Notre Dame Academy golfer Paige Kasper tees off on the par 3 fourth hole at Maumee Bay Golf Course.
For as many years as Paige Kasper has swung golf clubs as a family activity, her passion for the game didn't completely sink in until a few years ago.
Now the Notre Dame senior is committed fully to her favorite sport.
"It's the hardest sport that I have every played and it really keeps me going," Kasper said. "It's the challenge."
The Eagles' top returner is one of the area's best girl golfers entering the season. A Division I state tournament qualifier a year ago, the Sylvania resident wants nothing more than to prove it by making a return trip to the state competition in her final year at Notre Dame.
She finished tied for 57th at the state tournament last year with an 86-93--179.
"It motivates me a lot because I want to go again," Kasper said. "I've practiced a lot this summer and still worked. It took a lot of my time, but it's been worth it."
Kasper started playing when she was 8. Her parents, Jeff and Polly, are avid golfers and she eventually gravitated to the sport.
The memory of qualifying for state by placing as one of the top two individuals at district is still fresh in her mind.
"It's really hard to make it to state as an individual," she said. "It was one of my biggest accomplishments because I did it for myself.
"It was a lot of pressure. I cried and I looked over and both of my parents cried, too, because it was a big accomplishment."
Todd Duesing is in his second year as the Eagles coach. He's watched Kasper make significant strides from the beginning of last season to the start of this season.
"It's been exciting to watch her continue to grow and develop as a player," Duesing said.
Duesing said Kasper benefited from playing alongside eventual state champion, Geneva's Danielle Nicholson, during the first round at state. Watching Nicholson, who was a freshman, shoot an opening-round 73 opened Kasper's eyes to where she needed to improve her game.
Notre Dame Academy golfer Paige Kasper putts for a birdie on the fourth hole at Maumee Bay Golf Course.
She took note of Nicholson's steady and consistent play on the fairways and around the greens.
"At state last year, she realized she had to work on 60 yards and in," Duesing said. "Her long game -- she can hit 260 yards -- she's got that.
"And her biggest improvement this year is that short game."
Kasper spent more time this summer on courses, driving ranges, and putting greens than any other previous summer. She placed plenty of emphasis on her short game and her putting during daily workouts at Inverness Club, her home course.
She also played in a couple of tournaments, and shot a personal-best 78 at Detwiler Park Golf Course.
This season, she shot a 79 to top the Perrysburg Invitational. She has won two Northwest Ohio Girls Golf League matches at White Pines, shooting a 40 each time.
"She's playing great golf," Duesing said. "She's playing consistent golf.
"Paige is a leader by example. She understands how a player needs to get around the course. She knows how to avoid the trouble."
Kasper said the increased practice time this summer has helped to raise her game.
"I've picked up right where I left off from last year, so I only have room to improve," she said.
She's hoping to take her game up another level during her final season at Notre Dame.
"There are a lot of good players, so you never know," she said. "It's just who can stay consistent and play through the rough days."
Contact Donald Emmons at: email@example.com, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.com.