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Estero's Gianna Clemente, 14 and the top-ranked U.S. junior golfer, wins 'Sally' championship

Gianna.jpg
Patrick Clemente
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Special to WGCU
Gianna Clemente, 14, hold up her winning trophy from the South Atlantic Women’s Amateur Championship, better known as the Sally, in Ormond Beach, Saturday. Clemente, who lives the majority of the year in Estero, is the the top-ranked junior golfer in the United States.

Gianna Clemente stood on the 18th tee Saturday knowing she had to make a par to win the South Atlantic Women’s Amateur Championship, better known as the Sally, in Ormond Beach.

“I hit probably my best tee shot of the week,” she said afterward. She then hit a wedge to within 18 feet of the pin and easily two-putted for her par and another championship trophy.

Clemente joined current LPGA stars Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Brooke Henderson and Grace Park and hall-of-famers Patty Berg and Babe Zaharias as winners of the prestigious tournament played at Oceanside Country Club along the edge of the Atlantic.

Clemente is 14 and the top-ranked junior golfer in the United States. She and her parents spend about eight months a year living in Estero and the rest of the time living in Northeast Ohio.

Clemente went into the final round of the tournament with a two-shot lead after shooting a 3-under par 69 in Friday’s third round.

“She really played well,” said her dad Patrick Clemente, who caddied for her. “She could have played lower, 4-5-6 under.”

She started Saturday just the opposite with three bogeys.

“I knew I needed to play my game,” she said. “Other people had bogeys, too.”

She settled down and finished the front nine with five pars and a birdie. She then shot one-over-par on the back nine for a 75 and even par for the tournament.

“She grinded all day,” her dad said. “She didn’t play her best, but she played tough.”


ABOUT

  • Birthdate: 3/23/08
  • Graduating Class: 2026
  • Age: 14
  • Home Courses: Avalon Lakes Country Club, Warren, OH & Bonita Bay Club, Bonita Bay, FL
  • Coach: Spencer Graham, JGPA, Quail Creek CC ~ Naples, FL & Megan Padua Bonita Bay CC Bonita Bay, FL
  • Total tournament victories: 133

Clemente was no stranger to the tournament. She first played in it when she was 11. She finished 16th that year, then 11th in 2021 and fourth last year.

Probably two-thirds of the 72 golfers in the tournament play on college teams. Clemente is used to playing against golfers much older than her. She qualified to play in three LPGA events last summer.

The age difference doesn’t matter to Clemente, who has been defeating older competitors since she was a little girl.

“At the end of the day you’re playing golf,” she said. “It doesn’t matter to me.”

Clemente will play in an American Junior Golf Association event starting Saturday in Orlando, the 54-hole Hilton Grand Vacations ANNIKA Invitational presented by Rolex.

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