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Low amateur Neal Shipley finishes dream week at Masters with Tiger Woods pairing on Sunday

3 Min Read



    Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic

    Neal Shipley guaranteed himself a chair in Butler Cabin by Friday night. The 23-year-old Ohio State graduate student was the lone amateur to make the cut, shooting an admirable 76 in brutally difficult second-round conditions.

    That meant Sunday night would always be one to remember. With low amateur honors comes an invite to sit with the eventual Masters champion and be honored on national television in Butler Cabin.

    But something tells us Shipley’s biggest thrill of the week came Sunday morning when he introduced himself to his playing partner for the final round, Tiger Woods. That was the cherry on top of the week of a lifetime.

    “Playing with Tiger, Sunday at the Masters, the whole week, I think I have to win one of these things to kind of top this week,” Shipley said after his final round 73.

    Four days at the Masters can transform a golfer’s life. Usually, that distinction is the champion’s alone. Shipley can build a case from this week – progressing from relative anonymity outside of the most informed golf circles to low amateur honors at the Masters and a tee time with arguably the greatest golfer of all time.

    A bit of incidental serendipity secured the young amateur the most desirable Sunday pairing in golf. Shipley made a double bogey on the par-4 18th on Saturday to shoot 80 and fall back to 11-over. He was understandably frustrated. He had hoped to do more than make the cut. He wanted to contend into the weekend, just as Sam Bennett did a year ago. Those hopes were dashed. The frustration quickly faded when Shipley’s caddie got the news of Sunday’s pairing.

    “That's when the emotions turned around,” Shipley said.

    So, on Sunday, Shipley floated around Augusta National without care. He talked with Woods about golf and Woods’ 15-year-old son Charlie. In between, Shipley hit some golf shots, too.

    “Just kind of a cool, like, casual round with Tiger, you know, other than you're here at the Masters,” Shipley said.

    That’s a big qualifier, though Shipley’s play was enough to believe the assertion. He made four birdies en route to his 1-over round of 73. Shipley was four shots better than Woods, who labored to shoot 77 in his 100th career round at Augusta National. Shipley also got three more hours of sleep than Woods. Woods told Shipley he woke up at 3:45 a.m. for their tee time. Shipley slept like a baby and awoke at 6:45 a.m.

    “He's such a normal guy and really cool,” Shipley said of Woods. “He was great to me all day. 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.”

    It’s undoubtedly the biggest spotlight Shipley has played under in his career. The former James Madison golfer transferred to Ohio State as a graduate student in 2022 after earning a quantitative finance degree in just three years. Shipley started 2024 by winning the Southwestern Invitational in California for his first collegiate victory and last summer, he finished second in the Dogwood Invitational, Sunnehanna Amateur and Trans-Mississippi Amateur.

    Then, he finished runner-up to Nick Dunlap at the 2023 U.S. Amateur to earn an invitation to the Masters. He will play in the U.S. Open in June as well, and this week’s experience will make him better for it.

    “I was just kind of doing my thing and not doing anything special, that was good enough to make the cut and compete out here and beat a lot of players that are on the PGA TOUR,” Shipley said.

    That included Woods. If nothing else, Shipley can say he bested the 15-time major winner at Augusta National.

    Pretty good.

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