Gianna Clemente's Incredible Journey from Junior Golf to the LPGA TOUR
By Brendon Elliott, PGA
Amateur Gianna Clemente of the United States plays her shot on the fourth hole during the second round of the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G at Kenwood Country Club on September 09, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Gianna Clemente is a name known by many within golf, and for those that don’t yet know it, they most certainly will in the years to come. Gianna is a 14-year-old golf standout with a rocket strapped to her back as she continues to log victories and do amazing things in not only the junior ranks, but on even bigger stages as well, like the LPGA Tour.
A winner of over 130 tournaments, Gianna's whirlwind summer included qualifying for three straight LPGA Tour events. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Gianna and her parents, Julia & Patrick, to talk about this amazing journey they are on.
When did you first pick up a club?
Gianna Clemente (GC): There are a few pictures of me on a putting green with a cut down putter at about 18 months, lol. But I would say I’ve just grown up on a golf course. From riding in the cart with my parents really young, to playing a par 3 course probably at 3-4 years old, the golf course was always just like a second home.
How old were you when you first competed?
GC: I had just turned 5 years old a few days before my first US Kids event. My birthday is just before the Masters, I was actually watching the Masters before my dad, and I went to the tournament.
At what point in your development did you realize that you had what it took to compete at a very high level?
GC: That’s kind of a tough question to narrow down to one or two specific things. I have loved competing at a high level ever since I can remember, and I had a lot of success very young. I think one moment that really stands out is playing the US Women’s Amateur when I was 11. At that time, I don’t think I really understood how high the level of golf I actually was competing at. I just knew I wanted to keep being there, and that maybe I wasn’t all that far off from being successful at that level, even at 11.
What has this wild ride you have been on, with the consecutive LPGA Tour starts, been like?
GC: It definitely was a wild couple weeks. Monday qualifying three weeks in a row is a great accomplishment and something I'll remember for a long time. Probably one of the most memorable moments in my career will always be having little girls come up to me asking for an autograph… because not that long ago, that was me, it was really special. From the tournament staffs to all the volunteers and fans at every event, I met so many great people. An experience of a lifetime and hope to be back again soon.
What are you currently working on in your game?
GC: The fall has less events so I’m going to take some time to focus on physical strength, fitness, and endurance. I'd love to gain a little more distance in my game, but also continuing to be a well-rounded athlete is just overall beneficial.
From the standpoint of practice, how much time do you put in weekly? Non-tournament and tournament weeks…
GC: Personally, I don’t really like to take days off, but I do completely rest the day after any tournament. As far as tournament prep goes, I generally put in about 4-5 hours a day if I can. This can be anything from a full range and short game day to a full-on course day. Non-tournament weeks tend to be a little more laid back, working on specific areas of improvement vs overall game prep, and I usually play more social golf then.
What advice would you give to a little girl just getting into golf?
GC: Work hard, but always keep it fun. Set some short term and long-term goals then believe in yourself and be patient, even when things don’t always go the way you want.
What advice would you give to golfers in general looking to improve their game?
GC: I think one of the things I see the most is golfers getting frustrated. Golf is a game of patience and learning. Once people are frustrated it is almost certain that the next shot won’t go any better. Don’t be afraid to maybe reach out to a local PGA Professional and maybe take some swing or short game instruction. Most of all have fun!
I wanted to also get some perspective from Gianna’s parents as well. With that, Gianna’s mom Julia and dad Patrick shared their experience as family.
As a golf parents, what do you consider the most important things in raising a golfer?
Julia and Patrick (J&P): Specifically, as it relates to being Gianna’s parents, we think it has been really important for us to help develop, foster, and support her short and long-term goals. Gianna has always been a very driven, highly motivated kid who has had a lot of success from a very young age. She has always wanted a challenge and wanted to compete against the best players she is able to at every level of her development. Helping her to manage expectations, foster growth on those short-term objectives, while at the same time not losing sight of the big picture and what her long-term goals may be. Navigating that balance can be difficult at times. Becoming an elite player, is not always a straight upward climb, right? There are a lot of highs and lows to manage. So, for us as a family, it is important to focus on trusting the process, trusting the plan…staying in the moment. And beyond that, we think for any parent of a junior golfer, it is important to keep it fun. Keep it fun in practice, laugh, enjoy the family time. And Gianna has had the opportunity to make lifelong friends from playing golf. Keeping the social aspect can sometimes seem difficult in an “individual” sport. But as Gianna has gotten older, tournaments like The Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, AJGA’s Wyndham Cup, other team events and invitationals where she has had the opportunity to be on her own, building relationships… that has been priceless for her. We think she would tell you some of those experiences have been the most memorable and most cherished so far in her career.
Pride likely can't even begin to paint the picture of the feeling’s you guys have for Gianna... What has been the most special moment, or moments over this stretch of great play?
J&P: Absolutely, this has been an incredible summer of golf. While some might think it is the great finishes, or the qualifiers, or the LPGA events themselves, our biggest sense of pride has come from actually being able to take a step back and observe how she has handled these moments and stages. The pressure of competing at some of golf’s biggest events, galleries of people watching, the media attention, being in the booth with Morgan Pressel interviewing her, having young girls ask for her autograph and watching her not only feel comfortable, be genuine, but also truly thrive and enjoy those moments… that has brought us a sense of pride that can’t quite be put into words. I think one of those moments was hearing her say in a Golf Channel interview that competing with the best female golfers in the world has just confirmed to her that professional golf is eventually where she belongs and what she wants to do with her future. It is just so gratifying as a parent when your child not only has that passion to achieve big goals, but it is also where they are the happiest. Being talented and successful doesn’t always also come with being happy, confident, and self-assured. For us, those are the biggest wins.