Ellie Slama has played in a lot of golf tournaments this summer.
The quality of her play has landed a spot in her biggest tournament yet.
The Salem resident will play in the July 21 through 26 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz., one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world for junior players.
“Top for sure,” Slama said Wednesday. “It’s a huge deal to qualify. I was the top qualifier so that was cool. It’s kind of hard to qualify.”
Slama, a rising sophomore at South Salem High School, qualified by earning medalist honors with a 71 at the regional qualifier June 29 at OGA Golf Course in Woodburn.
She isn’t usually known as a long driver, but she was the only player who shot under par at the qualifier.
“We played it 6,300 yards, which is 1,000 farther yards than we played today, and we played it off the back and blue tees,” Slama said. “I just played amazing for that far.
“I couldn’t reach all the greens and I was hitting a lot of woods. My chipping was going really well. Everything came together that day.”
That tournament was the only qualifier in the northwest and she beat a field of 45 girls from Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Canada and China.
Her 71 was one stroke better than Canada’s Janet Zhang and beat out an all-star field including Gigi Stoll, who won the Oregon Women’s Amateur a week before.
“There really wasn’t any pressure,” said Slama, who was seventh in the 6A state meet as a freshman. “My brother (Tim) was my caddy, and that was really fun. I just went out there and I tried to play my best.
“Last year I played really well and shot 76 and I tied for third and they only had three that qualified and I lost the playoff so I didn’t get to go. It was nice to qualify this year.”
Slama’s play this summer has been remarkable.
South Salem freshman Ellie Slama is the Statesman Journal All-Mid-Valley girls golfer of the year.
She placed third at the Oregon Junior Stroke Play Championship, including shooting a 69 in the second round of that tournament, and she was a quarterfinalist at the Oregon Junior Amateur, the state’s top junior match play tournament.
Just this week, she won the Monday and Tuesday Central Willamette Junior Championship in Canby and Molalla and Wednesday she won the Peter Demarco McNary Memorial Junior at McNary Golf Club after shooting a 70.
“Yeah, I think with all the practice and all the playing mixed together it’s pretty easy to shoot low scores,” Slama said. “In the summer I slowly play better and get better.
“I’ve been putting a lot better. I changed my grip and that helped a lot. I’ve been making putts for birdie so that helps a lot.”
The U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship starts with two days of stroke play with a cut and then feeds into match play.
She recognizes that she will have to play her best just to make it to the match play portion of the tournament, but making it to the tournament is an accomplishment in itself.
“There’s going to be a lot of college coaches there and it’s a really big tournament,” Slama said.
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6701 or follow at twitter.com/bpoehler