Slama reflects on senior year at OSU

Ellie+Slama%2C+an+Oregon+State+University+golfer+and+senior%2C+playing+at+the+Trysting+Tree+Golf+Course+in+Corvallis+on+May+23.+Slama+started+playing+golf+as+a+child+and+completed+her+five+years+at+Oregon+State+University+with+the+best+scoring+average+in+OSU+history+at+72.95.+Slama+is+graduating+with+a+Bachelor+of+Science+in+Kinesiology.%0A

Zeva Rosenbaum, OMN Photographer

Ellie Slama, an Oregon State University golfer and senior, playing at the Trysting Tree Golf Course in Corvallis on May 23. Slama started playing golf as a child and completed her five years at Oregon State University with the best scoring average in OSU history at 72.95. Slama is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology.

Ryan Harlan, Sports Contributor

For Oregon State senior Ellie Slama, the sport of golf has always been a family affair. She started out her journey to playing golf competitively when she would tag along to watch her older brother and dad play.

“I started playing because my dad and my brother both played,” Slama said. “My dad always played but never played competitively, and so he always kind of pushed us into every sport and tried to get us to try a bunch of different ones. My brother really took a liking to golf, so I would kind of like get [dragged] out on the golf course with them and just kind of hang out.  I wouldn’t really play for the first couple of years, I’d just walk alongside them.”

It wasn’t long till those days of hanging out on the golf course sparked her interest in playing golf, and with a little encouragement from her mom, who signed up Slama for several golf tournaments.

Slama’s love of the sport would grow from there as she went on to compete in many major amateur golf tournaments, which included top 10 finishes in the IMG Junior World tournament, Pacific Northwest Golf Association Girls’ Junior Amateur tournament, PNGA Sectionals tournament, Annika Invitational tournament, Scott Robertson Memorial Golf tournament and the Joanne Winter Silver Belle Championship tournament.

Entering high school, Slama competed for South Salem High School’s varsity golf team, lettering in all four years for golf, as well as lettering in swimming and cross country. She won all high school league golf tournaments as a sophomore, junior and senior, and collect many accolades and awards along the way, such as competing for the Saxons, winning two OSAA state championships in 2016 and 2017, being selected to the OSAA All-State First Team all four years and being selected to the All-Mid Valley Team/All State Tournament Team four times.

“I think I definitely got more and more competitive as I got older and when I was about 11 or 12, I realized, ‘I’m going to have to practice to be really good at this,’” Slama said. “And so I would start going to the course with my brother and practicing and it just turned into a hobby that ended up being like my life and so it was cool, I definitely had to cut back on swimming and cross country because I didn’t have the time to do all three, but I’m very happy with my decision to stick with golf and it’s opened a lot of doors and opportunities for me.”

Those opportunities led Slama to take her talents to the next level to play competitively after high school with her verbally committing to Oregon State, which was an easy decision for her as both her parents and brother attended Oregon State.

As a freshman in 2017, Slama found early success at the college level playing in all 11 tournaments and finishing the year with a scoring average of 72.79 in 35 rounds, which is the best single season scoring average for a freshman in Oregon State history.

Her sophomore season saw Slama build off her early success and had several top 10 finishes at tournaments, winning the individual title at the Trinity Forest Invitational, and was one of 72 golfers invited to the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur tournament. However, going into her junior year, despite Slama’s season being cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she would play in six tournaments that year with a career highlight of Slama’s being a second-place individual finish, which she shot a three-round score of 8-under 208 and a team win in the Cougar Cup.

“It was the spring before COVID-19, so 2019, we won as a team and we had two new people on the team that were traveling and so it was kind of a younger team, it was just a really good atmosphere and everyone played super well the last day. I think we had like three of us that shot in the 60s the last day to win it and it was just a super fun tournament and another course that we hadn’t played before.”

With competition resuming for the 2020-2021 season, Slama picked up right where she left off competing in six tournaments for the Beavers, including winning the individual title at the Silverado Showdown with a three-round 8-under 208 at the Silverado Showdown.

“Individually I would say, my most favorite moment was Silverado in my senior year,” Slama said. “I won individually, I played three super solid rounds, [even though] I missed the practice round so it was the first time I had ever seen the course. It was just like a very fun three days of golf, and I played super well. It definitely helped me as a player and just like go through and get that win.”

However, even with highs that the season brought for Slama and the Beavers, their season would once again be cut short as they did not get to compete in NCAA regionals that year, which were held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Beavers were seeded 7th going into regionals and the top six teams advanced to the NCAA Championship that year but didn’t get an opportunity to compete in regionals that year.

“Baton Rouge was just a disappointing week for the whole team and every school that was seeded seven through 18,” Slama said. “The course had gotten some rain and they said that it was ‘playable’ but it wasn’t ‘playable at a championship level,’ which has never been a term used in my 15 years of golf. And it was a bunch of people on this committee that didn’t try their hardest and didn’t put all their work into making the course more ready for the tournament. It was just really unfortunate that the whole situation happened the way that it did.”

Those factors from the last two seasons led Slama to come back for her fifth year this season, using the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think returning for my fifth year was just really important to me after we kind of had a crappy ending to the season in Baton Rouge,” Slama said. “It was another opportunity and another full year of golf when we missed out because of COVID-19, so I just really wanted to end my time at Oregon State on my own terms.”

In her fifth year, Slama finished out the regular season with a top-10 individual finish at Silverado and the team finished with a top-10 finish placing sixth. In her final PAC-12 championship appearance, Slama finished in a tie for 13th individually, but the Beavers finished with a second-place finish, which is the best in program history, and a highlight for Slama.

The Beavers qualified for their fifth straight regionals, earning a bid to the NCAA Franklin Regional in Tennessee after their historic performance at the PAC-12 championship finishing in second place, and  playing their first regional since 2019.

“It was really kind of a bit of relief and we were excited to go, we went out there with a good mentality,” Slama said.

The team placed eighth in the Franklin regional and did not advance to the  championship. Slama in her final competition for the Beavers finished in a tie for 27th place to close out her last competition.

Wrapping up her career at Oregon State, Slama leaves the program as the most accomplished golfer in school history. She holds several records in the women’s golf program including most top-10 finishes in a season, lowest single round score, highest scoring average by class and lowest individual three-round score.

Slama also earned three all PAC-12 selections, was named a WGCA All-American Scholar in 2021, named a three-time PAC-12 All Academic and is the first golfer in Oregon State history to be named PAC-12 golfer of the month. She has played in three NCAA regionals and one NCAA championship as an individual, becoming the fifth Beaver in program history to do so.

Slama has her post-Oregon State plans already lined up. She plans on moving down to southern-California and looks to play golf professionally, continuing to build off the work and lessons she learned from competing at the college level.

Reflecting on her five years competing for the Beavers, Slama looked back with appreciation for her time at Oregon State.

“Oregon State definitely shaped me very well and helped me succeed, so it is cool to look back on that and think about how little freshman Ellie came in like I didn’t expect any of it really, ” Slama said. “I knew that the team was going to be good, and our ranking got significantly better in my first two years, which is really cool. Overall, the five years definitely turned out to be all I expected and much, much more.”