Averyhardt makes history, earns LPGA status

Shasta Averyhardt during the final round of LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, FL.

Shasta Averyhardt during the final round of LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, FL.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Shasta Averyhardt, like many players, wiped away tears as she walked out of the scoring tent. Unlike most players outside the top 20, however, she had to compose herself quickly for a Golf Channel camera.

Averyhardt, 24, hit her tee shot into the hazard on the 18th hole and made bogey. She needed to birdie the last to force a playoff for the top 20 cards. Instead, she tied for 22nd Dec. 12 to earn Category 16 status. That makes Averyhardt only the fourth black player in history to earn LPGA membership. She’ll be the first African-American on the LPGA since LaRee Sugg in 2001.

“I don’t know what else to say other than I choked,” said Averyhardt, who closed with a 79. “I have to be happy even though it hasn’t hit me yet. I have status.”

Heading into the final round, Averyhardt thought an even-par total might be the magic number. When she double-bogeyed the third hole and bogeyed the fifth, she started “freaking out.” The wind, which gusted up to 30 mph at LPGA International, rattled Averyhardt’s nerves. She three-putted three times, and was particularly frazzled over the short ones.

“It’s pressure, and sometimes people succumb to pressure,” said Averyhardt. “I’m playing for myself but I’m also playing for sponsors and the African-American community.”

Averyhardt will play a mixed schedule of LPGA and Futures Tour events next season. Her conditional status should also help her land sponsor exemptions. In retrospect, the Flint, Mich., native wishes she had turned off her cell phone this week. She’ll know better the next time the spotlight finds her 6-foot-1 frame.

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