LPGA Futures Tour rookie Shasta Averyhardt battled the knowledge that she was making history as she fought through tough weather conditions in the final round of the LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament.
She began the day tied for eighth place, but a difficult, wind-blown, rain-dampened round of 7-over 79 landed her outside the top 20 into a tie for 22nd. It was a disappointing finish for the 6-foot-1, former Jackson State University collegian, but it was a finish good enough for a spot in the LPGA's Priority Category 16, just outside the full-status top-20 membership for 2011.
"It was exhausting and today, I kind of choked, but I have to be happy to earn some LPGA status for next year," said Averyhardt of Flint, Mich., who became only the fourth African-American to earn LPGA Tour membership in the LPGA's 60-year history. "It means a lot."
After tying her career-low round of 5-under 67 in the fourth round, Averyhardt wrestled with nerves, weariness and weather in the final round of the 90-hole marathon. She double-bogeyed the par-3 third hole on the Champions course at LPGA International, and added five more bogeys in her birdie-free round.
As hard as she tried to only focus on finishing strong in tough conditions, the weight of what she was doing became increasingly more difficult as she fought to stay high on the leaderboard. Averyhardt attempted to shut down any thoughts about making LPGA history, but as she walked the fairways of LPGA International, she began to realize that her dream of falling into place behind former LPGA African-Americans Althea Gibson, Renee Powell and LaRee Sugg was coming true.
"I was really nervous and I knew what was at stake," she admitted. "I absolutely got in my own way and I wish I could have handled myself better. I kept thinking about what it would mean. I know I'm not supposed to think about that, but I did."
Averyhardt hooked her tee shot into the left water hazard on the 18th hole and took her final bogey on the last hole. Putting out, the Michigan player looked at the leaderboard. Her name that had risen among the leaders on Saturday, was gone on Sunday.
Still, history was made, and Averyhardt managed to hold on enough for it to happen.
"I still have a ways to go to get better, but I'm looking forward to next year," she said. "I know there are some [African-American] girls coming up who want to follow in these same footsteps and I say, more power to them."