It’s the second week in a row that 14-year-old Gianna Clemente has Monday qualified for an LPGA Tour event, and while her first Tour start at the CP Women’s Open was an extraordinary moment in her young career, this week’s Dana Open presented by Marathon will be even sweeter for the Youngstown, Ohio native. Clemente attended the event as a young fan and although most of the details are fuzzy and she doesn’t recall much of her time at Highland Meadows Golf Club, she does remember following major champion Lexi Thompson, who she was afraid to go up to in the locker room in Canada.
“I don't really remember a lot of it, but I remember coming out and walking and watching Lexi, and I thought that was so cool. It's kind of crazy to me. It doesn't seem like that long ago even though it was, but this is definitely a special one to play in, so I'm really excited,” said Clemente who shot a 3-under 69 at Stone Oak Country Club to qualify. “I saw Lexi in the locker room in Canada and I was just way too scared to go up and say hi. No, I was not doing that.”
The week in Ottawa was an important learning experience for the teenager and gave her an idea of what it’s like to be a professional on the LPGA Tour. She played pretty well all things considering, opening with a 2-under 69, but a 3-over 74 just kept her from playing the weekend. “It was kind of chaotic the first day because you got to plan practice rounds, and I had no idea what I was doing,” said Clemente. “My dad had a work meeting to go to so I did it by myself the first day. Even though I missed the cut, it was so much fun to have (my dad) on the bag and to have that as a first experience was awesome.”
Despite her age, Clemente doesn’t come to Toledo without plenty of experience. She finished runner-up to Yana Wilson at this year’s U.S. Girls’ Junior and was also the runner-up at the Girls Rolex Championship in June. In 2021, Clemente was a co-medalist and semifinalist in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball with partner Avery Zweig, and she’s qualified for two U.S. Women’s Amateurs to date, in 2019 and 2022. But as she looks ahead to another week once again teeing it up with the world’s best players, Clemente is making a point to remind herself to keep the expectations in check and that the real success is just being inside in the ropes at the Dana Open in the first place.
“In the other Monday qualifier, I didn't expect to get in, I didn't play my best, but in this Monday qualifier I really did play good. I made a birdie on 17 in this Monday qualifier to get in,” said Clemente. “The biggest expectation that I have to handle is my own. I set higher expectations for myself than anybody else ever could, which could be a good thing and could be a bad thing. I'm reminding myself at this tournament that I made it here and that's the big deal.”