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Anthony Barela: The Road to His First DGPT Victory

By Nick Quargnenti
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A name synonymous with big highlights and even bigger distance, Anthony Barela, fondly known as AB, is a household name for any long-time fan of professional disc golf. AB kicked off the 2024 Disc Golf Pro Tour season with a landmark victory at the Chess.com Invitational, a breakthrough win for the Tour veteran.

Hailing from Scottsdale, Arizona, AB’s journey to his first DGPT triumph is a tale of resilience and growth. After all, Barela isn’t just playing the game, he’s helping shape its future, one epic throw at a time.

AB’s Dazzling Debut in the Disc Golf Scene

Since becoming a PDGA member in 2010, Barela has been a fixture on the disc golf scene. He earned his stripes early on, making waves in the MPO division in 2014 at the young age of 14.

Despite his youth, he showcased a remarkable ability to go toe-to-toe with the best, racking up an impressive collection of podium finishes. Notably, his skills caught the attention of seasoned pros like Paul McBeth, who couldn’t help but take notice of the young disc golf prodigy.

Anthony Barela on top of the podium after his Junior World Championships in 2013

AB on top of the podium after his 2013 Junior World Championships. (Photo: PDGA Media)

During his early career, Barela was a proud member of Innova’s Junior Team, teammates with the then 3x World Champion, Paul McBeth. Beyond being a fan of the young prodigy’s potential, McBeth took on the role of mentor both on and off the course for AB. It’s an experience Barela holds in high regard for its immense value in shaping his journey in the sport.

Anthony Barela (AB) with Paul McBeth 2024

AB Celebrates with Paul McBeth at the 2024 Chess.com Invitational. (Photo: DGPT)

The year 2015 marked AB’s meteoric rise to prominence. He etched his name in the sport’s history by becoming the youngest ever to clinch the United States Amateur Championship. Not stopping there, he also secured victory just a few months later at the 2015 United States Amateur Disc Golf Championship in the same remarkable year.

These triumphs paved the way for AB to step up his game, and by the young age of 16, he was already competing exclusively in the MPO division, showcasing a level of skill and determination beyond his years.

In 2016, AB kicked off his first full MPO season, facing off against heavy-hitters like David Feldberg, Paul Ulibarri, Nate Sexton, and Paul McBeth. It was a season filled with formidable competition. However, the turning point came in his 2nd event of the 2016 season, the King of the Hills presented by Law Offices of Paul J Sacco B-Tier event. Here, AB secured his 1st MPO division victory, clinching the title in a thrilling playoff against none other than Paul Ulibarri.

Anthony Barela (AB) at the 2018 Utah Open. (Photo: Alyssa Van Lanen)

Skipping ahead to the next event, AB geared up for his inaugural then National Tour appearance of the 2016 season – only his 2nd National Tour event to date – at the 28th Memorial Championship presented by Discraft. In the face of fierce competition featuring some of the sport’s heavyweights, Barela showcased his skills and stayed in the mix.

Ultimately, he secured a noteworthy top-10 finish, sharing the 7th-place spot with Philo Brathwaite. It was a commendable performance against the best in the world, solidifying Barela’s standing among disc golf’s elite.

From there, AB embarked on a journey marked by numerous B/C-tier victories, consistent top-10 finishes, and podium triumphs, building momentum until he secured his first MPO A-Tier victory in 2019 at the Shelly Sharpe Memorial presented by SpinnersontheGreen.com.

The following year, he added another feather to his cap with a 1st-place finish at a DGPT Silver/A-tier event: The Challenge at Goat Hill Park. These successes set the stage for the trajectory of his career, culminating in the thrilling victory at the 2024 Chess.com Invitational.

Facing Adversity: Close Calls and Missed Opportunities

Achieving success usually involves conquering the hurdles encountered along the way. For someone like Barela, who has been pushing the boundaries of the game, every fan acknowledges the exceptional talent of this young star. Yet, a common query buzzing among disc golf enthusiasts and fans of this favorite player has been: Can he bring it all together?

Anthony Barela (AB) at the 2024 Chess Invitational

Heading into the season-opening tournament and the 2024 DGPT season, a notable challenge laid ahead for AB: he was yet to take or share the lead entering the final round of a DGPT Elite or PDGA Pro Major event.

Take, for instance, last year’s Las Vegas Challenge, where he held a promising 3-stroke lead after 2 rounds, only to secure an 8th-place finish. Last year’s European Open told a similar tale – a 2-stroke lead after 2 rounds resulted in an unfortunate 7th-place finish.

In his 11th appearance on the lead card of the final round in a DGPT Elite or PDGA Pro Major, AB had yet to secure a win from such scenarios. Just to put it in perspective, Ricky Wysocki, for example, notched an impressive 39 wins from 90 appearances on DGPT Elite or PDGA Pro Major lead cards.

However, AB stuck to his game, showcasing his prowess and finally clinching his first DGPT Elite event. These moments serve as a powerful reminder to all athletes that overcoming adversity often paves the way to true championship status. It’s not just about the wins; it’s about the resilience and triumph in the face of challenges.

Anthony Barela’s Historic DGPT Elite Event Victory

Fast forward to the current season, in his 88th PDGA Pro Major/DGPT Elite event appearance, AB has secured his FIRST DGPT Elite event victory at the Chess.com Invitational, solidifying his place among the top players in the game at the start of a new season.

This victory marks him as the first MPO player to clinch their first DGPT Elite/PDGA Pro Major event at the start of the season since Calvin Heimburg won his first at the first event of 2019 at the Las Vegas Challenge.

 

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AB truly shone in the tournament’s 2nd round, where he stood out from the pack. Tying with a select few, his performance in the 2nd round secured him the title of the 2nd-best scored round of the entire weekend, finishing at an impressive 7 under par.

The only player ahead of him for a single round’s score, and a handful of others for the weekend, was Aaron Gossage at -8. Moreover, AB led the field in reaching circle 1 (50%) and circle 2 (72%) in regulation stats before heading into the final round.

AB with Ricky Wysocki at the Chess.com Invitational. (Photo: DGPT)

AB’s stellar performance in the 2nd round set the tone for his strong finish, providing the momentum and confidence he needed. Wrapping up the final round at an impressive -5 and an 18 under par total, just 1-stroke above the formidable Ricky Wysocki, speaks volumes, given Wysocki’s reputation as one of the most feared players to be trailing on any final round.

Despite a nerve-wracking comeback attempt by Wysocki towards the end, AB remained steadfast and secured his first DGPT Elite event victory. Click here for a full breakdown of the Chess.com Invitational final round.

Metrics of Greatness: AB’s Statistical Mastery in Disc Golf

Throughout his DGPT career, AB has attained 2 1st-place victories, including his win last weekend and the DGPT Silver event victory in 2020, and a total of 8 podium finishes spanning DGPT events and PDGA Pro Majors. Barela has crafted an enviable track record, clinching top-10 finishes in a solid 33% of his outings and cashing in an impressive 79% of all the career events he’s stepped into.

Anthony Barela at DDO 2021

Anthony Barela at 2021 DDO. (Photo: DGPT)

Having joined in on the action in more than 200 PDGA events over his career and reflecting his dedication is the impressive sum of $150,250 in cumulative earnings.

What makes it even more impressive is that a third of this total was pocketed in just the last 12-months alone, signaling a remarkable surge in his performance, as well as the general growth of the sport. That’s not just dedication; it’s a slam dunk in the world of disc golf success.

AB Celebrates Victory at the 2024 Chess.com Invitational. (Photo: DGPT)

Shifting gears from 2022 to 2023 marked a pivotal moment in Barela’s career. Kicking off the 2023 season with a bang, AB, after a solid 9-year stint with Innova, inked a fresh 2-year deal with Discraft, thus rejoining his old mentor Paul McBeth. This move unfolded a new chapter in Barela’s game, injecting a fresh dose of energy into his competitive spirit.

With just 5 top-10 finishes in 2022, 2023 marked a significant comeback for Barela. Securing 4 podium finishes, including a 2nd place finish at the 2023 PDGA Pro World Championship, and landing in the top-10 12 times, AB showcased a clear and undeniable improvement in his game.

Furthermore, in 2023, Barela notched an average round rating of 1031.78, propelling him into the top-10 in DGPT Tour Points with a total of 806.05 points, ultimately securing the 9th overall position.

It was a standout year that painted a vivid picture of his upward trajectory in the world of professional disc golf. Barela was rewarded for his strong performance in 2023 with a DGPT All-Star selection.

Anthony Barela (AB) at the 2023 DGLO. (Photo: DGPT)

In a captivating sidebar, AB’s skills were also on full display during the 2024 DGPT All-Star Weekend’s Skills Competition. The disc golf luminary unleashed not one, but TWO astounding 700+ foot throws, ultimately clinching the distance competition in spectacular fashion with a longest drive of 713ft. Talk about making every throw count!

As Anthony Barela continues to make waves in the professional disc golf circuit, his journey serves as an inspiration to aspiring players and a testament to the dedication required to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

With his Chess.com Invitational victory, AB has firmly established himself as a force to be reckoned with, could this be a sign of what’s to come from the young All-Star? The disc golf community eagerly anticipates the next chapter in his compelling career.

AB at the 2024 Chess.com Invitational. (Photo: DGPT)