WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Not long after posting a final-round 9-under 61 that vaulted him into second place at The Greenbrier Classic, George McNeill found out that his oldest sister Michele had passed away earlier in the day.
Michele McNeill was 46. She had cancer.
“She passed at 11:35 this morning,” George McNeill told GolfChannel.com in the locker room before leaving the course. “When I was out there, I had no idea what was going on. But when I talked to [my family] this morning, they said it’s going to happen soon. They said it might be the next couple of minutes, it might be the next couple of hours, but it’s going to happen soon.
“I was out there with that all day. Then when I finished up, I talked to my mom and she told me.”
Prior to his round, he left his phone in his locker and didn’t learn of her death – which happened 20 minutes before his tee time – until much later.
When asked how he was able to compartmentalize the situation and focus on golf, McNeill shook his head.
“I don’t know … I really don’t know,” he said. “Maybe it was good I had something else in my thought. … I knew what I was doing, I was aware of what I was doing, but it really wasn’t the first and foremost thing that I was concentrating on.”
Michele McNeill was first diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. Last November, she found out the cancer had metastasized to her brain.
George, the fourth of five McNeill siblings, had already decided to skip next week’s John Deere Classic to be with his family, but said he will compete in the following week’s Open Championship, for which he qualified on Sunday.