I’m excited to share a little “closer to home” story about a young lady, about a world champion, named Gianna Clemente.
For me personally, I grew up playing junior golf sandwiched between Patrick (the older brother) and Colin (the younger brother) Clemente. Both were really good junior players (I have to protect superlatives like “great” and “phenomenal” for the next Clemente generation) who went on the play in college. Patrick at YSU and Colin at Akron. Two collegiate golfers from one family says a lot. But world champions? Sorry old friends, but Gia is taking the family pastime to a whole new level!
I reconnected with Gia’s dad Patrick to discuss Gia’s victory last week and her progress within the sport. If you read my column regularly, you know I’m more of a story teller than a stat reciter. So here’s my take away from my conversation with an old friend, who just happens to be the proud dad of the world’s best 10-year-old girl golfer.
Coming from a golf family, Gia was swinging at Squaw Creek by 18 months. At 3, she was practicing indoors at the Dome in Girard. And by the week after her 5th birthday, she played in her first U.S. Kids tournament.
I could tell that Patrick and his wife Julia (they met while attending YSU together) made it a point to introduce Gia to any and all activities. Softball. Gymnastics. By 6 however, Gia was driven and committed to golf.
With dad as her coach, the Clementes spent a lot of their time practicing and playing at Avalon Lakes and Squaw Creek.
At 6, Gia started playing in more “regional” US Kids tournaments. By 7, she was winning on a regular basis. And in August 2015, she took it to the next level by winning the US Kids World Championships in Pinehurst, NC. If that “put her on the international map,” this past week cemented her spot as one of the world’s best.
And for those who don’t pay a ton of attention to junior golf tournaments for 7-year olds, there are really only two junior “majors” out there — the US Kids series of tournaments which culminates with a world championship each year in Pinehurst, and the IMG Academy Junior World Championship which culminates with their world championship at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.
Gia’s 10. And she’s now won them both.
From a golf standpoint, two world championships by 10 is amazing. But as I talked to Patrick for 30 plus minutes, I was consistently impressed with his level headedness. At this point in their career, it would be understandable if team Clemente came off overly confident. But Patrick’s focus was on enjoying their current situation.
Patrick and I discussed how a swing coach, Spencer Graham of Naples, Florida, and a putting coach, Megan Padua, have helped with the formality (getting away from “dad” telling her what to do) of Gia’s technical progression. We talked about the progression into AJGA events starting in 2019. And the scheduling Patrick goes through to travel for work two and a half days a week and then get home in time to practice with Gia at Squaw Creek.
I asked Patrick if there were any long term “goals” for Gia’s game. And while Patrick continued to be humble and talk about opportunities to grow and continue to improve, he said there would be no hesitation on Gia’s part to say right now that she hopes to one day play on the LPGA Tour.
For now, Gia will continue to play national events and compete against girls ranging from 10 all the way up through high schoolers in some tournaments.
To be honest, I wish I had space for 2,500 words, because I could go on about Gia and her family. But for now I’ll have to finish this piece with a quick note to Gia directly:
Gia, congratulations on your second world championship last week at Torrey Pines. You don’t know me, but I actually got to carry the Ohio flag in the Parade of Nations when I played in that same tournament as an 18-year-old in 1999. I missed the cut. You won the whole thing.
Anyway, I played in a lot of tournaments with your dad and your uncle Colin growing up and I just wanted to tell you how excited we are back in Youngstown to watch you continue to grow; both in the sport and as a young lady.
It sounds like you have a great team around you with your family and your coaches. Good luck the rest of the summer. We’ll continue to follow and cheer for you back home!
Sincerely – Jonah Karzmer
Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at Jonah@thekarzmerinsurance.com.