O'Neal revives game during trip to Morocco

Tim O'Neal (file photo)

Tim O'Neal (file photo)

Tim O’Neal’s career has been resurrected in the unlikeliest of places. O’Neal, who once was financed by actor Will Smith as he tried to join Tiger Woods as a second black golfer on the PGA Tour, has been dominant in a recent trip to Morocco after two years out of the professional game.

O’Neal has won three of seven starts in two recent trips to Morocco. He was one of four players selected by the eGolf Professional Tour to make two all-expenses-paid trips across the Atlantic as part of an ambassadorship born out of a long-standing relationship between the mini-tour and the North African country.

His most recent victory came April 11 on the European Professional Development Tour, his second win this year on that tour. He also won once on the Alps Tour and finished 37th in the European Tour’s Trophee Hassan II. He has earned approximately $35,000 for his play. All of the events have been held in Morocco.

“I’m hoping this gets my name back out there and maybe someone will take notice and I can get backing of some sort so I can start playing again,” O’Neal, 38, said. “I know I still can play. I just want a chance. That’s all I’m asking for.”

O’Neal held the 36-hole lead in this week’s event on the European Professional Development Tour, but a final-round 76 Tuesday dropped him to ninth place. He has one event remaining before returning to the States.

He has spent the past two years giving lessons at Southbridge Golf Club in his hometown of Savannah, Ga. He was out of professional golf for the past two years, not because of a lack of desire, but a lack of funding. O’Neal had Asian Tour status in 2009, but he lost financial backing in the economic crisis and couldn’t take advantage of the available starts. He played about 10 tournaments the past two years on a Florida mini-tour that allowed amateurs to compete with handicaps against professionals. He last competed on the Nationwide Tour in 2008.

“Tim is an extremely talented player who did not have the financial wherewithal to compete at this time. We were certain this opportunity would open doors for him,” said David Siegel, the president of the eGolf Professional Tour. “It is our hope that this career resurgence via the ambassadorship will help propel Tim to the PGA Tour.”

O’Neal endured several close calls at Q-School but never made the PGA Tour. He has played 129 career Nationwide Tour events, with one runner-up finish and nine top-10s. He triple-bogeyed the final hole of the 2000 Q-School, when a bogey would have earned his card. He missed his card by one at the 2004 Q-School.

“It’s been a tough two years,” he said. Things are looking up at last.

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