Neal Shipley with caddie, Carter Pitcairn, after winning his semi-final match in the U.S. Amateur. Photo courtesy of Back of the Range.

Pitcairn a ‘calming presence’ for Shipley's dream Masters
By Mike Dudurich • August 21, 2023

In retrospect, it was only fitting that while Neal Shipley and Carter Pitcairn were having the best days of their golfing lives, they were doing it together.

Best buddies in the South Hills since their ages reached double figures, the two learned the game at St. Clair Country Club and played on some very good high school teams at Central Catholic together.

Shipley’s spectacular performance at 2023 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills, Co., where he finished second, opened the door to the big moment for both.

Pitcairn got a call from Shipley midway through the Am, asking him to take on the role of Shipley’s emergency caddie the rest of the way. Pitcairn accepted and the duo finished second, earning Shipley the invite to Augusta National.

Shipley’s runner-up finish was during quite a run of golf, and he owed no small part of that success to his caddie’s fine work.

Pitcairn has established quite a reputation as a caddie, having not only called the shots for Shipley in several events, but also had the opportunity to carry for Austin Greaser, who finished second in U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club in 2021.

But when Shipley showed up at the Pitcairn residence on Thanksgiving to share the news of his Masters invitation, he officially invited Pitcairn to go with him.

The pair started making immediate plans for how this experience would unfold.

“We talked about a lot of stuff,” Pitcairn laughed.

Included in that stuff was planning their trips to one of the cathedrals of the game for practice rounds. Those trips took place in January and March and ranked right up there in Masters experience for Pitcairn.

“That first trip was the coolest part,” he said. “It was our first time on the course, and I was like star-struck. It kind of felt like we were so out of place there. You could feel the history and we had the course to ourselves. It wasn’t the perfect day, like 35-40 degrees. But we were on Augusta National, and it was awesome.”

Pitcairn said his guy was “pretty steady” through the days leading up to Thursday’s opening round. But the moment they stepped on that historic first tee, things changed.

“You could see the nerves start and he hit his first shot into the trees right of the fairway,” Pitcairn said. “But you know what? After that bogey on the first, he played one of the best rounds he’s had.”

“I guess we did a pretty good job,” Pitcairn said. “We got here Saturday night and Sunday through Wednesday we were pretty much hanging out. As soon as I stepped up on the first tee, I was just shaking. And he was probably way worse than I was.”

“Carter handled himself great, was a calming presence and I was really proud of how the two of us handled ourselves,” Shipley said. “Yes, standing on that first tee was definitely an emotional moment. I was getting to do something I always dreamed of doing.”

It got even harder to find words once the third round of the Masters was completed and the pairings for Sunday were released.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Pitcairn said. “Being paired with Tiger Woods, a guy who’s won there five times, was just so cool. Literally every shot he hits, the crowd goes nuts. It was awesome.

“Just walking up to the first tee, it was literally a tunnel of people. I had goosebumps. Shivers down the spine.”

Shipley was prophetic when he was asked about having his buddy on the bag for the year’s first major.

“There’s gonna be lots of moments when I’m really nervous,” he said earlier. “And it’ll be just nice to have someone I know, someone who knows how to make me laugh on the golf course and make me calm again and kind of rake me back in.”

Pitcairn, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, has had goals to play beyond college and nothing has happened along the way to change that.

“Bottom line is that being in that atmosphere at Augusta, it was very inspiring,” Pitcairn said. “I want to do that. I know I have to work hard. I’ve seen how hard Neal has worked. I want to get back to Augusta as a player.”

About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 34,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund and Western Pennsylvania Golf Hall of Fame.