13 Hurricane Golfers Named to U.S. National Junior Team

Have you, as a junior golfer, ever wished that you could play for the U.S. as the pros do for the Ryder Cup and other big events? Well, now thanks to the United States Golf Association, you can! The United States Golf Association (USGA) announced at the end of last month that they have created a national junior team. This team comes as a result of the U.S. National Development Program (USDNP) which launched last year to ensure that American golf is the global leader in the game by focusing on six key pillars: talent identification, access to competition, national teams, athlete resources, player development and relations and athlete financial support.

Of the 18 golfers announced for the inaugural team, 13 played on the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour. Here are the members of the first-ever U.S. National Junior Team.

US National Team HJGT OPT 2
Per USGA.org

This team will be the first of three teams coming in the next few years, with the Amateur Team to be announced in 2025, followed by a Young Professional Team in 2026.

The U.S. National Junior Team Selection Process

The head coach for the national junior team, Chris Zambri said this in an interview with Golf Wire, “We are thrilled to introduce the first U.S. National Junior Team, a group of 18 exceptionally talented young athletes who represent the bright future of American golf. Nearly every other golf country in the world has long enjoyed the benefits of a developmental program and national teams, and the announcement of this team is a major milestone in the USGA’s commitment to the growth of our American athletes and ensuring we remain the global leader in the junior, amateur and professional game.” The Junior Team was put together by members of the USDNP, and the teams will be assessed annually by those staff members. The same will go for the Amateur and Young Professional teams that are coming in the following years. The players currently on the Junior Team will participate in bi-yearly camps and have a chance to play for the United States in 2024. The team’s first training camp will be held May 8-11 at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Georgia, and the first international friendly match will take place this summer against Australia. Members of the U.S. National Junior Team will receive year-round support, including world-class coaching and analysis, sports psychology, and nutritional guidance. USNDP staff will collaborate with players’ home coaches and support teams to ensure they have the resources necessary to develop the physical, mental, and life skills to reach their potential.

We had the chance to talk to Heather Daly-Donofrio, USGA managing director, Player Relations and Development. Daly-Donofrio is responsible for setting the overall strategy for the development and implementation of the U.S. National Development Program (USNDP) and National Teams, including talent identification, athlete resources, athlete development, athlete and parent education, and the USNDP’s grant program. She also oversees USGA player relations and services across eight USGA championships. Before her role with USGA, she was the Chief Tour Operations Officer for the LPGA.

“We considered a variety of factors in selecting the athletes for the National Junior Team including scores, rankings, results, statistics, and sportsmanship,” Daly-Donofrio said about the selection process for the Junior Team. “The team also spent time visiting with players and scouting at various junior and amateur tournaments.  It was not an easy decision as there are so many accomplished players, and we hope to expand the number of players on the team in 2025.”

U.S. National Development Program

Looking at this program, it is amazing all the support and development that these players will receive. “One of the goals of the USNDP is to ensure that the U.S. remains the number one golf market in the world,” Daly-Donofrio said about the program’s support and development. “To do that, we need to foster and support future American stars. The U.S. has been virtually the only country in the world to not have a national development program or national team. Over time, this program will broaden and strengthen the American junior golf pipeline by providing a clear pathway from the elite junior level to the professional game. Building aspiration pieces along the pathway such as our state team program will inspire athletes to continue their progression in the game, and we hope over time, more juniors will choose golf over other sports. Through our grant program, we will positively impact hundreds of junior players who have the potential to progress to the highest levels of the game but who do not necessarily have the financial resources to do so.”

It is apparent that this program is going to have lasting effects on American golf for a long time. According to Golf Wire, the USGA has opened applications for the USNDP Grant Program, which will assist talented golfers and their families with the financial resources needed to pursue a competitive path in the game. All 2024 grants will be awarded in the coming weeks. This grant program is another example of the USGA laying the blueprint to help young golfers follow their passions for a long time.

Your Path To The U.S. National Junior Team

Looking back again, it is amazing that 13 of the 18 golfers selected have or are a part of the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour. Daly-Donofrio talked about what players who want to be considered for the national junior team can do to be noticed for the team.

“Players can get on our radar by submitting their golf resume using this form and emailing it to usndp@usga.org. Families can also sign up for updates on the USNDP here.  If players are in one of our seven pilot states, set a goal to make the state team. We hope to add another 5-7 states in 2025. At the end of the day, golf is a learned game and there is no limit to how good a player can get if they are willing to put the work in, stay positive, and dream big. That said, there is a time for practice, a time to compete, a time for other sports, and always time to just be a kid!” What she seems to be saying is that if you play hard and do what you love, then there is a chance that you will get noticed for the junior national team.

We got to talk to Gianna Clemente, who was one of the 10 golfers selected to the girls’ team, and we asked her what it meant to be selected. “It is truly an honor to be selected for the U.S. National Team,” Clemente said. “I have always been passionate about USA Golf and all USGA Events. I am extremely excited to represent the United States on the international stage.” Clemente, from Warren, Ohio, joined the Hurricane Tour back in 2018, and she absolutely dominated the Hurricane Tour. In fact, Gianna won 16 tournaments in her first three years. Clemente said that her favorite part of junior golf was, “representing the United States in the Junior Solheim Cup in Spain and Junior Ryder Cup in Rome. This was the highest honor for elite players, and I had these events targeted from a very young age.”

So, to all of you who are playing on the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour, remember that hard work pays off. There are 13 players just like yourself who made this year’s national junior team and that means you can too someday. Keep putting in the work and you will be rewarded.


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