Nemacolin's LaBella Named a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Again
By Dave Daubert
Mike LaBella, director of instruction at The Nemacolin Golf Academy, has been named to Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers list for the second time.
"This means a lot," says LaBella, who joined the iconic Pennsylvania golf resort in 2020. "I love being part of a growing team of teaching professionals in the country. It's a great group of people, especially in the Northeast, who we compete with every day. But at the same time, I want to work with these people so we can help each other to grow the game. It's a meaningful award."
LaBella, the 33-year-old Penn State graduate who has been teaching since 2007, started helping at junior golf camps while in high school. He also worked at the club where he grew up playing in order to learn the golf business. He initially set out to become a head golf professional versed in merchandising but was eventually won over by instruction.
"My passion is coaching," he says. "In my third college internship - it was at Catawba Island Club in Ohio - I wanted to coach. Ben Moore, the head pro, asked me to lead the junior program and manage my own lesson book, as he had other priorities which kept him from teaching. That's when I really took off wanting to be an instructor. Once I graduated, I took a position under Dean Kandle at St. Davids Golf Club outside Philadelphia. There I developed their Junior Golf Academy which led to my position as their director of Junior Golf; throughout my time here, my passion for coaching increased. That's what ultimately led me into doing it full time."
It helps that the recent renovations at The Nemacolin Golf Academy brought in the golf industry's most sought-after simulator, launch monitor, and biomechanical feedback technology. This includes cutting-edge hardware, like TrackMan launch monitors and simulators, Foresight Sports' GCQuadTM launch monitor, and Swing Catalyst's Balance and Dual Force Plates.
"The entire Nemacolin team is extremely proud that Mike LaBella is getting the national recognition he greatly deserves as a teacher and a bright mind in golf instruction," Nemacolin's Managing Director Trey Matheu says. "We expect to see many more honors and accolades for this hardworking professional."
LaBella's thirst for knowledge also contributes to his success. He attends coaching summits to stay on top of any new research that emerges regarding technology and teaching. "But above all, it's key to get to know the students first," he says. "Whether they're playing for fun or competition, I'm always trying to find out their goals first - and their physical abilities. Once I start seeing how they can move, I can really start to develop a plan for that person. I feel that helps me communicate a lot better rather than just going straight into it and then having to backtrack. Understanding their goals and how they move correlates to everything they do with the swing."
Then there's the business side of teaching. Nemacolin has begun more aggressively marketing the resort's golf academy. Now that LaBella has been touring the entire reservations team around the academy, they can mention it to guests booking trips to the resort and are able to intelligently answer any questions about the facility to those who ask.
Like everyone else on Golf Digest's Best Young Teacher list, LaBella had mentors along the way who taught him key elements to succeeding as a teacher. His included Brian Jacobs, who was LaBella's instructor when he was in elementary school, and a coach he worked alongside for four years after leaving Philadelphia. "The number one thing I saw was the relationship he built with students and their families," says LaBella. "He took students and their families out to dinner and really got to know you through a 360-degree experience rather than just one-on-one lessons."
The other was Craig Harmon at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester. "He showed patience on the lesson tee day in and out - no matter what golfer he was with," recalls LaBella, whose other keys include learning from students, building a thriving team around him, and being open to learning new ways to teach from a different viewpoint. "Then you can accommodate almost any type of personality or player," he says.
To be considered for Golf Digest's Best Young Teachers, an instructor must have five years of experience as a full-time teacher, show a knack for making golfers better, and be younger than 40.
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Revised: 02/14/2023 - Article Viewed 1,961 Times
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About: Dave Daubert
David has been writing about golf since the turn of the century. He was Managing Editor at a regional golf magazine for 11 years, published in Canada, the IAGTO and a Staff Writer for The Georgia Golf Trail. His insightful perspective brings golf to life.