Article Courtesy of Duramed FUTURES Tour
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Nov. 30, 2009 -- It has been nearly a decade since an African-American member strolled the fairways of the LPGA Tour. This week at the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament, Shasta Averyhardt hopes to change that.
Averyhardt finished tied for 11th in October at the LPGA's Florida Sectional Qualifier at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla., which allowed her to advance into the LPGA's Final Q-School.
Should she make it through the 90-hole final stage, she will become only the fourth African-American LPGA Tour member, following in the footsteps of Althea Gibson, Renee Powell and LaRee Sugg, whose last LPGA season was 2001. Should she miss getting her 2010 LPGA Tour card, Averyhardt could potentially earn status on the 2010 Duramed FUTURES Tour.
"I want to succeed, not only for myself, but to show that whatever you set your mind to do, with faith, proper finances and a lot of hard work, you can do anything you want," said Averyhardt, 23, of Flint, Mich. "I don't feel pressure. I'm just an individual who wants to get out there and play and succeed."
Averyhardt started playing golf around age 10. Growing to a height of 6-foot-1, the youngster was more interested in playing volleyball than bending over a putter. She wanted to quit golf because she didn't think the game "fit" her.
But she stuck it out and ended up playing college golf at Jackson State University (Miss.), where she was the Southwestern Athletic Conference champion from 2005-2008, and won the 2008 Southern Mississippi Lady Eagle Invitational.
"When I got to Jackson State, my coach told me that I had the ability to make a career out of this," said Averyhardt. "I was lacking confidence and had a lot of self-doubt. That's something I've been working on hard this year."
To help gain more professional experience, Averyhardt received sponsorship from Sisters Across America, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that offers support to minority women. Through the network, qualified minority golfers may submit applications and projected budgets to apply for grants to chase their dreams of pursuing professional golf careers.
The grants enabled Averyhardt to enter smaller mini-tour tournaments to gain competitive professional experience. She moved to Orlando, Fla., to concentrate on tournament preparation and actually won her first professional event in June on the Orlando-based SunCoast Ladies Series Tour.
And while Averyhardt's arrival on the LPGA Tour or Duramed FUTURES Tour would likely draw considerable attention to a young African-American woman golf pro in her 20s who has competed collegiately, Averyhardt says she is like every other rookie professional who is looking to make her next big move onto the LPGA Tour. For her, it's not about trying to make a statement. She simply wants to compete.
"I'm just a girl playing golf," said Averyhardt. "My dad had a contracting business in Michigan and the economy took its toll. There's been a lot of sacrifice for me to try to do this, so to be successful would be really rewarding for my whole family."