“We still have a long way to go with having access, I think it’s going to start with kids younger,
Updated: Apr 11
Prior to turning professional, O'Neal had a distinguished amateur career winning 16 college tournaments during his time at Jackson State University. He also won the Georgia Amateur Championship in 1997.
For a very brief period early in his professional career, Will Smith sponsored O'Neal. O'Neal mainly played on U.S. mini-tours until receiving his Buy.com Tour card for the 2001 season (now named Web.com Tour), having missed out on a PGA Tour card at qualifying school by a single stroke following a double bogey on the final hole. O'Neal had a tough first season on the tour recording only two top-10 finishes ending 59th on the money list. In the following season, O'Neal only played three events on the Buy.com Tour and lost his tour card for the 2003 season.
“We still have a long way to go with having access, I think it’s going to start with kids younger, our Jr golfers being ready to really play.”
Tim O’Neal "episode 12"
In 2004, O'Neal once again missed out on a PGA Tour card at qualifying school by a single stroke but in doing so regained his playing rights for the Nationwide Tour for the 2005 season.
The return to the Nationwide Tour proved more successful and during the 2005 season O'Neal recorded his best finish to date, a second place at the 2005 Northeast Pennsylvania Classic. O'Neal maintained his good form throughout 2005 and 2006 finishing 44th and 36th on the tour money lists respectively. However his form dropped in 2007 and 2008 and he was unable to retain his card following the 2008 season.
O'Neal's career started to falter after losing his Nationwide Tour privileges. He also played on the Asian Tour, eGolf Professional Tour, the EPD Tour, and the Morocco-based Atlas Pro Tour. In 2011, O'Neal was asked to take over the Jackson State golf program, but he declined.
Having turned 50 years old on Aug. 3, O'Neal has been given a sponsor's exemption into his first PGA Tour Champions event — the Ascension Charity Classic, Sept. 9-11. O'Neal will have his former Jackson State college teammate, A.J. Montecito's, who caddied for Y.E. Yang in his 2009 PGA Championship win over Tiger Woods, on his bag.
"This exemption, it's it's kind of like a new beginning for me," O'Neal said Thursday at a virtual Ascension Charity Classic press conference. "I've already signed up for the Champions tour Q-School. So I'm just going to plant in St. Louis in a few weeks and then, hopefully, I'll be able to get a few more exemptions before I have to go to Q- School. But if not, I'm just really preparing for Q-School and just trying to get status and get ready for next year."
O'Neal, a Savannah, Georgia, native has nine career PGA Tour starts, over 75 Korn Ferry Tour starts and three wins on the PGA Tour Latin-American.
O'Neal has played the Advocates Pro Golf Association Tour, a non-profit tour that's dedicated to bringing diversity to golf, since its inception in 2010 and is considered the tour's elder statesman. In co-occurrence with the PGA Tour Champions, the APGA will hold a tournament in St. Louis on Sept. 8-9, directly ahead of the Ascension Charity Classic.
"It's is exciting for us to see Tim get this exemption," APGA Tour CEO Kenneth Bentley said. "Tim has been a really stalwart on our tour. He's won more tournaments than anyone on our tour. But I think the reason why our players are so excited about Tim getting this exemption, is that he's been a mentor to them. His professionalism and the way he goes about preparing for golf has been an inspiration."