PEREIRA, Colombia (May 5, 2013) - A week after losing a three-stroke lead and then a playoff in Montevideo, Uruguay, Timothy O'Neal did not give up and kept his good pace to finally become a champion in the NEC Series PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.
His victory in the 66th Arturo Calle Colombian Open presented by Diners Club International was consummated after making three birdies between holes 14 and 17 in a final-round 66. The American won by two strokes with a total of 16-under 268 at the par-71 Club Campestre de Pereira.
“Last week it was a hard to lose in a playoff. I played well and I felt like I kind of let that one slip away, but I stayed positive. I wanted to give myself a chance to get in position again and today I was fortunate enough to play well and get the win,” said the 40-year-old from Savannah, Georgia.
O'Neal, who started the day tied for first with Colombian Jesus Osmar, had to deal with many competitors that attacked the lead and even grabbed it during some moments of the round.
“I bogeyed the first hole right out of the gate and that put me back at 10 under, but I stayed patient,” O’Neal said. “I was at 13 under at the turn and I saw there were a few guys at 13 as well. You just never know what’s going to happen on the back nine and I just wanted to give myself some chances. After 13, I saw Oscar (Serna) was at 14 under and I was at 13 under. Those last few holes I didn’t try to press, but I just wanted to give myself a few chances of birdie and luckily enough I rolled in the putts and that was pretty much it.”
O’Neal won the Georgia State Amateur Championship in 1997, the same year that he turned pro. “I have won tournaments before, but this is by far the biggest one. You know, I can’t even put into words how happy I am right now. Hopefully I can build on this and keep winning,” added the man who added his name to a trophy that counts Arnold Palmer, Roberto De Vicenzo, Sam Torrance and Bernhard Langer among its past champions."
With the winner's check, O'Neal improved his earnings to $44,115 in five appearances on the Tour to make second among "Los Cinco". Those who finish in the first five places during the 15 tournaments will gain status for the Web.com Tour in 2014.
The Mexican Oscar Serna, with a final-round 66, finished second for his third top 5 in five tournaments. Meanwhile, his fellow countryman Jose de Jesus Rodriguez finished in solo third with his third top 3 in his last three appearances.
Tied for fourth place, four shots behind O’Neal, the top 5 was completed by Colombians José Manuel Garrido and Jesus Osmar, and Dominican Julio Santos. For the latter two this was been by far their best finish on Tour.
After a sunny Saturday, on Sunday there were cloudy skies but the conditions were pretty good for the game. The wind blew just 3 km / h from the north and the maximum temperature was 24 degrees Celsius.
He has played professionally since 1997. Actor Will Smith sponsored him from 2000-02. Twice, in 2001 and 2004, he lost at q-school by a single stroke to gain status on the PGA TOUR. He played at the Web.com Tour in 2001 and 2005-08. His best finish on the Web.com Tour was second in Scranton, Pa., where he was overtaken by Greg Kraft in 2005. In 2009 he tried the Asian Tour, but lack of sponsorship made him leave the competition for most of 2011 and went on to give lessons. In 2012, a trip to Morocco put him back on track in competitive golf. As an amateur, playing for Jackson State University, O’Neal won sixteen college tournaments. In 1997 he won the Georgia State Amateur Championship.
The Mexican, 34, was the one that put pressure on the winner. With a birdie on hole 13 he became the leader, but then his only bogey in the round, at 16, opened the way for O'Neal. The veteran, born in León, Guanajuato closed with a round of 66, with six birdies and a bogey to finish in solo second.
This allows him to climb to third place among "Los Cinco". Serna is one of the top players of the season as he has made all the cuts with his lowest performance a tie for 14th at Trans American Power Products Open CRV. This is the third top 5 in 2013 for the Mexican. His 80 appearances on the Web.com Tour give him valuable experience on this Tour.
Jose de Jesus Rodriguez
The Mexican, No. 1 of "Los Cinco", birdied the 72nd hole that allowed him to keep solo third, helping him to add more dollars to his position looking for one of the five places toward the Web.com Tour.
With rising confidence after his victory at the Roberto De Vicenzo Invitational-Copa NEC, the "Camarón" scored all four rounds under 70 and on Sunday signed for 67, with five birdies and one bogey. In his last three tournaments the Mexican finished third, first and second and shot 10 consecutive rounds under par, with an average of 68.25 in those events.
Experienced Jose Manuel Garrido and Jesus Osmar kept the honor of being the best Colombians at their National Open. Garrido took fourth after a final-round 65, with seven birdies and a bogey. The Cali-born player of 34 years achieved his best performance of 2013, where he only played the first two events in Mexico.
Meanwhile Osmar, who had started the final round as a co-leader with O'Neal, shot 70 and goes out from Pereira with his best performance in the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. The 42-year-old ended last year at No. 73 on the Order of Merit to lose playing privileges on the Tour.
Conditions of Play
Because of the wet conditions of the course, for the fourth consecutive day players were allowed to lift, clean and place on the fairway.
After these three straight tournaments the NEC Series PGA TOUR Latinoamérica will pause for a week, returning with the Mundo Maya Open from May 13-19. This event will be held at the El Jaguar course in the Yucatan Country Club.