Swing coach Hallett is Lewis' secret weapon

By Randall MellNovember 20, 2014, 12:29 am

NAPLES, Fla. – You may not know who Joe Hallett is, but you should.

His player has a chance to complete one of the more remarkable sweeps in the history of women’s golf this week.

His player could win the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking this week.

With a strong  performance at the CME Group Tour Championship, she could walk away with $1.5 million, the biggest payday in the history of women’s golf.

Who is Joe Hallett? He’s Stacy Lewis’ swing coach. He has been for five years, through her rise to prominence as the best American in the game and then the best player in the world, with her ascension to Rolex No. 1, a spot she’s trying to take back from Inbee Park this week.

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Hallett doesn’t enjoy the star status today’s big-name swing coaches do. He doesn’t have the profile Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter, Sean Foley and Jim McLean do, but Lewis will tell you he has been an important part of her emergence as a star.

“Joe has been unbelievable,” Lewis said. “He’s like family to me.”

Hallett, 50, will tell you he’s thankful fate put him in Lewis’ path. It might seem like pure chance that brought them together at a PGA “Get Golf Ready” clinic in 2009, but Hallett knows better. He’s amazed at how golf has steered him into his chosen craft, and he’s amazed at who it has steered into his path.

Born in Buffalo, raised in South Florida, Hallett grew up off the fourth hole at the historic Biltmore Golf Course in Coral Gables, Fla. His parents were friends with Bob Toski, which got him lessons with the Hall of Fame teacher when Joe was 13 years old.

“I’ll never forget that first lesson,” Hallett said. “I was excited for the chance to meet him, and I hit a lot of golf balls getting ready for the lesson. So, the first thing Bob does when we meet is look at my clubs, and they’re a mess. He pulls a club out of my bag and says, `Son, today’s lesson is about how important it is to keep your clubs clean. Now go clean your clubs.’ And then he turns and walks away to go have lunch. That was the end of the lesson.

“To this day, I’m a fanatic about keeping my clubs clean.”

Hallett grew to love Toski, and he would learn a lot from him.

Joe’s father, Ed, was a car dealer, but he loved golf. He was friends with Jerry Heard and Homero Blancas. Heard won five PGA Tour titles. Blancas won four, was the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year in ’65 and once shot 55 in a college tournament. They arranged for Joe to work with famed instructor Jimmy Ballard when Joe was a teenager.

Fate kept delivering gifts like that.

After Joe’s father died, his mother moved to Lake Nona in Orlando, where cosmic forces would steer Joe directly into the path of another influential figure in the game.

Joe, who played at Furman University, was trying to make his way into the pro game through mini-tours in Central Florida. He called his mother, Joanne, to see how the move to Lake Nona was going, and she started telling him about the nice family she just met in the house next door to hers.

“You might know who he is,” Joe’s mother said. “I can’t remember his name right now, but he’s in golf. Tall man, with an accent, English or Australian or something. He teaches. He’s always wearing this straw hat.”


Hallett  and Lewis at the 2013 PGA teaching and Coaching Summit (Getty)

Joe couldn’t believe it.

“Um, David Leadbetter?” Joe said.

“Yeah, that’s him,” his mother said.

So Hallett got to know Leadbetter and was able to pick his brain.

Even as he struggled trying to make it to the PGA Tour, Hallett never seriously considered teaching. He didn’t believe his personality was suited for it. He thought he was way too impatient to teach.

“I once got five clubs stuck in a tree,” Hallett says today. “I threw my putter up there and got the other clubs stuck trying to get it out.”

Still, there were influential figures in Hallett’s life who saw a natural-born teacher. Hallett used to play at Ocala Municipal in Florida, where the pros there, Joe Lopez Jr. and Joe Moses, encouraged him to join them and take up teaching.

“Basically, they said, `We’ve cleared a spot for you in the office, now go get started,’” Hallett said.

So, at 25, that’s what he did. He started teaching, and fate would keep steering opportunity in his path. After establishing himself, and setting up an academy at Black Bear Golf Club in Mount Dora, Fla., Hallett met a teacher named Charlie Yoo, who was looking for a place to bring his juniors. One of those juniors was named Inbee Park.

Hallett began working with Park there, and he didn’t just become her teacher. He became her caddie, toting her clubs to junior events and then when she joined the Symetra Tour as a pro. He even caddied the first few events of Park’s LPGA career.

While Hallett’s teaching career took a nice turn when he was hired as the director of instruction at the PGA Learning and Performance Center in Port St. Lucie, Fla., cosmic forces steered him back to the LPGA. The PGA flew Lewis in to a clinic Hallett was leading there in ‘09. Hallett had no idea that Lewis would soon be looking for a full-time coach who would be available to her at tour events. She was impressed with Hallett, and a couple months later asked if he could work with her.

Of course, being the thorough personality she is, Lewis wrote a detailed letter to Hallett asking for help.

“She was very specific,” said Dale Lewis, Stacy’s father. “She wrote `This is how I like to play. I generally like to hit it straight, and I hit it left to right, but I want to be able to hit it both ways. I’m looking for somebody to help me get better, not somebody to overhaul my swing. I just want somebody to help me refine it.”

Lewis found the perfect coach for that.

While Hallett learned a lot from Toski, Ballard and Leadbetter, he doesn’t teach a method. He doesn’t believe in that. He’s a big believer in evaluating a player’s strengths and shaping a plan from there. He adapts and refines and improves, he doesn’t overhaul. His other clients include Angela Stanford, Brooke Pancake, Marina Alex and Sandra Changkicha.

“If they’re out on tour, they didn’t get there doing everything wrong,” Hallett said. “When I start working with somebody, I want to know what they’re working on, what their keys are and what their strengths are. I want to make their strengths better and get rid of the stuff that’s a waste of their time and energy.”

Hallett doesn’t believe chance led Lewis to him.

“It was a blessing,” said Hallett, who today is the director of instruction at Vanderbilt Legends Club in Nashville, Tenn. “I owe a lot to the man upstairs for putting all the stars in the right place, at the right time, because I literally had just got hired by the PGA for that position. In fact, I actually started working a week early when they asked me to come down for that Get Golf Ready program.”

Lewis was a rookie when she first met Hallett. She brought him aboard for her second season.

“I was lost my rookie year,” Lewis said. “I didn’t know how to get better. I didn’t know what I needed to do to get to the next level.

“Joe had a plan. He had a plan for what I needed to work on. I needed to get my body stronger. I needed to get my golf swing in a better position at the top. There was kind of a list of things we went through. He was in for the long haul. I didn’t want a quick fix.”

Lewis takes pride in her team, from agents, caddie and coach. Hallett loves being part of that.

“I’m just a cog in a good team,” Hallett said.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.