Gianna Clemente of Estero, Florida, made the most of moving day at The PING Invitational, taking the lead in the Girls Division at 4-under-par 140.
Jay Leng Jr of San Diego, California, kept the lead in his debut at The PING Invitational with a score of 1-under-par 143.
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 52 AJGA champions, including four 2022 Invitational winners. Additionally, there are 39 college commits and 21 Rolex Junior All-Americans. Players hail from 21 states and eight international countries.
Clemente started the second round three strokes back of first round co-leaders, Thanana Kotchasanmanee of (Thailand) Rome, Georgia, and Angela (Yilin) Liu of Irvine, California. The Florida native made back-to-back birdies on the par-4 No. 4 and par-4 No. 5. She made her only bogey of the day on the par-3 No. 7, but bounced back with another birdie directly after. Starting at 2-under-par 34 on the back nine, Clemente added two more birdies to finish with a 4-under-par 68 to hold the top spot.
My putter was on fire in the beginning of the round and I was able to cruise from there. The wind really picked up towards the end, which made it a little bit more difficult, but overall I had a really good day.
Looking back to the 2021 PING Invitational, Clemente also shot a 4-under-par 68 to take the lead heading into the final round. The defending champion will enter the final round with a two-shot lead over Megan Meng of Pennington, New Jersey, and Liu.
Clemente is looking to add another big tournament win in her already impressive golf resume. The 14-year-old became the youngest champion in The PING Invitational history by winning the tournament last year at the age of 13 years, 6 months, 18 days. She was the runner-up at the 73rd U.S. Girls' Junior and was the runner-up at the 2022 Rolex Girls Junior Championship. Clemente is a two-time Rolex Junior All-American and is currently No. 1 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.
Meng and Liu are both tied for second at 2-under-par 142 for the tournament. Meng is No. 30 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and has already won two AJGA tournaments this year. This is the New Jersey native's first PING Invitational. Liu has also won two AJGA tournaments this year and is No. 47 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings.
Vanessa Zhang of Vancouver, British Columbia, is in solo fourth at even-par 144. The Canadian has multiple top-three finishes this year, including a win at the AJGA Princeton Championship presented by Bay Area Lyme Foundation.
Thanana Kotchasanmanee is in fifth place at 1-over-par 145.
The players experienced tougher conditions today as the wind picked up in the afternoon. Jay Leng Jr of San Diego, California, maintained his lead after shooting a 2-over-par 74. Leng Jr birdied the par-5 No. 1 to start the day. In total, his round included four birdies, four bogeys and one double-bogey. He heads into the final round as the only player in the Boys Division under par for the tournament, at 1-under-par 143.
The wind really picked up today. The course played a lot tougher than yesterday so I hit a couple of bad shots out there. I'm glad that I was able to finish with a birdie on No. 18.
Leng Jr is No. 25 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and a Stanford University commit. The 15-year-old holds multiple AJGA top-five finishes this year, including a win at the UHY St. Louis Junior.
Ethan Gao of Alpharetta, Georgia, followed up his first round with a 1-over-par 73. Gao's round was highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 No. 18. He is also a Stanford University commit and ranked No. 5 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings. Gerardo Gomez of Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, made five birdies in his last six holes to end the round with the low score of the day for the boys at 2-under-par 70. Gomez is No. 48 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and committed to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He is searching for his first AJGA championship.
Carson Kim of Yorba Linda, California, sits solo in fourth. Kim's round includes two eagles on the front nine, one on the par-5 No. 1 and the second on the par-5 No. 9. Kim is No. 7 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and is committed to the University of Southern California. He is looking to finish his year on a high note after competing on the West team at the Wyndham Cup and on the United States team at the Junior Presidents Cup.
Grant Gudgel of Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Nicholas Prieto of Miami, Florida, are in fifth, four shots back from the lead at 3-over-par 147. Gudgel, an Oklahoma State University commit, jumped up eight spots on the leaderboard, while Prieto, a University of South Florida Commit, jumped up 13 spots.
Final-round tee times will run from 8:30-10:20 a.m. off Nos. 1 and 10 on Monday, October 10, 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.
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