LINCROFT - Kylie Strijek once talked about giving up competitive golf.
Now, she's the best girls high school golfer in the state.
The Mainland Regional High School senior shot a 2-over-par 76 to win the girls Tournament of Champions at Bamm Hollow Country Club on Wednesday.
"It's my senior year, and I wanted to win this," she said. "I knew I could do this."
Strijek was one of three girls in the 61-player field to break 80. Kim Hannah of Paramus Catholic shot a 77 to finish second, and Crystal Lee of Mahwah was third with a 78. Heather Petronis of Mainland Regional shot an 82 to finish tied for 10th, and Absegami's Kasey Frazier shot an 85 to finish 15th.
Strijek's victory is a testament to her perseverance and the value of high school golf.
She wasn't a teen phenom. She averaged a 50 for nine holes as a freshman and was one of the worst players Mainland had.
"I heard her talk earlier this year and she said sometimes when she was a freshman she wanted to give up," Mainland coach Dan Reardon said. "But she stuck it out and hung in there. This is awesome. It's just her hard work."
Strijek, 17, arrived at Bamm Hollow on Wednesday with plenty of confidence because of the way she played last year on the course.
Her 77 tied for second, four shots back of winner Louise Yi of Cinnaminson.
"I really feel comfortable on this course," Strijek said. "I knew I could shoot a good score."
Strijek has played well all season. She finished second at the Cape-Atlantic League Individual Championships - a coed event on May 4.
She didn't feel any nerves before teeing off Wednesday. She listened to music on the two-hour drive to Bamm Hollow.
"I've learned how to calm myself down and be very mellow about everything," she said. "I listened to a lot of surf music - some Pepper, some Sublime. There was some Led Zeppelin and a little bit of Beatles in there."
Bamm Hollow is a challenging par-74, 5,746-yard layout. Play began at noon and the heat made the course even more challenging.
"I just kept hydrating," she said. "I drank three bottles of water, two bottles of Gatorade. I wet a towel and put it over my head, anything to keep me cool."
Strijek had three birdies and an eagle. She set up her scoring opportunities with accurate wedge shots.
"I was hitting my irons exceptionally well," she said. "My pitching wedge was my miracle club."
The nines at Bamm Hollow are called the red and blue instead of the front and back. Strijek began her round on the third hole of the red nine.
She eagled the seventh hole on the red nine, a 401-yard, par-5. Strijek hit her drive to within 110 yards of the pin, and hit a pitching wedge to within a foot.
She birdied the 480-yard, par-5 fourth hole on the blue nine when her third shot - a pitching wedge - landed six feet from the cup.
Strijek sank a 22-foot birdie putt on the blue nine's sixth hole.
Her final birdie came on the 104-yard, par-3 eighth hole of the blue nine. Strijek hit a wedge off the tee to within five feet of the cup.
Strijek will continue her golf career at Division I Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y.
"This is really a great way to end my high school career," she said. "It will kick off my summer season and give me a lot of confidence going into summer."
Strijek grew up in New Mexico, where she started to play. Her dad, Michael, got her involved by taking to her local courses. The family moved to Linwood before her eighth-grade year. Her mother, Susan, grew up in Atlantic City and wanted to return to the East Coast.
Wednesday also concluded a stellar high school career for Petronis.
Petronis won Mainland's first tournament of the season - The Blue Devil Invitational in Westfield (Union County) on April 13, while Strijek won the last.
"The girls got it done for us all year," Reardon said.
Contact Michael McGarry: