Neal Shipley Embraces Becoming A Meme at The Masters As He Turns His Focus Back to College Golf at Ohio State

By Dan Hope on April 19, 2024 at 8:35 am
Neal Shipley
Michael Madrid – USA TODAY Sports

Neal Shipley achieved a new level of fame during the final day of The Masters on Sunday.

First, the Ohio State golfer had the opportunity to play the final round of the tournament with Tiger Woods, which meant having a full gallery at Augusta National and many viewers around the world watching him play. Then, Shipley became a meme during his interview in Butler Cabin as the tournament’s low amateur.

Sitting alongside Masters champion Scottie Scheffler while being interviewed by Jim Nantz on CBS, Shipley drew viewers’ attention as he repeatedly moved his eyes to look at a teleprompter off-screen. Within minutes, photos of Shipley’s “shifty eyes” were all over Twitter as social media users made jokes about what he could be looking at and even compared him to the Mona Lisa.

Shipley is taking the jokes in stride, even if his family and friends are still giving him grief about it.

“It was really funny,” Shipley said Thursday. “My whole family was needling me about that. And they still are.”

Since Sunday, Shipley’s personality has continued to shine through as he has made a bevy of media appearances throughout the week, including one on The Pat McAfee Show. The week has been “a whirlwind,” Shipley acknowledged, as he’s received a level of attention he’s never gotten before. But he recognizes what that fame can do for him as he seeks to become a professional golfer in just a few months, so he’s soaking it all in and just trying to be himself.

“I think it's one thing to play with Tiger and that obviously gets you some attention. But at the end of the day, people gotta like you for who you are,” Shipley said. “So I think it just goes to show that I'm just myself on the golf course and that's why I think people gravitate toward me.”

Ohio State coach Jay Moseley said the Shipley that the world has gotten to know over the past week is the same guy he’s always been since he joined the Buckeyes as a transfer from James Madison in 2022.

“He is exactly who you see in the media or on TV. He's a great guy to have in the van and on trips, and he's just a lot of fun to be around,” Moseley said. “He loves to have a good time. And we’ve certainly enjoyed having him around, for sure.”

In the words of Ohio State teammate Maxwell Moldovan, “Neal’s always been a meme.”

“So for him to officially be one all over Twitter and stuff, I think we all loved it,” Moldovan said.

While Shipley’s Buckeye teammates and coaches got a good laugh out of the memes, they’re also tremendously proud of him for his accomplishment of being the only amateur to make the cut at The Masters this year. Moseley, a Georgia native who’s loved The Masters since he was a kid, said he got emotional as he saw his player being interviewed in Butler Cabin.

“It's incredibly special and very deserving for him,” Moseley said. “Neal’s journey has been amazing, so to see where he's come in the last couple of years to get the results and the success that he's had has been really, really satisfying for all of us, and especially for him.”

Shipley’s Ohio State teammates, meanwhile, celebrated his return to campus on Monday with a champagne shower.

“He's one of our brothers,” said Moldovan. “Being with him every day, we see how much work he puts in and then to see it kind of pay off for him last week at Augusta was awesome.”

The memories Shipley made in Augusta won’t fade anytime soon, and the already-confident fifth-year senior Buckeye now knows he’s capable of competing with the world’s best golfers after beating 35 of them – including Woods and his childhood idol, Vijay Singh – at The Masters.

“I think before you go do it, you might have might think that those guys are crazy special and obviously they're super talented, but there's no secret sauce,” Shipley said. “It’s just a lot of hard work that those guys put in and I've been doing the same thing that they've been doing, so there's no reason I can't compete.”

Neal Shipley and Tiger Woods
Neal Shipley was paired with Tiger Woods for the final round of The Masters. (Photo: Adam Cairns – USA TODAY Sports)

Now, however, Shipley must quickly shift his focus back to finishing out his college golf season at Ohio State as the Buckeyes host the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate this weekend before making the short drive to Scioto Country Club for next week’s Big Ten championship.

“It's definitely tough, especially with everything going on right now, but I got a lot of great teammates here keeping me grounded and keeping me really focused on the task at hand which is the Kepler this weekend and then nationals coming up here soon,” Shipley said of flipping the switch back to college golf.

“Neal’s journey has been amazing, so to see where he's come in the last couple of years to get the results and the success that he's had has been really, really satisfying for all of us, and especially for him.”– Jay Moseley on Neal Shipley’s success at The Masters

As it seeks to win its home event for the 26th time this weekend before going into postseason play, Ohio State has good reason to be confident about what it can accomplish in the homestretch of the season. After all, the Buckeyes now have two golfers who have achieved success at a major tournament in Shipley and Moldovan, who made the cut at last year’s U.S. Open and was named Thursday as a finalist for the Byron Nelson Award, which honors the nation’s top senior golfer who has excelled on the golf course, in the classroom and in the community.

“There's no reason we can't,” Moldovan said when asked about winning championships in the postseason. “I think a big thing for us is kind of all putting it together at the same time. That's the hardest thing about college golf is you gotta count four scores every day. But with the talent we have on this team, there's no reason we can't do that.”

Moseley knows the Buckeyes need to take advantage of having Moldovan and Shipley while they still can as both of them will be out of college eligibility after this season.

“We want to obviously capitalize and make the most out of out of having these guys,” Moseley said. “And they've done a great job throughout their career of being great teammates to the rest of the squad. But certainly they've got big expectations, as we all do, of how they want to finish the season out and their careers.”

Shipley still has another major to look forward to later this year, as his runner-up finish at last year’s U.S. Amateur not only qualified him for The Masters but also the U.S. Open, which will be played at Pinehurst No. 2 in June. For the time being, though, Shipley says his full focus is on trying to help his Ohio State team achieve success over the next two weekends and in NCAA tournament play in May.

“While we have Big Tens and regionals coming up, I think once we kind of get tuned in for those tournaments here, like today's our practice round at the Kepler, I’m only focused on the Kepler for the next four days,” Shipley said. “There's plenty of time in between tournaments for me to be thinking about other things and thinking about how to prepare. So we’ve got a lot of time to prepare for the Open, so just little things at a time and just taking it day by day.”

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