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Class of 2026 Girls Preview

5/15 CGC Staff

It’s the time of year when the date ‘June 15th' is circled on the calendar of every college coach and anxious and excited golfers in the class of 2025. The class of 2026 will soon be on the clock and ready to get to know the coaches from the colleges that may be on the top of their list. Which 2026 girls are on the top of coaches’ lists? We’ll introduce you to the best of the best in the US in this class, as they have racked up a long list of accomplishments.

Photo: Naples Illustrated

Floridian Gianna Clemente has occupied the top spot in this class for a long time, and her current ranking of #29 on WAGR is no misprint. As far back as 2022, she finished 2nd at the AJGA Rolex Girls Championship and was the runner-up at the US Girls Junior Amateur. She played in several LPGA events that year, won the AJGA Ping Invitational and made match play at the US Women’s Amateur. She followed up her banner year with a win at the Sally and a 16th place finish in an Epson Tour professional event at the start of 2023. That spring she collected top-10 finishes at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley and the AJGA Mizuho Americas Open. Clemente had a magnificent stretch last summer when she held the winner’s trophy at the Junior PGA Championship, made the semifinals of match play in the US Girls Junior, and the round of 32 in the US Women’s Amateur. She was also given the honor or representing the USA in the Junior Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup teams. Highlights of Clemente’s 2024 early spring season include a 5th place finish at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and runner-up at the Sally. Her phone will be ringing off the hook in mid-June.

Photo: Facebook

Ohio native Mia Hammond has also made a habit of finding herself on leaderboards since 2022. In that year, she notched one AJGA open win and a runner-up finish, as well as a round-of-32 appearance at the US Girls Junior Amateur. What really put Hammond on the map was her showing at the US Women’s Amateur, in which she advanced to the round of 16 in match play. She continued her success in 2023, with early top-5 finishes at the Scott Robertson Memorial and the Sally, a prestigious amateur event. She also added a top-10 finish in an open AJGA event at the Dye Junior Invitational. From there, Hammond proceeded to play in two LPGA events, her best finish at 26th in the Dana Open. Her summer also included a 6th place finish at the Junior PGA Championship. 2024 has brought Hammond early success with a win at the AJGA Junior at Canebrake and a runner-up finish at the Dustin Johnson World Junior.

Photo: California Golf & Travel

Californian Nikki Oh is another 2026 golfer who began her ascent in the rankings in 2022, with a runner-up finish in an open AJGA event and a 5th place showing at the Arizona Silver Belle Championship. Oh collected four AJGA Invitational top-10 finishes in 2023, with her best showing as runner-up at the Polo Junior Classic. She took home the winner’s trophy at the 2023 Arizona Silver Belle and at an open AJGA event, but most impressive was her round-of-16 appearance at the US Women’s Amateur. 2024 has brought Oh some solid results thus far, with another top-10 finish at the AJGA Fortinet Girls Invitational and 11th at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley.

Photos: AJGA

Not to be outdone by the above three competitors, Oklahoma’s Lisa Herman has quietly moved into the top of 2026 conversation with steady showings at big events. She has two open AJGA event wins to her name since 2022 and picked up two AJGA Invitational top-5s in 2023. In addition to those finishes, Herman notched 2nd place finishes at the Women’s Western Junior and two other AJGA open events in the past year. Add a 3rd place finish at the National High School Invitational to the mix, and Herman has built quite the resume heading into recruitment season. Next on our list is Californian Jude Lee, who entered the 2026 watch list in 2022 with an open AJGA event win and a runner-up finish at the Bubba Conlee. 2023 brought her more success with both a Toyota Tour Cup and an AJGA open event win, and three additional AJGA open event top-6 finishes. Lee also finished 9th at the AJGA Polo Junior Classic and qualified for the 2023 US Women’s Amateur. She has found success in early 2024 with top-10 showings at the Nelly Invitational and the Dustin Johnson World Junior, and two 2nd place finishes in open AJGA events, including the Junior at Innisbrook.

The final two athletes on our 2026 watch list are Texan Shyla Brown and Maryland’s Irene Kim. Brown has graced leaderboards since early 2023, beginning with an 8th place finish at the Texas Women’s Open, a professional event. She then made top-4 finishes a habit throughout 2023 and early 2024, with three in open AJGA events, a runner-up finish at the Texas Girls Junior Amateur, 4th at the Texas Women’s Stroke Play Championship, and 2nd at the Southwest Airlines Showcase, a collegiate event. Brown recently raised the winner's trophy at the Kathy Whitworth Invitational. Kim found early and consistent success in 2022 and through the fall of 2023. Her 2022 resume includes two runner-up finishes at open AJGA events and 3rd place at the AJGA Ping An Bank Jr All-Star Invitational. Kim also grabbed the 5th place spot at the Arizona Silver Belle Championship in 2022. In 2023 she recorded two AJGA Invitational top-5 placements and an open AJGA event win. Also impressive was her 5th place showing at the Maryland Women’s Amateur. Kim has struggled a bit since November, but her early success garners her a spot on our list.

Photos: AJGA