Four years after making her U.S. Women’s Amateur debut at age 11, Gianna Clemente, 15, of Estero, Fla., is back with bigger expectations and significantly more attention.
Entering the week as one of the hottest players in the field (she won the PGA Junior Championship last week), Clemente already has one USGA title under her belt this season, teaming up with Avery Zweig to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in May at The Home Course in Dupont, Wash.
She kept the momentum going on Wednesday, defeating 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Jensen Castle, 4 and 3, in a marquee match that was closer than the score showed. The two USGA champions didn’t tie a hole until the par-4 seventh, which both players birdied. Through holes 1-6, Castle took three separate 1-up leads, and in each case, Clemente immediately followed with a win to tie the match.
Things would change after the turn, though, as Clemente, the No. 3 seed, won four straight holes starting at No. 11, a stretch that included two birdies. She will now face Anne Chen, of Sugar Land, Texas, in the Round of 32 on Thursday morning.
“I've changed as a player and as a person so much [since 2019],” said Clemente. “Definitely a lot better than I was when I was 11. I think the amount of experience I've gained since then has been really big and I've played so many USGA events since then. I've done so much and played so many professional events and amateur events that, yeah, I feels like a completely different person for sure.”
On the other side of the bracket, Briana Chacon made sure there was no mention of a medalist curse, despite the fact that six of the last nine No. 1 seeds have gone down to their No. 64 seeded opponents.
Chacon, who is set to begin her fifth year at the University of Oregon in a few weeks, jumped out to a quick 1-up lead over Olivia Duan, 17, of Cupertino, Calif., after an eagle on the first hole.
Duan, who advanced out of a two-hole playoff to grab the final spot in the match play bracket earlier Wednesday morning, showed some fight, tying the match on the fifth hole before winning holes 6 and 8 to take a 2-up advantage. Chacon would claw her way back, tying the match on the 14th hole, then winning on the first extra hole, the 19th of the match, with a birdie.
“On the back nine, I was doing some catch-up work for sure,” said Chacon. “Had a few birdies go in luckily, and had some really good approach shots and just made some more clutch putts on the back nine.”
Other notables to advance out of the Round of 64 include two-time USA Curtis Cup team members Rachel Heck, of Stanford, and Rachel Kuehn, of Wake Forest, as well as 2022 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Yana Wilson, of Henderson, Nev.
The Round of 32 begins at 7 a.m. PT on Thursday, followed by the Round of 16 at 1 p.m. Golf Channel will broadcast live from 3-6 p.m. PT (6-9 p.m. ET).
“I played the Polo Junior Classic earlier this year. I was a finalist there. I think that really gave me a lot of confidence and experience.” - Nikki Oh on her familiarity with match play
“In match play, I just like to stay very even keeled, just focus on myself. I try not to get too like caught up with the other player and just try to focus on myself and minimize my mistakes and just try to do the best that I can do.” - Briana Chacon on her match play approach
“I thought I hit it too far because it literally just disappeared and I was like, oh, my gosh. It's over the green. Like I hit it over. But it looked like it slam dunked -- it was really silent, too. .But in match play it's like, great eagle. Let's move on.” - Latanna Stone on her hole-out eagle from the fairway on No. 7
“It was honestly so much fun, but it was really hard at the same time. Because we're both out there to win but we're really good friends. So it was really hard. I feel for her. I mean, we're all out here to do one thing though, and get the job done.” - Stone on playing against friend and Curtis Cup teammate Amari Avery
“Golf is full of ups and downs. I haven't had the best summer leading up to this, but felt like my game was in pretty good shape. Sometimes it's like that. You can play well and not score well.” - Rachel Kuehn on the state of her game entering the week