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Online Contest Leads Pro Golfer to Donate $50,000 to UAMS


Ken Duke donation Ken Duke won the 2013 Travelers Championship and the PGA Tour Player of the Month for June.

Richard McCarthy Richard McCarthy, M.D., UAMS spine surgeon, holds the $50,000 check his patient Ken Duke donated to the UAMS Spine Institute.

Ken Duke player of the month Duke won the PGA Player of the Month online contest with 50.65 percent in fan votes.

Aug. 28, 2013 | It takes determination to sink birdies as a pro golfer, and Arkadelphia native Ken Duke has proven that throughout his entire career.

Watching Duke capture the 2013 Travelers Championship and win $50,000 as a result of the online PGA Tour Player of the Month contest, no one would know he overcame severe curvature of the spine thanks to a life-saving procedure at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

Twenty four years later, Duke gave back to the place where he found healing by donating his prize money to UAMS’ Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute. He won the contest by a landslide with the help of online votes from the UAMS community. 

Duke came close to never realizing a pro golfing career after a routine spine exam at age 15 showed a 26 percent curve in his spine — he was diagnosed with scoliosis and was advised to wear a back brace 23 hours a day. But, the curve became severe, threatening his lungs and heart.

Duke and his family then turned to UAMS spine surgeon Richard McCarthy, M.D. professor of orthopedic surgery in the UAMS College of Medicine, who performed surgery at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, a UAMS affiliate, to attach a 16-inch metal rod to facilitate straightening of his spine.

After one week in the hospital and one week of rest at home, Duke returned to Arkadelphia High School and then back to the golf team, playing in a brace while his back continued to strengthen.  

“Twenty-four years later I’m playing the PGA tour, and the rod Dr. McCarthy attached to my spine has performed beautifully,” Duke said.

With Duke’s support, UAMS also is working to fund the Ken Duke Endowed Chair in Scoliosis to further research and treatment for spinal deformities, tumors and fractures.

On Oct. 24, Duke will be inducted into the Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Little Rock.

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