Masters 2024: Neal Shipley rolled with punches before beating Tiger Woods, becoming Masters low amateur

Masters 2024: Neal Shipley rolled with punches before beating Tiger Woods, becoming Masters low amateur
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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Neal Shipley didn’t field a single Power 5 scholarship offer as a high-school recruit.

Now, he’s nearly won a U.S. Amateur, beaten Tiger Woods and snagged low-amateur honors at the Masters.

“It’s certainly been quite the journey,” said the 23-year-old Pittsburgh native, who now plays at Ohio State after transferring from James Madison a couple years ago. “You know, it’s been a lot of hard work put into that. And there’s been a lot of lows along the journey, but I’ve been really proud of myself of how I’ve rolled with the punches throughout the years and kept working and striving for goals like this.

“Seeing all that hard work pay off has been unbelievable.”

Shipley, who fell to Nick Dunlap last summer at Cherry Hills to earn his ticket to Augusta National, finished the week as the only one of five amateurs to make the cut. He opened in 1-under 71 and after a final-round 73 – four shots better than his Sunday playing competitor, Tiger Woods – Shipley ended up T-54 in what was his first professional tournament.

“I think I have to win one of these things to kind of top this week,” Shipley added.

Shipley nearly earned a Masters invite by winning last year’s NCAA Championship, where he sat tied for second entering the final round. He backed up to T-29 after a closing 79 but proved himself with a career performance at Cherry Hills. The year before, at the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont, where Shipley used to caddie, he missed the cut badly, and then later that month, Shipley failed to qualify for James Madison’s fall opener.

“That was a pretty big blow for me,” Shipley said.

Tiger Woods said he plans to do his homework on the next three major venues.

But Shipley graduated in three years and entered the portal, eventually being scooped up by Ohio State coach Jay Moseley. In not even two full seasons for the Buckeyes, Shipley has rocketed as high as No. 35 in the world amateur rankings. He was also an alternate for the U.S. Walker Cup team last year.

If Shipley’s confidence wasn’t sky high before he made the Masters cut after a brutal Friday for scoring, it is now.

“I think what’s going to help me out a lot is just knowing that my game can compete out here,” said Shipley, who is also qualified for this summer’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst, “and I don’t need to do anything special to make cuts.”

Or to beat Woods, who labored through an 82-77 weekend to finish last among the 60 players who made the cut. Shipley said he got three more hours of sleep than Woods, who told Shipley he woke up at 3:45 a.m. EDT Sunday morning to prepare for the day. Shipley wasn’t nervous, either, walking up to Woods and Woods’ son, Charlie, in the tournament practice area before their final round.

“He was great to me all day,” Shipley said of Tiger. “Couldn’t be more appreciative of him just being awesome today, and it was just really cool to be around him and just the attention he gets and the roars. The crowds were phenomenal.”

At least a few of those cheers were for Shipley, the burly boy with the flowing hair and always a smile on his face.

“Normal-looking dude with long hair,” Shipley said. “I don’t really look like most golfers, I think. I think I just have a great attitude on the golf course. I kind of show my emotion, and I think that’s kind of why people like me.”

He’s not bad at this golf thing, either.

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