Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Neal Shipley low amateur again after Luke Clanton’s spirited bid comes up short

PINEHURST, N.C. – Head down and his stuff in hand, Luke Clanton slogged out of Pinehurst’s clubhouse and straight to his courtesy car. About halfway along the way, Clanton’s paths crossed with Neal Shipley, the fellow amateur whom he had just battled for U.S. Open low-amateur honors.

Shipley was followed by a camera and a boom mic, having just outdueled Clanton, a rising junior at Florida State, in a head-to-head battle for U.S. Open low-amateur honors, while a USGA media official shuttled the former Ohio State standout to his media obligations. While Shipley chatted with SiriusXM, on the other side of a covered fence, about 15 yards away, was Clanton loading into a white Lexus SUV.

Clanton, who teed off alongside Shipley in Sunday’s 12:04 p.m. pairing, had given it his all in what felt more like a match-play scenario with both amateurs starting the day at 4 over. “It was definitely on our minds,” Shipley said of the low-amateur prize. When Shipley bogeyed the par-3 17th hole, it meant his advantage over Clanton was just a shot. Clanton then fanned his drive right at the par-4 18th and onto the pine straw.

But from 129 yards out, Clanton hit a hero shot that nearly caught the hole before ending about 5 feet away. Clanton lifted his hat into the air as he walked down the final fairway amid the thunderous applause.

Soon it was dead silent.

After Shipley cozied a birdie putt of his own near the hole to set up an eventual par, Clanton stepped into his putt and missed it. He lipped out the next roll, too, before tapping in for a bogey, which sealed his position at 8 over, two strokes behind Shipley.

“I’m very frustrated,” Clanton said afterward. “But it’s the U.S. Open; it’s always a pleasure being here no matter what.”

Shipley, meanwhile, capped his amateur career – he’ll turn pro in time for next week’s PGA Tour Americas event in Victoria, British Columbia – by becoming just the ninth player ever to win U.S. Open and Masters low-amateur honors in the same year. He’s the first since Viktor Hovland in 2019 and joins a list that also includes Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Sam Randolph, Jack Nicklaus, Billy Joe Patton, Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi.

“I think it means I’ve got some big shoes to fill because the guys who have done it before have obviously gone on to have some great careers,” Shipley said. “But for me, I think it just really solidifies my amateur career as I turn pro next week, and I’m just really happy with the career that I’ve had as an amateur and the legacy hopefully that I’ll leave.”

Shipley had zero Division-I offers when James Madison came calling as a high-school senior. He played three years for the Dukes before transferring to Ohio State, where he played two seasons and most recently, as a fifth-year senior, led the Buckeyes to an NCAA semifinal appearance at La Costa. Last summer, Shipley broke out with five top-3 finishes, including a runner-up showing to Nick Dunlap at the U.S. Amateur.

Two months ago, at the Masters, Shipley was the only amateur to make the cut, played with Tiger Woods on Sunday and tied for 53rd. He was one of three to play four rounds at Pinehurst No. 2 – Gunnar Broin tied for 70th – and ended up T-28.

Now, he’s forfeited his last check.

“It’s been wild,” said Shipley, who prior to the U.S. Open secured his Americas card via a 9-for-1 playoff. “It’s been something that maybe three, four years ago I didn’t think was possible, and to accomplish all this has just been phenomenal. Just the stuff of dreams really as an amateur to do everything I’ve done. I think I’ve checked all the boxes now.”