There should be an asterisk next to the word resilient in the Dictionary with Daniela Iacobelli’s name next to it.
Although most wouldn’t recognize the name, anyone who knows the story of her golf career would attest that her determination and passion for the sport may be unmatched by any player.
Throughout Iacobelli’s life she was always told she had potential. So much potential that her family moved from their home in Detroit, Mich. to Viera Beach, Fla. for maximum playing time in the Sunshine State.
Scoring a full-ride scholarship to Florida Technical Institute, Iacobelli’s golf game flourished as she recorded 29 top-10 finishes and eight wins in collegiate competition. She was individual winner of the NCAA Division II 2007 Women’s Golf Championship and was named the Florida Tech Female Athlete of the Year.
With the success she saw in college and the potential everybody said she had, Iacobelli knew that she had the ability to carry her game to the LPGA Tour.
But it wasn’t an easy road.
Post-graduation in 2009, Iacobelli started working in the cart barn at Baytree Natural Golf Links and worked her way up to being the head pro in the matter of a year. She qualified for the Symetra Tour in ‘09 but only made one cut out of the six tournaments she played. It was an eye opening experience for Iacobelli.
“I was like, ok this is way harder than college, these girls are really good,” said Iacobelli.
It wasn’t an easy task for Iacobelli to hold a full-time job while her heart was focused full-time on becoming an LPGA Tour pro. Skillfully planning her work and travel schedules, Iacobelli was able to compete in more Symetra Tour events in 2010 and 2011. After several spectacular finishes mixed with numerous missed cuts, Iacobelli made the call to quit her job and focus on her dreams.
With a couple hundred dollars to her name, Iacobelli set out with her best friend and caddy Tyler Del Buono with high hopes in their third year on the Symetra Tour in 2012.
“I saved up all this money by myself,” said Iacobelli. “I didn’t have anybody helping me, no sponsors, nothing. We were Pricelining hotels and making connections at pro-am parties to try to find people to stay with in different cities. We cut out soda at dinner because it would save us a couple bucks. It was penny-pinching just to save as much as we can to get into as many tournaments as we could. One of them had to go well.”
And one of them finally did.
The drive up to the season-ending event in Daytona, Iacbelli could feel something special was going to happen that week.
“We went to Daytona and I don’t know what it was but from the time we drove up to [the event] Friday morning, something was different,” said Iacobelli. “There was something about that week that I felt nothing could go wrong at all. It was very weird.”
Tied for the lead heading into the final-round of the Daytona Beach Invitational Presented by Embry-Riddle, Iacobelli managed to sink a birdie putt on the final hole to secure her first-career victory – a victory she needed in order to earn her LPGA Tour card for the 2013 season.
“I don’t really remember much from Friday, Saturday and Sunday of that tournament,” said Iacobelli. “It was just a blur. I’ve watched the video thousands of times and I don’t remember that putt going in. It’s very surreal still. I remember the uncontrollable shake that I had for a two-and-a-half foot putt. I think I remember seeing it go in but I just remember looking up at him and thinking ‘we did it.’”
Iacobelli competed in her first LPGA Tour event at the season-opener in Australia. Ready to begin her professional golf career, Iacobelli admits to some nerves as she teed up with LPGA Tour pros.
“I was good all week down there. I was hitting the ball great, my putting pretty decent, I’m having a great time we’re at a gorgeous course, and I’m in Australia. And I get to the first tee and I’m so nervous I’m shaking. I tried to enjoy it as much as I could but I was a head case. It was something I worked for, for 12 years.”
Though on the course she may have a determined, serious façade, there’s a rambunctious, jovial side to Iacobelli that most would agree is quite contagious and amusing to be around. It's the side of her that can be seen from a mile away, with her and Del Buono matching with the most boisterous and flamboyant outfits on the course – Loudmouth – a tradition that started the day Iacobelli won her first-career title.
“Even though on the golf course I may not be as loud as I am off the course, but when I’m having a good round people will definitely notice my personality on the course,” said Iacobelli. “It started a few years ago and we made friends with a few people that were able to hook us up with Loudmouth. I always look for ways to separate us because we are one of the only caddy-players that aren’t dating or married that travel together and pretty much live together. I wanted to build a brand on us and there’s nothing better than matching. Now we only do it on game day because of what happened in Daytona.”
Now a rookie on the LPGA Tour, Iacobelli, who wears a W.W.J.D bracelet on her wrist, is thankful for the mix of successes and failures that got her to this point. With a season-best finish tie for 29th at the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup so far in her rookie season, Iacobelli remains hopeful and positive for the long career ahead of her.
“You have to stay positive," said Iacobelli. "It’s such a mental game, it’s easy to get down on yourself and get frustrated with a bad round but at the end of the day you just have to stop and smell the roses and realize where you are, why you’re here and how you got here.
“I don’t really consider this a job. I mean yes you have to put in the hours to practice and everything, but at the end of the day, it’s golf. People try their whole lives to retire and do what I do every day. It’s really hard to get down on a bad day. You kind of have to shake it off and remember the big picture.”