Benjamin James of Milford, Connecticut, and Gianna Clemente of Warren, Ohio, made the most of moving day at The PING Invitational, taking the lead in their respective divisions.
This year's PING Invitational showcases the best of the next generation of future college and professional stars. Host venue Karsten Creek is home to the Oklahoma State University Men's and Women's Golf teams. The course was ranked No. 24 in Golf Digest's list of "America's 100 Greatest Public Courses" for 2021-22.
The tournament field is loaded with talent. Of the 72 players in the field, there are 56 AJGA champions, including four 2021 Invitational winners. Additionally, there are 33 college commits and 33 Rolex Junior All-Americans. Players hail from 17 states and five international countries.
Starting the second round one shot off the lead at 2-under-par 70, James immediately gave a stroke back with a bogey on his first hole of the day, the par-4 No. 10. Despite the less than ideal start, James rebounded with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 13 and 14. The Virginia commit quickly gave those shots back however, making two bogeys on Nos. 15 and 17 to sit at 1-over on the day. James capped off his roller coaster opening nine with an eagle on No. 18 to make the turn at 1-under-par 35.
After losing some momentum with a bogey on the par-5 No. 1, James kicked it into gear. The two-time Rolex Junior All-American fired five birdies over his final eight holes to post a 4-under-par 32 on that side for a round of 5-under-par 67. It's the lowest round of the tournament thus far in either division. James will enter the final round with a nine-stroke lead at 7-under-par 137.
James is looking to cap off an already incredible season in which he's won the Scott Robertson Memorial, Team TaylorMade Invitational, Northern Junior Championship and Junior PLAYERS Championship. James finished tenth at the 2020 PING Invitational and is No. 2 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.
Nicholas Prieto of Miami, and Aaron Pounds of The Woodlands, Texas, are T2 at 2-over-par 146. Prieto is No. 45 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and in search of his first AJGA victory. His best finish this year was T3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational Junior honoring Jim Bell. Pounds is committed to Texas A&M University and finished T4 at the Jack Burke Jr. Invitational in August.
Caleb Surratt of Indian Trail, North Carolina, is in fourth at 4-over-par 148. The University of Tennessee commit is No. 3 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and has two national junior golf victories on the year at the Western Junior Championship and the Boys Junior PGA Championship.
Bryan Kim of Brookeville, Maryland, and Preston Stout of Dallas, are T5 at 5-over-par 149.
Clemente was seven shots back of the lead to start the day after posting a 5-over-par 77 in round one. Knowing she had to make the most of moving day, Clemente got off to a hot start with birdies on her first three holes. After making a bogey on the par-3 No. 7, Clemente went on to make the turn at 2-under-par 34. The 2026 grad then played a flawless back nine with birdies on Nos. 15 and 18. Her 4-under-par 68 is the lowest round in the Girls Division through two days of play. She will enter the final round of The PING Invitational with a two-shot lead at 1-over-par 145.
Clemente is a 2020 Rolex Junior All-American and No. 34 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings. She's been on a tear of late, with a win at the AJGA Junior at Big Sky and third-place finishes at the UHY Albany Junior and the KPMG Stacy Lewis Junior All-Star Invitational.
Jacqueline Putrino of Lakewood Ranch, Florida, and Lucy Yuan of (Canada) San Diego, are T2 at 3-over-par 147.
Putrino, a Florida State University commit, is No. 17 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings. She won the Dustin Johnson World Junior in March. Yuan is No. 21 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and already owns three AJGA victories in her first three seasons on the circuit. The 2024 grad won the 2019 Golf Performance Center Junior All-Star, the 2020 AJGA Stan Utley and Mid-America Youth Golf Foundation Junior All-Star, and the 2021 Lanto Junior Championship.
Leigh Chien is in fourth at 4-over-par 148. The 2020 Rolex Junior All-American won the KPMG Stacy Lewis Junior All-Star Invitational in 2019 and 2020.
Kynadie Adams of Nashville, Tennessee, Katie Li of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and Ava Merrill of Johns Creek, Georgia, are T5 at 5-over-par 149.
Final-round tee times will run from 8:30-10:20 a.m. off Nos. 1 and 10 on Monday, October 11, at Karsten Creek.
PING, a golf club manufacturer with the goal to help golfers play their best, has been an AJGA supporter since 1990 and began supporting the PING Phoenix Junior in 1991. The PING Invitational, one of the AJGA's top Invitationals held over Columbus Day weekend, began in 2006 at Karsten Creek. The PING Junior Solheim Cup, the all-girls match play biennial event, has received worldwide recognition and many participants are able to say they played for their country as a junior and professional.
An Official Partner since 2002, the golf club manufacturer sponsors PING College Golf Signing Day and became "The Official Bag of the AJGA" in 2009. In 2010, PING debuted golf bags for all AJGA champions. PING also became the AJGA's first Legacy Partner in 2020.
About Karsten Creek Golf Club
Former Oklahoma State University head golf coach and current Athletic Director Mike Holder first envisioned Karsten Creek Golf Club in the 1970's. His goal was to create a sanctuary for college golf. With the help of renowned golf course designer Tom Fazio, that dream took shape over the next two decades.
On May 9th, 1994, Karsten Creek Golf Club officially opened, and was named "Best New Course" in the country by Golf Digest.
The course was named in honor of the late Karsten Solheim, founder of Karsten Manufacturing (PING). Lake Louise, featured on the finishing holes, was named in honor of Karsten's wife.
Karsten Creek Golf Club is home to the Oklahoma State Men's and Women's golf programs.