Timothy O'Neal into Rocket Mortgage Classic after Shippen victory; Pair invited to LPGA event

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Three professional exemptions were secured Monday at Detroit Golf Club.

Timothy O’Neal won the men’s title at the inaugural John Shippen, a 36-hole tournament created to provide more playing opportunities for Black golfers, both professional and amateur, while preserving the legacy of Shippen, the first Black golf professional and a five-time U.S. Open competitor. The women’s event, a two-person team format with foursomes and four-ball, was captured by Shasta Averyhardt and Anita Uwadia.

O’Neal, a 48-year-old mini-tour legend who has played in seven PGA Tour events, including the 2015 U.S. Open, earned a spot in this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic by shooting 5 under and beating Kevin Hall by two shots.

O’Neal wins John Shippen National Invitational

Averyhardt and Uwadia, meanwhile, teamed up to shoot 3 under and also win by two shots. They received an invite to play next month’s Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational, a team event at Midland (Michigan) Country Club.

“We’re gonna embrace it, and we’re very thankful for the opportunity,” Averyhardt told The Detroit News.

The 35-year-old Averyhardt turned pro out of Jackson State in 2010 and was an LPGA member in 2011 and ’13, but she played mostly on the Symetra Tour. But after making just one cut on the women’s development tour in 2014, Averyhardt left professional golf and took a job as a tax associate with Price Waterhouse Cooper. Three years later, she realized she still wanted to play golf, so she quit.

“I left golf because I couldn’t afford it, not because of my talent or skill level,” she wrote for LPGA.com last year. “I had suffered a lot of disappointments, but I knew I needed to try again.”

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Averyhardt, who is from Flint, Michigan, has played five events on the Symetra Tour this season. Her start next month in Midland will mark her first on the LPGA in eight years. As for Uwadia, the 23-year-old Englishwoman who graduated from South Carolina last year, she’ll be making her LPGA debut.

O’Neal’s last PGA Tour start came at the 2019 Genesis Open. O’Neal is the reigning money winner on the APGA Tour and will join fellow APGA member Willie Mack III, also a Flint native, in this week’s Tour field at Detroit Golf Club.

“It’s a great opportunity to get a chance to play in the Rocket Mortgage, so I’m super excited,” O’Neal said. “Hopefully, they’ll continue this for years to come and more guys like myself will be able to chase it and have the opportunity to play in a PGA Tour event. This is huge for minority golf.”