Gianna Clemente’s first US junior experience isn’t one you’ll soon forget.
14-year-old Estero made her way to Saturday’s 36-hole final at The Club at Old Stone in Bowling Green, Kentucky where she lost 3-2 to Yana Wilson of Henderson, Nev.
Clemente was 1-up after 26 holes when she hit the flag on her third shot on the 9th hole of a par-5 with the ball bouncing from the edge of the green to the coarse. A long hit sank to make up the hole, but Wilson’s Bird tied the match heading into the final nine.
However, this appears to have been an ideal location for Clemente, who lost just four holes in the back nine in five rounds of the match before Saturday’s final, a place she freely admitted she never expected to reach when the tournament began.
However, on the Par-4’s 10th hole, Clemente’s second shot found the green bunker, resulting in a bogey. Wilson was able to fix the hole to take the lead, and she’s one she won’t give up.
The 15-year-old Wilson, who reached the quarter-finals at last year’s tournament and ranked 87th in the women’s amateur golf world rankings, has won four of the last eight holes in the game. Aside from hitting the flagpole, Clemente also took out two hits that could have toughened the match.
“I think I definitely need to do some work,” Clemente said in an interview on The Golf Channel after the final. “But I played well. I can’t complain about winning five games. I will move on to the next stage.”
Clemente is scheduled to compete in the Junior PGA Championship scheduled for August 2-5 at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Palos Park, Illinois.
As a result of finishing second, Clemente also got an exemption from next month’s US Amateur Championships at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington. That tournament saw Clemente earn national acclaim in 2019 when she qualified for being 11-years-old, the third youngest golfer to compete in the event.
“I’m so excited,” Clemente said of her return to the women’s amateurs. “I’m definitely going to get some really good preparations for this.”
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Clemente, a native of Warren, Ohio, began playing competitive golf at the age of five. With her family spending part of the year in Estero, she began working with coach Spencer Graham at the Quail Creek Country Club in Naples when she was seven years old. Estero recently made their full time home.
Clemente, ranked 167th in the women’s amateur world rankings, reached the final on Saturday thanks to the strength of one of the best rounds of her career. Eight Birds over the 13th hole to eliminate 16-year-old Maria Jose Marin of Colombia, scored 6 and 5 in the semi-final match. Earlier on Friday, Clemente defeated 18-year-old Australian Judge Bosseau 3-2 in the quarterfinals.
Clemente became the second golfer with ties to southwest Florida to reach the US Junior Championships. In 1998, Fort Myers Brittany Straza also finished second in the 50th edition of the tournament, losing 2-down at Merion (Pa.) Golf Club.
Gianna Clemente’s Road to the USA Girls’ Junior Final
- Rounds 1-2: Shot 71-73 to qualify for the 16th seed
- Round of 64: Defeated Jessica Geiser (Hartland, Whisk) 3, 2
- Round of 32: Defeated Adrian Anderson (Murrell’s Inlet, SC) 2 over
- Round of 16: Defeated Chiara Romano (St. Jose, CA) 6, 4
- Quarter-finals: Defeated Judge Bosseau (Australia) 2 and 1
- Semi-final rounds: defeated Maria Jose Marin (Colombia) 6, 5
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