Teen Queens: Clemente, Zweig Take Title at The Home Course
Five years ago, Avery Zweig made history as the youngest competitor in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at 11 years, 3 months, a mark that still stands. On Wednesday at The Home Course in DuPont, Wash., she and her younger partner, Gianna Clemente, added their names to the record book in an even more meaningful way.
Clemente, 15, of Estero, Fla.; and Zweig, 16, of McKinney, Texas; rallied from an early 2-hole deficit to defeat current collegians Tiffany Le and Kate Villegas, 3 and 1, and capture the 8th iteration of a competition that has been dominated by juniors. Clemente, the runner-up in last year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior, and Zweig surpassed 2016 champions Hailee Cooper (16) and Kaitlyn Papp (17) as the youngest champions of this event by a combined two years of age.
The victory earns Clemente and Zweig exemptions into the U.S. Women’s Amateur in August at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, as well as berths in the U.S. Girls’ Junior in July at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Golf Course in Colorado Springs, Colo. (as 2022 runner-up, Clemente was already exempt).
“It means the world,” said Zweig. “The USGA makes their championships and titles very difficult, and if someone has won a USGA championship of any kind that's a very large feat.
“This week we really didn’t have any expectations. We didn’t talk about winning or match play once. Just stayed present and kept it casual. I’m just really proud of this whole team… me, Gianna, but it doesn’t end there. A lot of people have supported us.”
In 2021 at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas, Clemente and Zweig reached the semifinals in their first Four-Ball as a team. They were eliminated in the Round of 16 last year in Puerto Rico.
This victory also continues the meteoric rise for Clemente, who qualified for the 2019 U.S. Women’s Amateur at age 11 and last summer Monday-qualified for three consecutive LPGA Tour events, which moved her inside the top 75 of the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking®/WAGR® (she’s currently No. 44).
“It’s amazing,” said Clemente. “It’s been such a long and grueling week with a lot of really tense moments and a lot of really fun ones in there, too. I can’t even explain it.”
Le, 19, of Covina, Calif., a sophomore at the University of California Riverside, won this year’s Big West Conference title, and Villegas, 20, of Arcadia, Calif., a two-time All-Big West selection in her three years at UCR before transferring to UCLA in January, were hoping to end the junior dominance of this championship. Only two college tandems – Taylor Totland and Alice Chen (2017), and Ellen Secor and Katrina Prendergast (2018) – have etched their names on the trophy.
Le and Villegas got off to a great start by making a winning birdie on the opening hole and another on the par-5 fifth. A bogey on No. 7 was offset by Le’s 12-foot birdie on the par-5 eighth, giving the side a 2-up advantage for a second time.
It was shortlived, as Clemente/Zweig birdied No. 9 to trail only by one going to the second nine. A bogey by the collegians – just their third in match play – on the 180-yard, par-3 12th tied the match and Clemente/Zweig used that momentum to win three of the next five holes. The big blow came on the 157-yard, par-3 14th hole. Clemente made a rare miscue off the tee, finding the penalty area, but Zweig holed a 25-yard pitch for birdie and then watched as Le/Villegas failed to convert birdie putts.
“Oh, it was massive,” said Zweig. “Fourteen has kind of been a nemesis hole for me this week. I love this course and I’m happy I don’t have to see that [hole] for a little bit.
“Over that chip I wasn’t really thinking much. I just had a general idea where I needed to land it and put a good stroke on it and got some good luck.”
Zweig’s good fortune continued on No. 15 when she converted a short birdie for a 2-up lead, and when the side birdied the par-4 17th, the match was over. The pair had not had to play past the 16th hole in any of their previous four matches.
In the semifinals contested on Wednesday morning, Clemente and Zweig posted a 4-and-3 victory over Leigh Chien, 17, of Irvine, Calif., and Anna Huang, 14, of Canada. The other semifinal saw Le and Villegas rally from an early 3-down deficit to post a 2-up victory over 14-year-olds Angela Zhang, of Bellevue, Wash., and 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur co-medalist Alice Ziyi Zhao, of Irvine, Calif. Zhang qualified in Pittsburgh, Pa., on May 8 for the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open, to be played at Pebble Beach Golf Links for the first time, from July 6-9.
“This has been one of the best weeks of my life, and to spend it with somebody that I'm so close with, it's been amazing.” – Gianna Clemente on winning the title with close friend Avery Zweig
“Honestly, that's probably one of my worst partner moments, because I was not paying attention. I was very busy with the ball that I hit in the water. But I heard a huge roar, and I immediately stood right up. I was just like, please tell me that was Avery.” – Clemente on Zweig’s 25-yard chip-in for birdie on No. 14 that turned the momentum
“We definitely learned from our experience as a team in the semis [in 2021] to not let that bother you, especially in the later matches, with that much on the line.” – Zweig on the ebbs and flows of match play
“It’s obviously disappointing to have it end early, but proud of the fight we gave today. We fought until the 18th hole.” – Angela Zhang after the semifinal loss with partner Alice Ziyi Zhao
“It was a really fun week. We played with and against some really great players. We played well as a team, so we're proud of that.” – Anna Huang who partnered with Leigh Chien
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Julia Pine, the USGA’s director, championship communications, contributed from The Home Course.
Winner, winner! 🏆— USGA (@USGA) May 18, 2023
Avery Zweig and Gianna Clemente are the 2023 #USWFourBall champions! pic.twitter.com/fNeIcjYHoM
👏🏌️♀️ Cheers to Bellevue's Angela Zhang and her partner Alice Zhao on a wonderful week at the #USWFourBall Championship.— Washington Golf (WA Golf) (@PlayWAGolf) May 17, 2023
The 14-year-old duo fell in this morning's semifinal round at The Home Course. #PlayWAGolf
🔗 https://t.co/muyBMhaYdJ pic.twitter.com/8rhO0faMen