It turns out the PGA Tour won’t be the only circuit expanding its minority base this year. The LPGA is adding its first black member since 2001.
Shasta Averyhardt won’t have full playing status in 2011, having tied for 22nd at the LPGA’s qualifying finals that ended Sunday in Daytona Beach. However, the Michigan native ought to get at least a half-dozen starts from the category she occupies for those finishing between 21st and 30th in Q-school.
If she somehow could have found a way to to turn Sunday’s 79 into a 77, she would have had a full card and probably could have doubled her start total. But hey, it’s a beginning.
The LPGA’s last black member was LaRee Sugg, whose final season on the circuit was 2001. Last week, the PGA Tour added its first member of black descent when Joe Bramlett survived the six-day survival test at Orange County National.
Averyhardt, 24, won nine college tournaments while competing for Jackson State. She also won a Suncoast Ladies Series event two summers ago in Winter Garden and qualified for last year’s U.S. Women’s Open at Oakmont.
As luck would have it, the LPGA’s first black member happened to be in Central Florida over the weekend. Renee Powell, who played the circuit from 1967-80 and won an non-LPGA event in Australia, was the featured speaker at a women’s executive conference at Reunion Resort.
Powell now serves as head professional at Clearview GC in East Canton, Ohio – built in 1948 by her father, William, as the nation’s first black-owned golf course. Not sure if she had a chance to take a side trip to LPGA International on Sunday, but hope she did.