Top Black pro, amateurs say golf needs more barrier-breakers like Shippen

Detroit — Shasta Averyhardt started playing golf at around age 7, quickly began working with an instructor, and eventually earned a scholarship to play at Jackson State, a historically Black university in Mississippi.

She also understands all the barriers that exist, and all the opportunities that often don’t, for Black golfers. She never played in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, because her family couldn’t afford it, with all the entry fees and travel costs.

Averyhardt, 35, of Flint, who played on the LPGA Tour in 2011 and 2013, is one of 12 women and 20 men who are competing in the inaugural John Shippen tournament at Detroit Golf Club, playing for exemptions into LPGA Tour and PGA Tour events. The women’s winning two-player team will earn a spot in next month’s Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Midland, and the men’s individual winner will get an exemption into this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.

The 36-hole tournament, created to open up opportunities for Black professional and amateur golfers, is Sunday and Monday. It’s the first of its kind on the LPGA and PGA tours.

“There are two current (Black) women on the LPGA Tour right now, and there are about five to seven women on the LPGA Symetra (development) Tour,” Averyhardt said. “There’s definitely a bigger number of us out there. Having an opportunity like this, it doesn’t happen very often.

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