Benjamin James and Gianna Clemente on top at PING Invitational
Gianna Clemente holds a two-stroke lead heading into Monday's final round of the PING Invitational
Gianna Clemente holds a two-stroke lead heading into Monday's final round of the PING Invitational

Ben James of Milford, Connecticut, and Gianna Clemente of Warren, Ohio, made the most of moving day at The PING Invitational, taking the lead in their respective divisions.

This year's PING Invitational showcases the best of the next generation of future college and professional stars. Host venue Karsten Creek is home to the Oklahoma State University Men's and Women's Golf teams. The course was ranked No. 69 in Golfweek's list of "Top 200 Modern Golf Courses" for 2021.

The tournament field is loaded with talent. Of the 72 players in the field, there are 56 AJGA champions, including four 2021 Invitational winners. Additionally, there are 33 college commits and 33 Rolex Junior All-Americans. Players hail from 17 states and five international countries.

Starting the second round one shot off the lead at 2-under-par 70, James immediately gave a stroke back with a bogey on his first hole of the day, the par-4 No. 10. Despite the less than ideal start, James rebounded with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14. The Virginia commit quickly gave those shots back, however, making two bogeys on Nos. 15 and 17 to sit at 1-over on the day. James capped off his roller coaster opening nine with an eagle on No. 18 to make the turn at 1-under-par 35.

After losing some momentum with a bogey on the par-5 first, James kicked it into gear. The two-time Rolex Junior All-American fired five birdies over his final eight holes to post a 4-under-par 32 on that side for a round of 5-under-par 67. It's the lowest round of the tournament thus far in either division. James will enter the final round with a nine-stroke lead at 7-under-par 137.

James is looking to cap off an already incredible season in which he's won the Scott Robertson Memorial, Team TaylorMade Invitational, Northern Junior Championship and Junior PLAYERS Championship. James finished tenth at the 2020 PING Invitational and is No. 2 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.

Nicholas Prieto of Miami, and Aaron Pounds of The Woodlands, Texas, are tied for second at 2-over-par 146. Prieto is No. 45 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and in search of his first AJGA victory. His best finish this year was T3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Junior honoring Jim Bell. Pounds is committed to Texas A&M University and finished tied for fourth at the Jack Burke Jr. Invitational in August.

Caleb Surratt of Indian Trail, North Carolina, is in fourth at 4-over-par 148. The University of Tennessee commit is No. 3 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and has two national junior golf victories on the year at the Western Junior Championship and the Boys Junior PGA Championship.

Bryan Kim of Brookeville, Maryland, and Preston Stout of Dallas, are T5 at 5-over-par 149.

Clemente was seven shots back of the lead to start the day after posting a 5-over-par 77 in round one. Knowing she had to make the most of moving day, Clemente got off to a hot start with birdies on her first three holes. After making a bogey on the par-3 No. 7, Clemente went on to make the turn at 2-under-par 34. The 2026 grad then played a flawless back nine with birdies on Nos. 15 and 18. Her 4-under-par 68 is the lowest round in the Girls Division through two days of play. She will enter the final round of The PING Invitational with a two-shot lead at 1-over-par 145.

Clemente is a 2020 Rolex Junior All-American and No. 34 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings. She's been on a tear of late, with a win at the AJGA Junior at Big Sky and third-place finishes at the UHY Albany Junior and the KPMG Stacy Lewis Junior All-Star Invitational.

Jacqueline Putrino of Lakewood Ranch, Florida, and Lucy Yuan of (Canada) San Diego, are tied for second at 3-over-par 147.

Putrino, a Florida State University commit, is No. 17 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings. She won the Dustin Johnson World Junior in March. She Yuan is No. 21 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and already owns three AJGA victories in her first three seasons on the circuit. The 2024 grad won the 2019 Golf Performance Center Junior All-Star, the 2020 AJGA Stan Utley and Mid-America Youth Golf Foundation Junior All-Star, and the 2021 Lanto Junior Championship.

Leigh Chien is in fourth at 4-over-par 148. The 2020 Rolex Junior All-American won the KPMG Stacy Lewis Junior All-Star Invitational in 2019 and 2020.

Kynadie Adams of Nashville, Tennessee, Katie Li of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and Ava Merrill of Johns Creek, Georgia, are T5 at 5-over-par 149.

Final-round tee times will run from 8:30-10:20 a.m. off Nos. 1 and 10 on Monday, October 11, at Karsten Creek.

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ABOUT THE The PING Invitational Junior

One of the AJGA series of tournaments that require an invitation to participate. Format is 54 holes of stroke play.

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