Click photo to enlarge
St. Joseph Central High School senior Danielle Lapierre, 17, won the 2014 Massachusetts Girls & Women in Sport essay contest supported by the MIAA and New Agenda: Northeast. ‘The saying that hard work pays off is not a myth -- it’s true,’ she says.

PITTSFIELD

St. Joseph Central High School senior Danielle Lapierre recently found herself in the spotlight after being offered and accepting a spot this fall at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., to play Division I golf, something that fewer females than males achieve.

"The saying that hard work pays off is not a myth -- it’s true," said Lapierre. "My friends and family have been really huge in supporting me."

The daughter of Paul and Beth Lapierre of Dalton, the student said she got her first set of golf clubs at age 3 and began formally playing at age 10.

Once a self-proclaimed "very shy girl," Lapierre, now 17, said finding her place in sports has helped her find her place and define her goals in life. Back in February, she won a statewide high school essay sponsored by the MIAA and the New Agenda: Northeast, an advocacy agency for the advancement of females in sports. She read the essay at a Girls & Women in Sport Day held at Faneuil Hall in Boston, during which Berkshire native and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley served as a keynote speaker. More than 300 people were in attendance, including more than a dozen of her female athletic peers.

"If you have something you really enjoy, pursue it whether people believe in you or not," said Lapierre, who will, in addition to success on the green, seek a degree in communications and sports media.

Here, her essay, "Passing on the Putter," details her path and her goal to encourage other young women to succeed, no matter the odds:

‘Passing on the Putter’
By Danielle Lapierre

Being one of the only girls in my area to play golf, I had to play on the boys’ team. There were a lot of people who supported me, but also a lot of people who did not want me out on the course competing with the boys. There were also some boys who did not want me out there with them either. At first, I was upset that I was not automatically accepted into the male-dominated sport. However, this gave me the motivation to work hard to earn the respect of the people who doubted me. Every time I wanted to give up, I would think of the snickers I heard from the boys I competed against, and remember my mission to turn them into gasps of disbelief.

I spent the next two winters practicing indoors to improve, also playing every day in the spring and summer. It was during those cold winter days, when I was practicing alone, that I fell in love with the game of golf all over again. Then all of my hard work came together. I became the number one player on the boys’ team, came in second in the girls Western Massachusetts regional tournament, and led my team to their first Western Mass tournament in a decade.

For a while, I thought what I was doing did not affect anyone. My name would appear in the paper but I never thought anyone read it or even really cared. But one day, when I was practicing, a man came to the indoor practice facility with his daughter. She sauntered in with a small golf bag on her back. She missed the ball on her first few tries but after I told her to keep her head down, she hit it and her face lit up. As she kept practicing, I could see pieces of me in her. The way her eyes lit up with each solid shot, I could tell she was falling in love with the game just as I had. When I was putting my clubs away, the young girl’s father came up to me and told me that his daughter saw me in the paper and said to him, "Dad, I want to do that." When he told me this, I was taken aback. The fact that I helped a girl find something she loved to do was a satisfaction to last a lifetime.

Girls’ golf in my area has been growing. My swing coach has begun taking on more and more young girls as students. Maybe one day, there will be enough of us to have girls’ golf teams in Western Massachusetts. That is my goal. Someone once called me a pioneer but I never liked that term, I consider myself a believer. And now every time I play I think about those girls because I want to show them that they can follow their dreams and do anything they put their minds to no matter what anyone says.

Athletes feted ...

Berkshire County athletes honored at the 2014 Girls & Women in Sport Day:

Lee Middle and High School: Sam Farina, Hayley Bowers

Monument Mountain Regional High School: Cara Freadman, Bennie Lopez

Mount Everett Regional High School: Hannah Joyce, Brooke Morehouse

Mount Greylock Regional High School: Mackenzie Flynn, Rosemarie Mele

Pittsfield High School: Aoife Nester, Rachele Rosiello

St. Joseph Central High School: Reagan Smith, Kaitlyn Parrot

Taconic High School: Courtney Luscier, Lindsay Curry

Wahconah Regional High School: Katie Dumas, Bethany Houle