Match play suits Neal Shipley’s game as well as anyone’s.
Shipley likes to play golf and have fun. Shipley is a golfer who likes to have fun.
This energy and the momentum it generates has enabled him to flourish at the 123rd U.S. Amateur. Shipley beat China’s Andi Xu 2 and 1 on Friday to advance to the semifinals.
“You got to keep the momentum going,” Shipley said. “It’s important to stay positive and keep your mindset.”
Shipley hasn’t always had long hair. When he enrolled at James Madison, his first college, Shipley’s hair was just longer than a buzzcut.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, he didn’t have as much time to get haircuts.
“It just started dropping out and that’s like, ‘You know, why not?’” Shipley said.
Shipley hasn’t cut his hair since the day before the NCAA Championships in May. While the 22-year-old said it’s currently longer than he likes it, it’s a style he has gotten used to.
“It’s a little bit less maintenance,” Shipley said. “You can kind of just let it be right now.”
That quote is indicative of Shipley’s easy-going, friendly persona.
Shipley complemented each of his first four opponents — Wenyi Ding, Calum Scott, Cooper Jones and Xu — saying … He also spent several minutes after Friday’s match meeting fans and signing autographs for young children.
He’s a different type of man on the links: a fierce competitor.
Shipley admitted to trying to “mentally defeat” opponents in matches this week, as well as in past tournaments. He believes that his personality is intimidating.
“I think it’s more just like a match play thing because, you know, stroke play, you want to see more of a level-headed approach,” Shipley said. “But in match play, you can really take some more momentum with you hole to hole. I think that’s important that they see your fist pumping all over the place.”
In Shipley’s Friday match, he struggled early. Xu was able to win back-to-back early holes and had a 2-up lead until the 7th.
Shipley caught back up, however, at the turn. He won three consecutive holes to take his lead. Shipley won two holes more and lost only one to win the match on the 17th.
“I’m just so happy to be here, honestly,” Shipley said. “Just getting here is fun, but getting to the semifinals is just awesome, and having a chance to win tomorrow for a lot of really good opportunities is great.”
U.S. Amateur isn’t the only success Shipley has seen recently.
The 22-year old finished second in two tournaments this summer as well as third. Shipley had finished 29th at the NCAA Championships, where he ended his college career.
Shipley’s ball striking and his confidence have been the key factors in Shipley’s success this week and early this summer. Shipley hopes to maintain the same level of performance when he plays Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills, California on Saturday.
He has no intention of changing his hairstyle before then.
“Yeah, I don’t think we’re cutting it any time soon with the way I’m playing,” Shipley said.