By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA

O’Neal now has a leg up in the race for the season-long Lexus Cup, which he won in 2020 as the APGA Tour Player of the Year. (Screencapture / PGA Tour)

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF — Longtime APGA Tour standout Tim O’Neal birdied five holes on the front nine to pull away from the field and capture his first APGA Tour victory of 2022 with a two-day score of nine under par 135 at TPC Harding Park.

The 49-year-old pro played in the APGA Tour’s first-ever event in 2010 and remains on top of his game as he eyes possible opportunities with the PGA TOUR Champions following his 50th birthday on August 3.

Landon Lyons of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, finished second, matching O’Neal’s second-day score of 5-under 67, but was not in contention down the stretch because of O’Neal’s front-nine birdie binge.

Michael Herrera of Moreno Valley, California, Kamaiu Johnson of Oviedo, Florida, Wyatt Worthington II of Reynoldsburg, Ohio and Joe Hooks of Farmington Hills, Michigan all tied for third with the two-day total of 140.

O’Neal’s putter was hot throughout.

He sank a 25-footer for birdie on the 13th hole Monday and then dropped another 25-footer on the 12th hole Tuesday to save par.

He totaled 15 birdies over the two days in navigating the prestigious par 72, 7,153-yard layout.

“I was in a good spot confidence-wise coming in,” stated O’Neal, the Savannah, Georgia, resident who finished second to Patrick Newcomb at the APGA Tour Farmers Insurance Invitational on January 30 at Torrey Pines.

“At the end of the day, if I can make putts, I’m in good shape.”

Newcomb’s win at Torrey Pines included an exemption into the Korn Ferry Tour’s Simmons Bank Open May 5-8 in Tennessee.

Newcomb, who already has status on the Korn Ferry Tour, was able to pass along that exemption to O’Neal, who welcomes the chance to compete at that level. The Newcomb-O’Neal battle at Torrey Pines was televised live on GOLF Channel.

“In my mind, I still have a way to go,” O’Neal offered about possible exemption opportunities on the PGA TOUR Champions later this year following his 50th birthday. “I’m just trying to get better every day so I can compete.”

O’Neal won the first-place prize of $7,500 from the $25,000 purse.

O’Neal now has a leg up in the race for the season-long Lexus Cup, which he won in 2020 as the APGA Tour Player of the Year. Willie Mack III, the 2021 Lexus Cup Champion, finished in 19th place among the 52 competitors in the field.

Other highlights from tournament competition included an eagle by Lyons on the Par 5 12th to help secure his second-place finish. Joey Stills and Mack also recorded eagles on the 492-yard 12th hole during tournament play.

The APGA Tour returns to action March 7-8 with APGA Tour at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, Louisiana. It is the third tournament on the 2022 schedule of 17 events offering over $500,000 in prize money.

The Advocates Professional Golf Association (APGA) was established in 2010 with the mission to bring greater diversity to the game of golf by hosting and operating professional golf tournaments, player development programs, mentoring programs, and introducing the game to inner-city young people.

The tour has grown from seven events with $200,000 in prize money in 2020 and 14 events with over $400,000 in prize money in 2021.

The APGA Tour at TPC Harding Park was conducted under health/safety guidelines in conjunction with regional authorities.

The National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), known as the Black Press of America, is the federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers in the United States.