SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The PGA Tour recently honored the impact of minority golfers on the game at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles.
Local professional Tim O’Neal was honored as part of the ceremony.
O’Neal was back at it last week, putting in the daily grind at home to prepare for the golf road that took him back to the PGA Tour recently.
“Great experience, unbelievable atmosphere, just being out there at Riviera with the historic course and clubhouse,” he said.
This time, the Savannah native was part of the history.
O’Neal received the Charlie Sifford Exemption to play at the Genesis Open. The invitation honors the first African American to play on the PGA Tour 50 years ago this season, and is given annually at the Genesis to a player who represents the growing diversity in golf.
“It was nice because I had a chance to play with Charlie Sifford in ’99, so talking to him and receiving this award - the 50th anniversary - was nice with all he went through on and off the golf course. It meant a lot to me and to be able to receive that award was nice.”
This was O’Neal’s seventh time playing a PGA Tour event in almost 20 years as a pro, but it came with different perspective for him.
“A lot of the black golfers at the time, it was tough for them to play, and off the course, and getting to the course, and once they got in the tournaments, dealing with different stuff, and for them to go through that, that’s what allows me to play today,” he said.
Despite missing the cut, O’Neal got a lot out of his latest week on golf’s biggest stage.
“I got a chance to see a lot of friends who are on the PGA Tour, was able to catch up with a lot of guys,” he said. “The week didn’t go exactly like I wanted it to, the weather was bad, but all in all, it was a great experience, and hopefully, I’ll get the chance again.”
O’Neal shot rounds of 76-71 at the Genesis. Next, he’ll play some professional events in Florida and South America before returning home to attempt to qualify for the Web.com Tour’s Savannah Golf Championship at the Landings the last week of March.