The process began in 2017.

And then it took a giant leap last year.

Will the Tallmadge girls golf team make another significant move this fall?

In other words, can the Blue Devils contend for the Suburban League American Conference title? Can they qualify for Division I district play, as well?

Maybe. Proceed with caution, though.

"We’re not as deep as last year," third-year Tallmadge head coach Scott Campbell said. "We had a little more flexibility. We had eight players that could play varsity."

The quantity of players certainly isn’t lacking. The Blue Devils have their largest team ever. As a result, Tallmadge will feature a junior varsity girls team for the first time.

"The numbers are up," Campbell said. "We have some incoming freshmen. They’re on the verge of getting better. The summer workouts were nicely attended. We’re still lacking some experience."

Despite some questions marks, the Blue Devils have a good starting foundation. And that starting foundation is one of the best golfers in the conference.

Her name is Lizzie Bickar, a senior who was Tallmadge’s lone district qualifier last fall. Bickar, who also played the point-guard position for the girls basketball team during the winter, is expected to be the team’s No. 1 player.

Bickar earned first-team American Conference honors last season.

"Lizzie had a great summer," Campbell said. "She played on the Hurricane Tour and some NOPGA [Northern Ohio PGA] junior events. Last year, she struggled off the tee. This year, because she has played more, she’s more confident in her overall game."

Bickar led last year’s team to its first winning season in recent memory. The Blue Devils finished 7-6 overall and 2-4 in the American Conference.

Tallmadge, which won three matches in 2017, earned their first-ever conference victories. Those wins took place against Revere and perennial American Conference power Highland. The Blue Devils also earned a victory over National Conference rival Twinsburg.

On top of that, Tallmadge broke 200 10 times in nine-hole competitions and saved its best for last. The Blue Devils shot a total of 374 during sectional play. That total, which was just seven strokes less than the last district-qualifying team, was Tallmadge’s lowest 18-hole score of the season.

While Bickar returns to the mix, Campbell had to say goodbye to three talented seniors. They are Marissa Graham, Brooke Santomauro and Kaytlin Miller.

But all is certainly not lost for the Blue Devils.

Junior Gia Currey is expected to be the team’s No. 2 player in 2019.

"Gia has been playing really well," Campbell said. "She has been striking it well. She’s more consistent."

Another returning player is junior Hannah Fiume, who seems to be absorbing all the nuances of the game like a sponge.

"With Hannah, we’re starting to see some things we’ve talked about," Campbell said. "It’s now starting to catch up and she’s striking it better. Everything has been better."

Senior Morgan Moses didn’t play as much golf as her teammates did during the summer. That doesn’t concern Campbell one bit.

"Morgan is super athletic," he said. "She’ll pick it up once she gets more repetition."

Other returning players are junior Chloie Brown and sophomore Katie Michalec.

"Chloie is another one who is athletic," Campbell said. "Katie will probably play more JV [junior varsity], but she has improved."

Rounding out the squad are first-year freshmen Emma Lally, Cameron Lantz, Ashlyn Lohr and Evie Visker.

"They are very new to the game," Campbell said. "Some have played with family members. Some of them played on the golf course for the first time.

"They’ve been to everything this summer. They have done everything we’ve asked."

In the past, the American Conference featured preseason and postseason tournaments, along with a six-match conference regular-season schedule.

Not any more.

Both conferences will play in four tournaments during the season to determine how each team finishes. In other words, Tallmadge will play its own version of the PGA major tournaments to accumulate points in conference play.

"I have mixed feelings," Campbell admitted. "I liked having the matches because it gave us opportunities to play different teams.

"I do like playing 18 holes. That’s the way golf is designed. We’ll play in a tournament atmosphere and that will only help us. I’m super excited about the season."

Tallmadge made its 2019 debut with a fifth-place score of 403 in the American Conference at the first of the four Suburban League tournaments Wednesday at Brookledge Golf Club in Cuyahoga Falls.

Kent Roosevelt won the six-team competition with a score of 324. Highland (347) and Copley (371) placed second and third, respectively.

The Hornets’ Alessandra Goyette earned medalist honors with a 68. Bickar finished in a tie for second place with a 74 to lead the Blue Devils.

Currey was next for Tallmadge with a 99 and Fiume and Moses shot scores of 107 and 123, respectively.

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.