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.

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Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.