Welcome to ONYX, a platform dedicated to celebrating Black women in sports.
ONYX host Monica McNutt recently had the opportunity to sit down with Shasta Averyhardt, a professional golfer, to discuss being a Black woman in sports, leaving and eventually returning to the game she loves, and the community she feels with other Black women on the LPGA tour. Below are just a few highlights from the insightful and inspiring conversation with Shasta.
What do you love about being a Black or a mixed woman in sports?
It was interesting because I have my friend Sadena Parks, who’s one of the women to play on the LPGA tour and she’s counting for me this week at a tournament. And I was talking to her in a car on the way here, back to the house. I was like, what do I feel like, like being a Black woman, playing sports. Cause honestly like growing up, you notice it, you know you’re the only person out there, but ultimately it feels very empowering and you feel like you have an edge, something extra about you and that’s just me personally. And I’m pretty sure that Sadena would agree with that and all the rest of the girls.
So on the flip side of that, what has been the most challenging thing about being a Black woman in sports?
I think the most challenging thing would be, especially with golf in particular, I would say is exposure and marketing. It’s such a white-dominated sport based on history, obviously it’s growing now because we have a lot of the Asian base, a lot of Latino base that’s coming over and playing as well and filling tours, which is creating a more diverse arena. But I would say just marketing because a lot of people still don’t know that there’s Black women that play professionally.
In the course of your journey, you have stepped away from the game, gone into the corporate space, and returned to the game. … So just in terms of those transitions, what has kind of helped you navigate through?
At the time when I stopped playing, it was very hard. I couldn’t watch golf. I didn’t want to talk about golf. My dad used to watch golf and he’d say did you see so and so on TV, and I was like I don’t want to hear it. He started to figure out that she’s not in that space right now. I was angry at golf. I was angry at myself and other people. It was just a really bad time. But then it was like, okay, now I’m transitioning into corporate America. I’m creating some type of stability, some normalcy and it was cool for the first year. And then I just, I couldn’t do it. I was looking at wealth management and I was like, well maybe I do better money wise, and maybe I can have more personable opportunities because that’s my personality. So I was like, well maybe I should do that, but I couldn’t make a commitment. And I was like, what’s going on?
So I partnered with my friend to do a women’s sports podcast and we (decided) let’s go to ESPN Sports Women’s Summit up in Chicago. Flew up there and were listening to the Olympians and all the female athletes that were on stage telling their stories and talking about their accomplishments. … I was feeling uncomfortable. It’s like, what’s going on with you? I was happy for them, but it’s because I want to play. That’s what it is. I felt like I was 80 years old sitting in a rocking chair with regrets, and I didn’t want to feel that way. I got to go back and play. So I told my friend, ‘look, I got to back out of the podcast. I don’t want to go play, but I got to go play again because this is weighing on me heavily.’ And I realized how unhappy I was working in corporate America. It just wasn’t for me. Maybe it was just that job in particular, but I just felt like at that time I had too much talent to waste.
So I just want to make a point to shout out the women that are your peers and the women before you that are qualifiers for the LPGA. The fantastic Althea Gibson, … Renee Powell, LaRee Sugg, those are women that came before you guys. Now, your peers Mariah Stackhouse, Ginger Howard, Cheyenne Woods, and Sadena Parks. How much pride do you guys take in continuing to move the sport?
It’s so exciting. I think the unification between all of us has really gotten better because we realize … it’s okay for us to be united. It’s okay for us to be altogether at a tournament site. … It’s so exciting for all of them to be out here because I was by myself for a while because I’m four years older than Cheyenne and Sadena. So I had the weight, and it was very difficult at that time because of relatability. I was cool with everybody and I had these surface friendships, if you will, but I couldn’t go deeper because I grew up differently. Sadena for example, she’s like my sister. Like she gets me and I get her. …. The other night, we got back and it was a long practice day. I’m tired. We both had headaches and we’re arguing. We argued. And then she was like, ‘all right, love you, sis. good night.’ … We all encourage each other. We’re sending messages to each other, like, ‘Hey, have a good week. Play well.’ Mariah had a really good two rounds last week in marathon, and we’re texting her, you know, we’re just encouraging everybody. And it’s really amazing.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Photo Credits: Instagram