Ella Girard of Ward Melville at the Suffolk girls individual golf...

Ella Girard of Ward Melville at the Suffolk girls individual golf championship at Smithtown Landing Country Club on Wednesday, June 9, 2021.

Ella Girard has been surrounded by golf basically since the day she was born. But it wasn’t until the mass shutdowns forced by the COVID-19 pandemic that she began taking golf more seriously.

It’s probably safe to assume not many middle schoolers decided to work on their golf game with the additional downtime. But Girard’s father and older brother had played for years with Ella never fully engaged in the sport.

Then in 2020, she decided she wanted to play golf more often. She quickly became hooked.

“I didn’t have to sit in school all day, I had extra time to go to the range with my dad,” Girard said. “It’s a family thing for us.”

Girard has begun to master golf the last two years, culminating in her winning the Suffolk girls golf championship at Smithtown Landing Tuesday. She shot a 9-over 153 in the 36-hole, two-day championship and won by 15 strokes.

“I’ve been working so hard all year and I knew it was coming this year,” said Girard, an eighth-grader at Gelinas Junior High School and competing for Ward Melville. “I came in with a good mindset and that really helped.”

Smithtown West won the Suffolk team title and plays the Great Neck District in the Long Island championship at Smithtown Landings May 31.

Girard finished third at the county championships last season and used that as motivation to improve throughout the year. She said she was in second place the majority of the year but was determined to play her best at the county final.

“I knew it was possible,” Girard said. “I just said ‘I need to do it this time, I need to win.’ ”

Girard entered Tuesday tied with Southampton’s Ella Coady after they both shot a 7-over 79 Monday. Coady finished second with a 168 and Islip’s Alex Hillman placed third with a 170.

Girard shot a 2-over 74 Tuesday, including a par 36 for the final nine holes.

“She has all the pieces of the puzzle to be a great golfer and it just all came together today,” Ward Melville coach Nicole Connelly said. “It was incredible to watch. It was the best golf I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot of golf.”

Frank Girard, her father who coaches her outside of school, became emotional after seeing his daughter win the county championship. He said there’s been, “Millions of shots, lots of lessons between me and her.”

“When it happens for you it’s one thing,” said Frank, fighting back tears. “When it happens for your own child, it’s an entirely different thing, and grooming my kids in golf and just watching them work hard and succeed, it’s just a tremendous amount of fun.”

The top nine finishers advance to the state championships June 5-6 at McGregor Links Country Club in Wilton. Girard enters with more confidence after Tuesday.

“I know I’m capable of a lot more than I thought now,” she said. “I know I can win every match and sink every putt.”

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