be next on the priority list, followed by the No. 3 finishers, all the way down to the No. 25s.
“Certainly, it’s always been a goal of his since he was really young,” North coach Doug Bieker said. “It’s a great testament to his hard work and his desire to achieve a goal, and he didn’t let anything distract from that. I don’t think he ever lost sight of the ultimate goal.”
Jeff Smith, the director of instruction at Otter Creek Golf Course, agreed.
“Of all the guys I’ve worked with, Tyler has worked the hardest,” Smith said. “He truly deserves this.”
Duncan, who won state medalist honors as a North junior in 2007, played college golf at Purdue, graduating in 2012. He had labrum surgery that summer and started on the PGA Tour Latinamerica late the next spring.
In 2014, Duncan again played on PGA Tour Latinamerica, but went through Monday qualifiers to play in five Web.com events. He played on the Web.com Tour in 2015 and 2016, but had only conditional Web.com status at the beginning of 2017.
“The start of this year was a struggle,” Duncan said. “Web.com gave me an exemption into the Bahamas, and I was able to improve my position there and get into some more events.”
Duncan celebrated Sunday night by going to a nice dinner with his fiance and a couple friends, along with the host family he was staying with in Boise.
Gaining his PGA Tour card was the first major event in Duncan’s life over the next two months. On Oct. 21, he will marry his girlfriend of five years, Maria Krempp, in her hometown of Jasper.
“It’s awesome,” Duncan said. “I don’t think we could have written it up any better, to get my tour card before the wedding. We got very lucky on the scheduling.”
Monday, Duncan flew from Boise to Cleveland, where he will play in this week’s Web.com finals event, the DAP Championship. Next weekend’s Web.com Tour Championship is in Atlantic Beach, Fla.
The following weekend, Duncan plans to play in his first PGA event, the Safeway Classic in Napa, Calif. He then will take off the weekend before and the weekend of his wedding before playing in four more PGA events.
Duncan, who had been living in Dallas for a year-and-a-half, bought a townhome in Tampa last October, and he and Krempp plan to make that their residence.
“I don’t think (the lifestyle) will change too much,” Duncan said. “I’ll just keep doing the same things I’ve been doing. I think my game has gotten better over the past couple years, so I just keep trying to get better each day.”