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Michael O’Neal: PGA Tour Hopeful

miller-article1Jacksonville native Michael O’Neal, a 2004 Bishop Kenny High School graduate and local golf talent, hopes to one day gain PGA Tour status.

While the road may be long and sometimes rocky, O’Neal is grinding away on the golf course to make his PGA dream come true.

Currently, the 23-year-old, 2008 University of North Florida (UNF) graduate plays on the National Golf Association’s (NGA) Hooters Tour.

Although O’Neal has played in eight Hooters tournaments this season and has missed the cuts, his passion for golf has not wavered.

With each experience, he aims to make weekly progress on his golf game. And, with very few off-days, O’Neal’s aim is focused at the bull’s eye. While still humble, he’s proud of his progress.

As we talked over lunch, O’Neal only complained about the travel, which he typically does alone by car. There is nothing fancy about it.

1466023During a three-week trek in June, he drove 12 hours to Tunica, Mississippi; 6½ hours to Miami, Oklahoma; and one hour to Bentonville, Arkansas. The drive home to Jacksonville was a grueling 16½ hours, plenty of time to reflect on his game.

He realistically summed it up when he emphasized that “life isn’t as glamorous as it seems (on the Tour), but it’s still fun.” It’s fun because he awaits that special moment of success.

Unfortunately, the driving to different Tour stops has placed a toll on O’Neal’s back. During the Tour’s three-week hiatus, O’Neal was in Jacksonville where he was visiting a chiropractor every other day to ease his back pains.

The nose-to-the-grindstone O’Neal begins his days with a morning swim for added flexibility. He also surfs in his limited free time. He says the pool laps and surfing keep him in shape when he’s not swinging his Ping driver.

O’Neal continuously stressed that he wouldn’t be where he is without the strong support of his family and friends as well as the San Jose Country Club members who sponsor him. His appreciation for their support is readily apparent.

In between bites of his chips with queso, O’Neal spoke of his father’s advice to him: after middle school, choose one sport.

Those words of advice sunk in with the younger O’Neal, and he decided to drop basketball, soccer and every other ball sport for golf. It was beneficial advice.

O’Neal turned his typical “summer sport” of golf into his true love.
As a four-year starter on the Bishop Kenny High School golf team, O’Neal surprisingly received only one scholarship offer to play Division I golf – by the University of North Florida (UNF). As it played out, it was a blessing.
He confidently says the pairing of himself and UNF couldn’t have been better. It was meant to be, and laid a solid foundation for his golf career.

However, O’Neal, the 2007-08 UNF Male Athlete of the Year, realizes that becoming a PGA Tour regular “is not an overnight thing.”

His “close calls,” (missing back-to-back tournament cuts by only one stroke) as he likes to describe them, are signs that “it’ll (a consistent golf game) eventually come around” soon.

Because of his outstanding amateur resume, O’Neal is exempt from qualifying at all NGA Hooters Tour events this season.
Clearly, he appreciates the overall physical and mental maneuvering that comes with the territory.

But, he stays focused on his weekly progress. O’Neal commented that his “game is there.” In his eyes, improvements to his putting and short game are musts. That is where he concentrates, along with consistent progress.

His work is never done off the course. Along with his daily swims, O’Neal reads Golf Digest and golf books to stay mentally prepared.
In talking to him, it’s immediately noticeable that his head is on straight. I could see the determination and fire in his eyes. He’s mentally and physically prepared to enter the next phase.

His ultimate goal is the PGA Tour, but he has focused on one day playing in The Players Championship at Sawgrass in front of the family and friends who have continuously stood by him.

And, certainly, O’Neal is gracious when he speaks of his sponsors at the San Jose Country Club, and his father who gave him the advice to choose one sport.

For O’Neal, choosing golf proved to be the right decision. It is his passion.

O’Neal understands that he has a journey ahead of him. But, he has shown that he enjoys the challenges and is focused on continuing to prepare both physically and mentally.

Failure is not an option. It’s all about progress, the drive to succeed and making the cut. He’s ever so close.

And, hopefully, when he tees it up on No. 17 at the Stadium Course in front of thousands of fans in the near future, he’ll fully understand that those “close calls” were closer than he could have ever imagined.

So, remember the name of this local golf talent, this PGA Tour hopeful: Michael O’Neal. He just may be our next local PGA player.

18 Responses »

  1. I've known Michael since he tee'd up with plastic clubs. I'm sure that he will make the tour and make everyone in Jacksonville proud.

  2. I have known Michael since his school days at Assumption Catholic School and Bishop Kenny High School. He is not only a talented athlete, but he is an academic scholar. With such a supportive family and church, he will absolutely succeed. We all look forward to cheering him on as he plays the 17th. Michael, we are proud of you. Keep up the great work and know that you are in our prayers as you strive to play in the PGA.

  3. Excellent column on a local talented golfer. Many talented athletes have gone to Bishop Kenny High School. Here's hoping that O'Neal's dream of the PGA tour comes true. It would be exciting to have a local talent to follow in the golf world. Good luck, O'Neal. Jacksonville is supportive of its local golf talent.

  4. Such a pleasure to read an article about a young golf star from the University of North Florida.

  5. Not only is he a great golfer, he's one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. He's courteous, respectful and a pleasure to be around. I wish him the best.....he deserves it.

  6. lets get one thing straight, micheal o neal is not a nice guy, live with him and you'll realise he is not only obnoxious, with an aggressive tone but also incredibly annoying to have around so he really deserves nothing more than the missed cuts he is currently achieving.

    • my name is jordan, someone has wrote this as a joke in my name, i actually DO live with mike and he is a great guy, too good to be anywhere but the pga tour and will be on there in the next two years, watch this space.

      • beep, beep, beep, yea Jordan, that's you backtracking on your 1st statement. I've got you figured out Bro, you've got some major jealousy problems. You bring a new meaning to a bad roomate. He's a guy, Micheal O'Neal, who is going out there and is busting his hump trying to make a name for himself and you've got to bad mouth him on a national stage...because you think it's funny. Dude you should be kissing his ass some time to make up for your boneheaded move.

        ...Michael, keep your head up, you may encounter many people like this on your road to success!!!!

    • NOT FUNNY.

  7. I've played golf with Michael many times at San Jose. I am one of the many members there happy to support him financially so he can pursue his dream. He is a fine young man with serious game. I've seen him shoot in the mid-60's several times. Nice article. Good luck Michael!

  8. Mikey, my little bro...you're doing an awesome job! Stay patient and keep working hard - it will pay off! Stay safe driving all over the country to your tournaments. Love, your big sis in Boston

  9. I am also very proud to be a supporter of this fine young athlete.

  10. Who is Jordan? (btw~ You spelled realize wrong) That's my cousin you're talking about.

    Michael, you're doing a great job. I know it's not easy, but I have faith in you! You'll make it BIG one day.

    Love,
    Your Cousin In California

  11. Hey Michael, this is your Brother-in-law in Boston. I've been impressed and amazed with Michael's golf game ever since the time a year and a half ago when at the San Jose course on hole #9 I believe, when you described to me how you were going to make this incredible shot. You were going to shoot with a right bank, up the hill and then curl it to the left and into the cup. It was an amazing shot, although it came 4 feet short, that;s why pratice makes perfection. Keep up the pratice to strive for perfection.

    Angie & I always wish you nothing but the best of luck.

  12. Went to high school with Mike Senior (Wolfson '66), and got to play with both at a reunion golf tourney a few years back. Mike Junior not only lit it up that day, but impressed us all with his maturity and class. Congrats, Mikey! Keep on plugging!

  13. Very impressive article about Michael O'Neal. It sounds like he is on the right track and has what it takes to make it to the PGA. Good job, Michael. And, very well-written article, Richard. Heard you on the Jacksonville Observer Radio Show on Wednesday . Hope to hear more sports talk from you on the drive home each week.

  14. I've known Michael since he was a kid. We hit a lot of balls and played many rounds together. If there was ever a guy that I'm pulling for to make it to the PGA Tour, it's Michael. He has the gift of talent, work ethic, and personality to be special. Great article and keep it going Michael.

  15. God has blessed Michael with incredible talent. All that's left is for the hard work to bring the results.

    I am so proud of you.