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Estero golfer Gianna Clemente named to U.S. National Jr. Team

Gianna Clemente
Augusta National Women's Amateur
Special to WGCU
Gianna Clemente

The accolades continue for Estero golfer Gianna Clemente.

Braun, Michael
Braun, Michael

Clemente, who turned 16 in March, was one of 10 girls to be named to the first U.S. National Junior Team. Eight boys were named to the team.

“It’s really exciting,” Clemente said.

She will attend the first training camp May 8-11 in Atlanta. The team will have a friendly match with Australia this summer in the U.S.

The United States Golf Association started the U.S. National Development Program last year. The pillars of the program are talent identification, access to competition, national teams, athlete resources, player development and relations and financial support.

The national junior team is the first, but the program will start an elite amateur team and a young pro team by 2026.

Most other countries have national teams to develop players.

“I think we’ve been gained on quite a bit,” said national team coach Chris Zambri. “Every other country, especially those that compete in the Olympics has a national program.”

The thinking in the past was the U.S. is so big and there are enough good players and resources we didn’t need a program, he said.

“But there are some indicators that it’s not necessarily going so great, and quite frankly, even if it was, I think it would be a good idea to have a program like this,” Zambri said.

The U.S. program won’t be as intense as some of the ones elsewhere. The golfers won’t be living together and working daily with Zambri.

“I’ve been mulling things over, like how are we going to make an impact remotely,” he said.

The team will receive year-around support with world-class coaching, sports psychology and nutritional guidance, Zambri said.

The girls had to be in the class of 2025 or after. Clemente is in the 2026 graduating class.

The selection committee used several criteria when selecting the 10 girls, including rankings, talking to the golfers and their parents, golf experts and tournament scores.

Zambri, a former college coach, said scores are important.

“There’s nothing like scores in tournaments,” he said. “What are you shooting in tournament play and how are finishing in tournaments.”

Golf manufacturing reps were a valuable source.

“They’re paid to identify players who are going to play the tour, so that’s what we want. We want to have an effect on players who will eventually play the major tours as professionals,” Zambri said.

Clemente already was on Zambri’s radar before he became coach of the national team. He had heard about her two years ago when she qualified three weeks in a row for LPGA qualifiers.

He talked to Clemente and her dad Patrick at a tournament earlier this year and then visited them at Bonita Bay.

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