11-year-old unconcerned being youngest in the field at U.S. Women's Amateur

Jenna D Imaging

11-year-old unconcerned being youngest in the field at U.S. Women's Amateur

Amateur

11-year-old unconcerned being youngest in the field at U.S. Women's Amateur

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When Gianna Clemente was asked if she pictures herself pursuing professional golf after she finishes school or if she has another vocation in mind, she confidently answered without a moment’s hesitation.

“Yeah, I want to be on the LPGA tour,” the 11-year-old said casually. “I want to be one of the best of all time.”

Given her self-assuredness and talent, she has a good shot.

Gianna, who considers Lexi Thompson and Ryann O’Toole role models, became the third-youngest player to ever qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur in the event’s 119-year history when she shot 1-under 71 at the Williamsburg, Va. qualifier on July 3.

The only players younger than Gianna to ever compete in the U.S. Women’s Amateur were Lucy Li (10 years, 10 months and four days) in 2013 and Latanna Stone (10 years, 11 months and two days) in 2012. Neither golfer qualified for the match-play portion of the event in their respective appearances. Gianna will be 11 years, 4 months and 14 days old when the championship begins.

The 5-foot-1, rising sixth grader from Warren, Ohio rallied from a tough front nine in her qualifier, making birdies on holes 14-16 and par on the final two to earn the third and final spot in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Gianna, who made three birdies and four bogeys in the qualifier, placed behind Ohio State rising sophomore Aneka Seumanutafa with a 67 and Tracy Lee, a rising sophomore at Wisconsin, who fished with a 69.

Her father and caddie for the USGA event, Patrick Clemente, admitted his daughter surpassed even his expectations at the qualifier.

“I admittedly went (to the event) with her telling her this was going to be a great experience, you know. The yardage is so long for someone her age so I’m in the mindset of, ‘Hey, let’s enjoy the day and it’s a great experience,'” Clemente said. “Gia’s had a lot of experience and success at a young age and I think the competitor in her mind probably took over her dad’s (expectation) and said, ‘I can do this.'”

Anyone who talks to Gianna is convinced she’s a born competitor. Since she began playing golf at two years old, Gianna has accumulated 117 tournaments wins including the Honda Junior Classic Champion at PGA National in 2018 and two U.S. Kids World Championship titles for her age group in 2016 and 2018. Even without her impressive number of wins, among her most inspiring qualities is not only her ability to lock-in during competition, but her confidence.

Gianna is expected to be the youngest golfer to play at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Old Waverly Golf Club in West Point, Mississippi Aug. 8-11. And she’s fine with that.

“I try to stay in my own little bubble,” Gianna said. “I try to focus on just my own game and not the score or the leaderboard. It’s just all me and I try to focus just on that.”

Another boost for Gianna’s confidence at the U.S. Women’s Amateur is that her father will be by her side on the bag. Clemente, who caddied for Gianna occasionally before his daughter began playing in many more series self-caddie junior golf events over the past year, played college golf at Youngstown State in Youngstown, Ohio and said his college golf experience helps a bit when caddying, but ultimately, the gentle natured and humble 11-year-old is in charge on the course.

“We’re just along for the ride,” Clemente said.

Gianna Clemente. (Photo: Patrick Clemente)

As Clemente carries his daughter’s bag and advises her at the U.S. Women’s Amateur, he’s most excited about watching his daughter enjoy the fruits of her labor. Over the few days the Clemente family will be in West Point for the practice rounds and at least the first two rounds of the event, Clemente is most excited about watching his daughter spend time alongside older elite and talented players.

Players of whom Gianna will not intimidated — a trait Clemente finds endlessly impressive about his daughter.

“You’re sitting there telling her that she’s playing with elite juniors or even now college players and some of the best amateurs in the world at this event. … but you also see someone who is extremely competitive and feisty and believes in herself to the point where she believes she can win any event she goes to,” Clemente said. “I’m not certainly suggesting that that’s the mindset for this (event) but that’s the balancing act is just enjoying the experience and learning from the experience.

“But I also see the competitor in her where she doesn’t get quite as intimidated around people that they’re pinning it 20, 30, 40 yards farther. She’s more just focused on herself and doing the best she can on each and every hole and on each and every shot.”

Gianna Clemente after qualifying for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur. (Photo: Patrick Clemente)

As for Gianna, she’s obviously focused on playing her best headed into the U.S. Women’s Amateur. She knows she deserves to be there just as much as everyone else in the field, but the most valuable part of qualifying for her is the opportunity to spend time with some of the best amateur players in the world and glean from their experience, regardless of where she places.

“I want to learn from all the college players that are there and I know that there’s going to be a little bit of pressure for me, but I’m confident in myself,” Gianna said. “I don’t really know how I’m going to score there, but I’m confident that I can go do well.”

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