Hometown Hero: Tim O’Neal Champion Tour

Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 7:33 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Champions Tour was created in 1980 to extend the careers of professional golfers in their 50s, but it will be a brand new start for Savannah’s Tim O’Neal.

The game for life is about to change another life.

“The hard part’s out of the way now. It’s time to play a full season on the Champions Tour. I’m super excited. I’m still on Cloud 9.’’

After 25 years of professional golf, a lot of it played on mini-tours or overseas, Tim O’Neal is headed to the highest level of the game. He earned an exemption to the PGA Tour Champions last month and next week will start his first season as a full-time member of the over-50 tour.

“It’s like my second chance. The PGA Tour, I missed a couple of times by one shot, which is heartbreaking. A lot of people know that story. But I kept plugging away, always believing in myself and for me to turn 50 and get through the hardest Q school means a lot. I’m looking forward to this season.

The hard part O’Neal talks about was more than needing to claim one of just five Champions Tour exemptions available through its qualifying tournament.

It was more than needing to shoot 12-under par over the final 36 holes to get that spot.

It was a constant for someone chasing a dream by doing more than playing a game for a living.

“The gym time when I don’t always want to go at 5 in the morning and just always grinding and for me to finally get it done means a lot.

Guaranteed pay days from three-round tournaments with no cut will mean a lot too. But O’Neal is not satisfied to just get to the Champions Tour.

“The first goal is, I want to win. That’s the first thing, and keeping my Tour status for next year. But the goal is to win, that’s why I compete.

“There’s guys out there I played against when I was playing Nationwide or Korn Ferry stuff. But I’m competing against them now, I can’t be in awe of them. I’m trying to beat them just like they’re trying to beat me. It changes a little bit, but I’m excited for the opportunity.

It’s an opportunity O’Neal has been working toward for 25 years that is now just days away from beginning.