If any observer of the amateur game wasn't familiar with Gianna Clemente, they are now, especially after the year the 15-year-old from Warren, Ohio enjoyed.
A win at the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball
with partner Avery Zweig capped off a whirlwind year for Clemente which included qualifying for three consecutive LPGA events
, making her first appearance at the Augusta National Women's Amateur, a successful title defense at the 2022 PING Invitational
and winning The Sally
, whose list of past champions include the likes of World Golf Hall of Famers Patty Berg and Babe Zaharias along with major champions Cristie Kerr, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Brooke Henderson, and Grace Park.
A two-time winner of her age division at the U.S. Kids Golf World Championship, Clemente qualified for the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National in 2017 and two years later, she became the third youngest golfer to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur in the championship’s 119-year history.
It hasn't been all roses for Clemente, who fell to Yana Wilson in the championship match of the 2022 U.S. Girls' Junior, a loss she cites as her greatest disappointment.
“She's just an amazing golfer,” said Wilson. “She's such an amazing person all around. She's very talented.”
While Clemente's reign at the top of the junior game is showing zero signs of ending before her 18th birthday, behind the scenes is a junior golfer who embraces her life off the course as much as she does on it. Gushing about Taylor Swift songs, Facetiming her best friends and a newfound love for paddleboarding, it’s clear Clemente is living her life to the fullest, all while balancing high school and a thriving amateur career.
In this installment of A Quick Nine, Clemente talks about her Augusta National Women’s Amateur experience, maturity, her thoughts on college golf and what impact she hopes to have on the game.
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A Quick Nine with Gianna Clemente
You’ve had some time to process your first experience at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Can you reflect on what that’s meant to your career?
It definitely took a couple of days to recover from. I felt like I was kind of on an adrenaline high coming home. When we got home, I was like, “Yeah, I really want to go back.” It took me a couple of days to just process everything. But now that I look back on it, it was just the most amazing experience. Yesterday, I took my headphones out and told my dad on the way to practice, “I want to go back.” It was just the most amazing experience and I can't wait to be back next year.
Just walking down the 18th fairway with my dad was pretty special – having the crowds cheer and stuff like that. Obviously, the whole day was special. Walking up to 18th green with him was definitely something I'll never forget.
The past year has been full of a lot of really impressive achievements. Winning The SALLY, the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, Monday qualifying on the LPGA three times in a row, what’s that shown you about your game and playing on a lot of bigger stages?
Last summer, and the fall was definitely a pretty crazy couple of months. Playing on the LPGA showed me a lot. It was an amazing three weeks, obviously very unexpected, but amazing. And, yeah, I had a ton of different experiences last year and also this year already. And obviously, we're kind of getting close to the summer season again. So hopefully I can do some of the same things and have some of the same successes. But yeah, last year was crazy. But it was in an absolutely good way. I had met so many great people had so many great experiences and definitely experiences that are very priceless.
How’s it been like balancing a career like yours and high school?
I'd be lying if I said it was easy. It's definitely very difficult especially when we're on the road. have to try and get everything done. Most of the time, I'm doing it after rounds, or maybe even before rounds, I have an afternoon tee time. And I did that last year as well. So you just kind of have to fit it in wherever you can. And obviously, it has to get done, all the assignments have due dates on them, and they gotta get done. So you just kind of have to find a way around it.
You mentioned at ANWA that you felt like the greatest disappointment in your career so far was losing the U.S. Girls' Junior final. How hard was it to move past that, especially when you think back to how close that match was? Gianna and Avrey Zweig
It was really difficult. I've always been a very competitive person, I've always wanted to win everything. And to come up just short in match play like that, when you feel like you have all the momentum is pretty gut-wrenching. It took a little bit of time to recover from.
There are a lot of ups and downs in golf, and you're gonna disappoint yourself sometimes, and you know, you're gonna come up short sometimes, that’s just the way that golf is. I'm sure it's gonna happen again, at some point, probably multiple times, even though I don't want it to. But yeah, it definitely took some time to recover from. It was definitely important for me to just give myself that time to recover, especially mentally, and then get right back out there.
Coming up short is definitely something that will mature you very fast.
You aren't old enough to take campus visits yet, but is college golf on your mind?
Yeah, definitely. Obviously, I can't talk to coaches yet. So I don't really know where I want to go. Just because I haven't seen campuses and can't talk to coaches. So it's really hard to make that decision right now. And it's just kind of something that is kind of on the back burner for now.
Obviously, I have a lot more that I want to accomplish before I even have to think about college. I definitely want to go – I just don't know where.
What's an aspect of your golf game that you feel sets you apart from your competitors?
I feel like I've always been a really good ball striker. You can ask my dad – I think he'd say the same thing. It's very often that my dad literally has to pull me off of the range. Because I will just beat balls all the time. It's just how I started. And that's just kind of what's soothing to my brain. I just could hit balls forever. And that's the majority of my practice, which is not all a good thing, but I just could hit balls forever. And I think that’s just because I genuinely enjoy it. It is kind of directly related to why I'm so good under the gun and in competition.
What are some things that you've been working on lately?
I've just been working on kind of just some basic swing mechanics, just making sure that everything's the way I want it to be. I'm a perfectionist. So when my swing’s not perfect, I immediately have to fix it. But I've also been spending a lot of time on the putting green, which is something that I talked to a little bit about in interviews at Augusta, just that I needed to be spending more time just working on my stroke and stuff like that. So definitely just spending a lot more hours out there.
Augusta greens – they will humble you!
What do you hope your impact on golf looks like in the next five or 10 years?
That is a question I have never been asked before. My goal has always been to be the best of all time. And I have said that ever since I was a little kid. And for now, obviously, I have a lot of work to do. And I have a lot left. But as of right now, I'm just taking it day by day. I want to be on tour and I want to play collegiately and I want to as long as I can. But the goal has always been to be the best of all time.
What would be your advice to people who are new to the game or trying to improve their game?
Just work at it. It takes a lot of practice, and it takes repetition and just takes so much work. And if somebody's willing to put in that work, I think that they're already off to a good start. It just takes so much effort, and so much repetition to get to the point where I'm at right now.
It takes a full support system. It takes the right equipment, the right mentality, it takes a lot of different things. And I would say the first thing is just being willing to put in that work and just work at it until you can see the results.
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The Gianna Clemente File
Patrick and Julia
Augusta National Golf Club; Karsten Creek
Favorite Taylor Swift song:
All Too Well (10 minute version)
Hobbies away from golf:
• No. 1-ranked junior in AJGA
• 2023 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball champion (with Avery Zweig)
• 2023 SALLY Champion
• 2022 U.S. Girls’ Junior Runner-Up
• 2022 The PING Invitational champion
• Three-time AJGA All-American
• Youngest player to Monday qualify for three consecutive LPGA events
• 2017 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finalist
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