American Tim O’Neal Claims Third Atlas Pro Tour Win in Two Months While Serving as eGolf Tour Ambassador to Morocco
By Stewart Moore
El Jadida, Morocco – April 12, 2012 – American golfer Tim O’Neal of Savannah, GA, one of four eGolf Tour members competing overseas and serving as ambassadors to the country of Morocco, collected his third Atlas Pro Tour win in the last two months with rounds of 71-72-69—212 (4-under) to win the Open Madaef by one shot over Finland’s Janne Martikainen.
As part of the eGolf Tour's ongoing relationship with the Association du Trophee Hassan II de Golf (ATH) and the country of Morocco, a few select members of the 2012 eGolf Professional Tour will be serving as ambassadors to the North African country, competing in select events on the Atlas Pro Tour (Alps Tour/EPD Tour) in order to create awareness for Morocco as a world-class golf destination. O'Neal (Savannah, GA), Tommy Schaff (Savannah, GA), Jhared Hack (Sanford, FL) and Chris Condello (Heathrow, FL) are the four ambassadors selected. The four ambassadors competed on the Atlas Pro Tour in February, returned to the United States in March, and arrived back in Morocco last week to compete again on the Atlas Pro Tour. At the conclusion of their ambassadorship, the four will have competed in eight events in Morocco over a span of three months.
O’Neal, a former Nationwide Tour member with 129 career starts on the PGA TOUR’s developmental circuit, entered the final round at host El Jadida Royal Golf & Spa in a tie for fourth place and trailing Martikainen by four shots at 1-under 143 through two rounds of play. Needing some help to catch the tournament’s 36-hole leader while playing in the day’s penultimate threesome, O’Neal received just that in the final round, but it took a few holes to get there.
Martikainen opened his final round with a birdie at the par-5 first and a dramatic eagle at the par-4 second to move to 8-under for the tournament, and eight shots clear of O’Neal, who opened with par at the first and bogey at the second.
“He began the round pretty hot with the birdie and the eagle, but I knew if I could sit tight and make a few birdies, I could close the gap,” said the 38-year-old O’Neal. “I got my round going shortly thereafter and was able to make a move.”
Martikainen’s torrid start gave way to bogeys at Nos. 3, 5, 7, 8 and 9 and a front-nine 38, which paired with an even-par 36 from O’Neal on the opening nine to reduce the Finland native’s lead to two shots with just nine holes to play.
A bogey at the par-4 10th dropped Martikainen’s lead to just one shot at 2-under for the event. Both players pared Nos. 11 through 14, and it was then that O’Neal made his final-round charge.
“We matched pars there for a bit on the back nine, but I just tried to stay patient and not force things,” said O’Neal. “My patience finally paid off at the end.”
A birdie at the par-4 15th brought O’Neal even with Martikainen at 2-under for the event (1-under for his round), and when the two matched birdies at the par-3 16th, O’Neal was left with just two holes to play in order to capitalize on the comeback from his one-time, eight-shot, final-round deficit.
A par at the difficult par-4 17th brought O’Neal to the par-5 finishing hole at El Jadida. With the Atlantic Ocean serving as a backdrop, the former Jackson State University star closed with a timely birdie at the 18th to post a final-round 69 and a 4-under 212 total in the clubhouse.
Martikainen, now needing a birdie to tie and force extra holes after leading O’Neal by eight shots with 16 holes to play, failed to convert at the last and was left with a closing par, a final-round 74, a 54-hole total of 3-under 213, and a second-place finish – one shot shy of O’Neal.
“It was a great week for me, but certainly not an easy one,” said O’Neal. “This really is a tough but absolutely brilliant golf course, and it’s in perfect condition. But, when the wind starts blowing, it can be as hard as any course we play. I feel fortunate to have won again.”
The El Jadida Royal Golf & Spa is no stranger to the eGolf Tour, as the resort played host to the tour’s second of two events contested in Morocco in March of 2011. The event, won by Phillip Mollica, was a part of history as the eGolf Tour became the first U.S.-based tour to conduct multiple events on the continent of Africa.
For O’Neal, the win at El Jadida was worth €5,000 (the equivalent of $6,550), and kept him at No. 1 on the Atlas Tour’s winter series money list, while moving him up to No. 2 on the EPD Tour money list. The win was the third in two months for O’Neal, who claimed the Palmeraie Open title on the Atlas Pro Tour/Alps Tour on February 11th and the Mogador Open title on the Atlas Pro Tour/EPD Tour on February 23rd.
O’Neal’s stellar play during the early stretch of the Atlas Pro Tour season led to his selection for a coveted exemption into the European Tour’s King Hassan II Trophy, contested in Agadir, Morocco three weeks ago. At the prestigious event, O’Neal posted rounds of 70-73-71-71—285 en route to a T37 finish, earning €9,750 along the way.
Hack, a former Western Amateur champion and two-time winner on the eGolf Tour, was the next-lowest ambassador to make the cut, posting rounds of 75-69-75—219 to finish T6. Hack earned €978 for his efforts.
Schaff, O’Neal’s longtime travel partner, finished T11 with rounds of 74-74-72—220 to earn €564 on the week.
The next event on the Atlas Pro Tour/EPD Tour, the Open Dar Es Salaam, will take place on April 15-17 at famed Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat, Morocco. All four ambassadors will be competing in the event, along with players from nearly 30 countries worldwide. To follow the tournament, please visit http://www.pga.de/epd-index-en.html.