Published: Jul 16, 2014 11:56 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 17, 2014 2:40 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Southwest Florida will have a rooting interest at the British Open this week. North Fort Myers High grad George McNeill qualified for the event eight days ago with the round of his life.

His best performance came on the same day his sister lost her battle with breast cancer.

McNeill was planning on taking a month off from professional golf starting Monday. He wanted to be able to spend time with his ailing sister, a wife and mother of two, in Fort Myers during her final days. Unfortunately, his sister Michelle died before he got back from the Greenbrier Classic. 

"It's been tough," McNeill said.

How McNeill has able to play as well as he did while dealing with such personal hardship, even he doesn't know.    

"Honestly, I wasn't really thinking. You get into a zone, but I don't even know if I can call it a zone because I wasn't into, first and foremost, my mind wasn't all on my golf. It was on my family and my sister," he said.

McNeill shot a nine under final round at the Greenbrier Classic, which vaulted him up the leaderboard to a second place finish. 

After the event, he called his mom, who told him his sister had died about 20 minutes before he tee'd off.

"The golf happened the way it did and I was extremely happy and actually my family, they said it gave them something to kind of take their mind off of things for a while and it helped them for at least that afternoon," said McNeill.

The second place finish earned McNeill an invitation to the British Open, one of the four biggest events on the PGA tour.

"Golf wise, it's been great over the past few days, professionally. Personally, obviously, I'm still struggling. But golf is kind of my way to get away from it all and once I get between the ropes, I say, 'OK, now, I got to settle down and do my job.'," he said.     

McNeill is in one of the last groups for Thursday's opening round. He'll tee off at around 10:30 a.m. our time. McNeill has played in one British Open before, back in 2010.

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