Last November, his father, Danny, a well-known figure in the Glasgow business community, took his own life, as did his uncle, Steven, within the past year.
With the family’s life having been turned upside down, it’s been an awful time for the 29-year-old and golf hasn’t really mattered too much.
But, willed on from afar by his mum, Patricia, and brother, Patrick, O’Neil delivered a welcome boost as he landed the Jessie May World Snooker Golf Championship at Donnington Grove in Newbury.
“I’ve been trying to win here (on the PGA EuroPro Tour) for ages,” he said, having closed with a four-under-par 68 for a nine-under total, prevailing by a shot from fellow Scot Jeff Wright and Englishman George Woolgar,
“I’ve had the worst time of my life in the last year. I’m just so happy. I wish my dad could be here to see this as he deserves this more than me, to be honest, for what he did for me.”
Speaking to The Scotsman en route to Bristol Airport, the Mearns Castle Golf Academy-attached player added: “I’m pretty overwhelmed by all the messages, to be honest. A lot of people understand what I’ve been through and are happy to see me smile.
“I’m just glad that I’ve been able to give my family something to smile about because we’ve not had anything to smile about over the last year. It was great to know my mum was crying for a good reason when I spoke to her.
“I thought about my dad quite a lot today and definitely towards the end, but I’m normally quite calm on the golf course compared to before.
"Life has been turned upside down for all of my family, and, to be honest, golf is not the be all and end all for me any more.
“I’ve not really been playing much. The whole of the last year has been pretty much a write-off due to not being happy in my family life. I’ve been doing a lot of coaching and practising to keep myself busy.”
With former Scottish Amateur champion Michael Stewart on his bag, O’Neil carded an eagle and three birdies in his closing effort to set the clubhouse target.
Wright, a winner at Pollok, O’Neil’s home club on the Tartan Pro Tour earlier in the season, bogeyed the last when a par-4 would have forced a play-off.
“It was a big help to post a number and then Jeff had the hard work to do on a tough finishing stretch,” said O’Neil. “It helped that I had one of my best pals in Michael on the bag as he’s been there and knows what to do.”
O’Neil is aiming to use his breakthrough win as a springboard to get on to the European Tour, though he admitted that confirmation there will be no Qualifying School for that for the second year running had been a blow for players on third-tier circuits.
“It’s pretty demoralising, to be honest, having three years stalled, but I won’t think about that too much for the moment,” he said, having picked up £12,500 for his win.