Duke was diagnosed with scoliosis as a seventh grader and wore a back brace while earning medalist honors in a high school district tournament.
He had a 16-inch rod inserted in his back, which he wears today. Duke was a multi-sport athlete as a teenager, but decided to narrow it to golf.
"It's a more individual sport," said Duke, who described himself as a "weekend golfer" as a teenager. "I could go out and do it on my own. With my condition, I didn't need a lot of people out there with me."
He turned pro in 1994 at the age of 26 and earned his PGA Tour card 10 years later. He lost it, and got it back after finishing on top of the Nationwide Tour money list in 2006.
"I went back on what I've been through here and there," Duke said. "I got to see one of my buddies in Memphis and being where he's been and we talked about some of that stuff. It's been special."
He still isn't where he wants to be, missing 11 cuts in 19 events this season with just two top 10s, but he knows how to put things in perspective.
"I'm just going to try to keep playing and putting myself in the mix and try to get a chance to win again," he said. "I'm just going to try and have fun really."
Duke exercises regularly to maintain his strength and there is less stress with a regular PGA Tour schedule.
"It just feels good," he said. "I competed for years and it just feels good to get it done with the exemptions, the Masters ... it's pretty cool stuff."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstev...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.