Ex-Lobo LaBelle Back on PGA Tour for '13
Nov. 28, 2012
Sometimes the fear of failure is a greater motivator than the drive to succeed. That's why former University of New Mexico golfer Doug LaBelle II will play on the PGA Tour in 2013.
LaBelle entered the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship from Oct. 25-28 as the No. 26 player on the tour's money list, with the top 25 earners qualifying for a card on golf's top rung next year.
His 7-under 277 gave him a tie for 13th place and, more importantly, more than $17,000 to move up to 24th on the money list to secure his spot on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2008.
"I don't want to be on the Web Tour," LaBelle said during a recent phone interview. "Any competitor wants to compete on the highest level. Competition really drives me."
LaBelle was tied for 24th in the 60-player event after the second round of the Web.com season finale, and tied for 19th after the third round. But the native of Mount Pleasant, Mich., posted 68s in both the third and fourth rounds to sneak in the money.
"It was pretty close coming down to the stretch," LaBelle said. "I had to grind all the way to the finish. My mentality is to continue to fight through the last hole.
"It felt great to play like I played. Getting a tour card is the product of work for a whole year. I just felt a lot of relief getting back to the PGA Tour level."
LaBelle earned more than $900,000 during his two years on tour from 2007-08 and has played in more than 60 PGA Tour events during his professional career. He said he didn't alter his approach to his game any to get back to the PGA Tour; he focused on fundamentals and his physical fitness, which he said were key in his ability to get back up to golf's biggest stage.
That prior experience during those two years, LaBelle added, will help him when he rejoins the tour.
"Having been on tour, I know what to expect," LaBelle said. "I'm very familiar with how things operate. It won't have a rookie feel. I can focus on being successful, rather than trying to learn what the tour is all about."
To his credit, LaBelle has experience in success as well. He has finished as high as fourth place on the PGA Tour, at the 2007 Sony Open. LaBelle won the Utah Championship in July, which earned him more than half his prize money on the Web.com Tour this season. He won the Price Cutter Charity Championship in July, 2006.
LaBelle also won three individual titles as a Lobo from 1995-98 and was a two-time second-team All-Western Athletic Conference honoree (1997-98). One of his teammates, and his roommate during golf road trips was current UNM coach Glen Millican.
"Everyone associated with Lobo golf is very excited for Doug," Millican said. "Doug was a great Lobo, being twice named a second-team All-America, graduating from our Anderson School, and becoming one of our Tucker (Intercollegiate) champions. He has maintained a very good professional career since leaving UNM, and it will be great to watch him play the PGA Tour in 2013 and we all look forward to following his season. "
LaBelle becomes the fourth former Lobo to enter 2013 with his PGA Tour card. Spencer Levin is 69th currently is 69th on the PGA Tour money list with more than $1.2 million earned in 2012.
By now, everyone's heard about former Lobo Charlie Beljan's remarkable win at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic from Nov. 8-11 that renewed his tour card for 2013. He is currently 64th on the money list with nearly $1.4 million in 2012 earnings.
And Tim Herron also moved into the top 125 on the prize money list with his ninth-place performance at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic that pushed him up to No. 124 in 2012 and gave him his card for 2013.
"Doug's finish to the season, along with what Levin, Beljan, and Herron were able to do have made 2012 a great year for Lobo golf," Millican said.
LaBelle, Beljan and Herron each played for former Lobo coach and current Texas mentor John Fields.
LaBelle credits Fields for helping him with his development to the point where he's still able to play professionally.
"Coach Fields was instrumental in making me a better player," LaBelle said. "He was very gracious with his time. He is a huge reason for my success."
The only drawback in LaBelle's comeback story is the structure of the PGA Tour in 2013, which now will end with the Tour Championship in September, rather than extend through the end of the year as in seasons past.
That limits LaBelle's opportunities to earn enough money to stay on the PGA Tour in 2014.
"Regardless, it's a great opportunity, and I have to take advantage of it," LaBelle said. "I'm looking to go out and win a PGA Tour event."
Besides, the shortened season should only provide more fuel for LeBelle's desire not to return to the Web.com Tour any time soon.