Please Don't turn pro

U.S. Open 2024: This amateur golf cult hero is turning pro, but not without one more viral moment involving Arby's

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Sean M. Haffey

PINEHURST, N.C. — Neal Shipley became the viral amateur golf sensation the golf world didn’t know it was longing for in April at the Masters. It was there that long-haired, laidback 23-year-old from Pittsburgh, Pa., made the cut, then beat Tiger Woods head-to-head in the final round before catching social media’s eye with an innocuous sideways glance during his appearance in Butler Cabin for claiming low-amateur honors.

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Suffice it to say, the all-encompassing experience at Augusta National has made his appearance at the 2024 U.S. Open to date far less stressful.

“I feel a lot more settled this week,” Shipley said of the chance to once again enjoying the spoils of his runner-up finish at the 2023 U.S. Amateur to qualify for a second major championship start. “Augusta, the first major, definitely the one I love the most. There's added pressure there for me. But obviously U.S. Open, there's going to be some nerves. Doesn't really shake me as much as I was at Augusta on the first tee. I think having had that experience in April has really helped me out this week.”

It showed as Shipley made four birdies through his first 12 holes during the opening round at Pinehurst No. 2, reaching two under par and seeing his name creep on to the leaderboard. A double-bogey on the par-3 15th hole left him at even-par 70 for the day, but only five shots off the lead and with a good shot of once again making the cut.

With 16 amateurs in the field this week, it likely will take more than just making the cut to secure low amateur honors at Pinehurst. But should Shipley do that, he would become the first since Viktor Hovland in 2019 to win that honor at the Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year and the second since Matt Kuchar did it 1998.

In the weeks after the Masters, Shipley continued to play well, finishing up his college career at Ohio State last month by leading Buckeyes to match play at the NCAA Championship. Shortly after, he earned a tour card at a PGA Tour Americas Q School, to secure a place for him to play this summer. He will make his debut next week in Canada.

Shipley’s nonchalance in the wake of the craziness at the Masters has ingratiated him with fans. So too has his recent partnership with Arby’s. On the course at Pinehurst, Shipley is using a headcover from the fast-food chain in the shape of a box of curly fries.

Meanwhile, Shipley also recently was part of an Instagram video giveaway for an Arby’s “Burger Driver.”

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Suffice it to say, amateur golf fans are hoping to get at least three more days of their humble new superstar before having to give him up to pro golf.

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