Daniela Iacobelli’s childhood dream of playing professional golf just got real. She joins the LPGA Tour in 2013 and tells Florida Tech Today about her road to the tour.
Growing up, the thought of being a professional golfer seemed very simple; play well, get paid. While that phrase is true, achieving that goal has been a bit more complicated—becoming a memorable, and more recently, rewarding journey.
Growing up just north of Detroit, golf was a household activity in my family. My parents noticed my natural abilities early on, and as I grew up, they were convinced I had potential that seemed unrealistic to most. My father took a risk and decided to move our family to Florida, where a year-round golfing season could give me an opportunity to succeed.
I played high school golf, and excelled. I earned a full athletic scholarship to Florida Tech, where I achieved the unthinkable—winning the NCAA Division II National Championship and gaining validation that my dream of playing professional golf may be attainable.
After graduation, I decided to follow that dream.
I qualified for the Symetra Tour and played in six events my first year. It was an eye opening experience. No longer was my “natural talent” enough to separate me from the field. Expenses came out of my own
pocket, and the luxury of traveling with a team became staying in hotel rooms alone. After an unsuccessful attempt, I decided to regroup.
I took a job as the head golf professional at Baytree National Golf Links in November of 2010. By spring 2011, I had the opportunity to chase my dream yet again, this time with my best friend Tyler Del Buono in tow as my caddy. We ventured around the country for as long as my savings account let us. After realizing my true passion was on the golf course and not managing one, I gave up the position as head pro and determined I would get it right in my third year.
My goal in 2012 was to play my first full season. With $3,000 to my name, I sent out the check to cover the first two events. I managed to make my way around the country—Winter Haven, FL; Sarasota, FL; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Fishers, IN; Marion, IA; Decatur, IL; Harris, MI; Concord, NH; Syracuse, NY; Albany, NY; South Bend, IN; Richmond, VA; Myersville, MD; Charlotte, NC; Vidalia GA; Daytona Beach, FL—by winning enough to cover expenses and entry fees. After finally getting into a routine, things started to fall into place.
A typical week looked like this:
Monday: Travel Day/Laundry Day—The most we traveled in season to an event was 13 hours. After the drive, we usually Pricelined a hotel and got some rest.
Tuesday: 5:30 a.m.—Wake up call for the practice round and breakfast
6–11 a.m.—Practice round
11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.—Lunch
7–10 p.m.—Pro-Am dinner/function
Wednesday– Thursday: Pro-Am or Practice Round/Practice
Friday– Sunday: Tournament
During every event in 2012, my caddy and I talked about winning. Making the cut was never the goal any more. We knew our game was up to par and we had the ability to win.
Everything came into place at our last event in Daytona Beach, Fla. The only way to obtain my LPGA card was to win that last event—it would launch me up the money list and land me inside the top 10. We knew we had a chance, though we never talked about it on the course. Then, all the hard work and preparation paid off. The goal that seemed so unrealistic to many was finally reached—an invitation to the LPGA tour.
The coming months will be about networking and preparation. There are a lot of opportunities next year and I want to be able to experience every one of them!
The Back Nine with Daniela Iacobelli
1. Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I’m basically a seven year old—my favorite food group is fruit roll-ups.
2. If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?
No one! I don’t want someone else’s problems.
3. Do you have any superstitions or tokens for luck on the course?
I only like playing odd number golf balls (1 or 3)—unless I’m running low on golf balls then I play whatever I can. This entire season I used a Florida Tech ball marker—that will be put into play next year!
4. If you could choose anyone to be paired with on your first tee, who would it be?
Honestly, I think me and Christina Kim for Solheim Cup. Let’s be serious, that will make for great TV!
5. Who is your role model?
It’s cliché, but my parents. They are the epitome of the American Dream.
6. Name two things you consider yourself to be really good at.
Arguing and being sarcastic.
7. If your life were made into a movie, who would you want to play your character?
Melissa McCarthy from Bridesmaids or Ellen DeGeneres.
8. What has been the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Fall in love with putting.
9. One piece of advice for people following their dreams?
Don’t ever let anyone convince you that you’re not good enough.
Photo credit: Symetra Tour/Scott A. Miller
Includes excerpts from Quick 18 with Daniela Iacobelli,