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14-year-old Warren resident a budding golf star

14-year-old Gianna Clemente is becoming a household name on the junior golf tour

Photo courtesy of the USGA/Chris Keane. Gianna Clemente hits an approach shot on the first hole during the Round of 16 at this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Fourball championship at Grand Reserve Golf Club in Puerto Rico on Saturday.

Golf is in Gianna Clemente’s blood.

Ever since she was 18-months old, Clemente has had a golf club in her hands, and by the time she was 5-years old, Clemente was playing in her first competitive golf tournament.

“She really grew up on a golf course,” said her father Patrick. “She played other sports growing up — she played softball and tennis and other things — but really gelled with golf. Golf runs in our family. I played college golf at YSU and my brother played at Akron.”

The Warren resident and now 14-year old, who started off putting around on the practice green at Avalon Lakes and Squaw Creek with her father as a toddler, has now blossomed into a budding star on the world junior golf tour, having climbed to No. 6 in the Rolex American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) rankings.

“She started playing larger regional and national events as early as 7-years old — she won a couple world titles when she was 7 and 10-years old,” Patrick said. “From there, we’ve given her the chance to play around the country. She’s really embraced it and she’s a competitive, motivated kid that really enjoys traveling and enjoys the tournaments.”

Just this past week, she and playing partner Avery Zweig, of McKinney, Texas, competed as a team in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Fourball Championship at Grand Reserve Golf Club in Puerto Rico.

The duo shot a 7-under 137 for the two rounds of stroke play to finish tied for sixth, before then bowing out in the Round of 16 of the ensuing match play tournament 3-and-2.

“I think we both played really good golf,” Clemente said. “The course was pretty difficult — when you’re out on an island right by the ocean, obviously it’s going to be windy. We played well in our first match and came back after being down pretty much the whole day. Unfortunately with our second, the two girls we were playing against were just draining every single putt. We just didn’t have as many birdies as we needed.”

The two qualified for the event for the first time last year and came nailbitingly close to winning it, despite being the youngest team in the field — Clemente and Zweig finished tied for first or co-medalists with two other pairings during stroke play and then fell in the semifinal round in extra holes in the match play tournament.

Contrary to normal individual stroke play tournaments, the two have to work together as a team in the fourball, or “best-ball” format.

“I think Avery hits it a little further and gets a little bit more distance off the tee,” Clemente said. “But I always help her out if she’s in trouble, and I know if I get in trouble, she’s going to make birdie and that’s really important.”

Clemente is no stranger to playing on big stages like she did in Puerto Rico, but she’s different from most of the players she competes against at the junior and amateur level in that she’s usually one of the youngest players in the field. She became the third youngest player to ever qualify for a U.S. Women’s Amateur in 2019 at Old Waverly when she was 11.

Her youth hasn’t stunted her success though. She’s finished in the top-5 of all three AJGA tournaments she’s played in this year, is a two-time AJGA All-American and has won several other titles during her career.

“I’ve been the youngest basically since I can remember,” Clemente said. “It doesn’t really bother me anymore. I know that to win, I just really have to play and focus on myself and not focus on anybody else. I just have to remind myself that I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work to get this and remind myself that I deserve to be there.”

Clemente is on the verge of entering a key point in her golf career. She’s a member of the class of 2026, which means she’ll be starting high school in the fall as part of her virtual schooling curriculum.

She attended John F. Kennedy until the third grade, but then her parents made the difficult decision to transition her to virtual homeschooling in order to give her the flexibility required for traveling to compete in tournaments.

“It’s provided quite a bit of structure for her,” Patrick said. “She works hard in the mornings and evenings on school and has many more hours out on the golf course to practice. Traveling to all these tournaments…the social side of tournament golf has been a real plus. Some of her best friends live all over the country and she sees them pretty consistently because they do something similar.”

Zweig is an example of one of the close friends that Clemente has found playing competitive golf.

But, like most talented, young golfers, Clemente wants to play in college and eventually continue that on to a professional playing career, which means her high school years will be pivotal with regards to her eventual recruitment and where she wants to attend to play.

“I still have a lot of time to college, even for high school, but that’s something I want to do,” Clemente said. “I don’t know where I want to go yet, but it’s definitely something I want to do.”

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