Shasta Averyhardt (Flint), Anita Uwadia win Shippen for spot in Midland LPGA tournament

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — For Shasta Averyhardt, it's been a while. For Anita Uwadia, it's never been.

The duo, who met last year and played together on the LPGA's developmental Symetra Tour earlier this year, teamed up to shoot a final-round 68 to win the inaugural John Shippen on Monday afternoon at Detroit Golf Club. Averyhardt, of Flint, and Uwadia, a recent University of South Carolina graduate, earned the exemption into next month's LPGA Tour tournament in Midland, the Great Lakes Bay Invitational.

Shasta Averyhardt and Anita Uwadia check the wind on the 17th hole Monday during The John Shippen at the Detroit Golf Club.

It'll be Uwadia's LPGA Tour debut, and Averyhardt's first appearance on the LPGA Tour since 2013.

"We're gonna embrace it and we're very thankful for the opportunity," said Averyhardt, 35, who played on the LPGA Tour in 2011 and 2013 out of Jackson State.

Said Uwadia, 23, a United Kingdom native: "It means definitely a lot."

The Shippen was created by Intersport, Woods and Watts Effect and the Rocket Mortgage Classic to create opportunities, and break down barriers, for Black professional and amateur golfers. The women's portion of this year's event was a team event, because that's the format in Midland. The men's champion, Timothy O'Neal, 48, also out of Jackson State, will get to play in this week's Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Monday's format was best ball for the women, and Uwadia came up huge with a binge of birdies, five in all, including at Nos. 15 and 17. The one at 15 was a chip-in, a momentum builder after parring the par-5 14th.

The duo shot a 4-under 68 on Monday, after a 1-over 73 in Sunday's tougher alternate-shot format.

They won by two strokes over Breanne Jones (Riverside, California) and Sierra Sims (Austin, Texas). They then participated Monday afternoon in a three-hole shootout for a spot in October's Cognizant Founders Cup in Orlando, won by 17-year-old Amari Avery (Riverside). Bailey Davis (White Plains, Maryland) also competed in the shootout.

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For Averyhardt and Uwadia, the day's work already was done — and what a day's work it was.

"Today, she like carried me. I'm gonna be honest with you," Averyhardt said, nodding at Uwadia. "She really just made all the birdies.

"We just fed off each other. We worked really well together. ... We made sure we communicated each shot. ... It was kind of like she was my caddie and I was her caddie, in a way."

Said Uwadia: "The way we vibed together was really nice."

Averyhardt played professionally until 2014, then, frustrated with her game and frankly unable to afford to carry on, left to become a tax associate at Price Waterhouse Cooper.

She returned to the Symetra Tour in 2018, and has made five cuts in the last three years.

She jumped at the opportunity to play in the inaugural John Shippen, which now is sending her back to the LPGA Tour — and, even more special, to play just some 70 miles from her hometown of Flint.

"It's pretty awesome," said Averyhardt, who with her decision to return to touring golf, decided to finance it via GoFundMe. "I look at it as another tournament, obviously, but I think it's gonna mean a lot more.

"I just want to represent my city well."

Twitter: @tonypaul1984