Game Changers

From Accountant to Award-Winning PGA Professional: The Story of Joe Hallett, PGA

By Adam Stanley
Published on
Stacy Lewis and Joe Hallett, PGA.

Stacy Lewis and Joe Hallett, PGA.

Joe Hallett was in his cubicle a quarter-century ago navigating assets and liabilities as a junior accountant. He got a call from long-time PGA Professional Joe Lopez one day, though, who asked him to come run his golf shop at Ocala National in Florida because he had just qualified for the PGA Tour Champions.
Lopez couldn’t pay Hallett what he was getting at the accounting firm, but that, Hallett says, was really OK.
“’Don’t worry,’” Hallett recalls saying with a laugh, “’I have my desk halfway cleared out.’” 
A turn to teaching
Hallett’s been a PGA Professional for 26 years now and recently received his PGA Master Professional status earlier this year. These days he's based out of the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tennessee, building on a decades-long career helping both weekend warriors and some of the best golfers in the game's history. 
Although he’s still got that accounting degree at his house somewhere, his role as a PGA Coach to a few legendary names who've graced the LPGA Tour is the job he’s loved fully and completely. 
Lopez, Hallett says, saw him try to get to PGA Tour’s Q-School for a third time and advised that maybe teaching would be the good path for him. Hallett, at the time, was concerned about his level of patience. He didn’t have any for his own game, he admits with a laugh, but after missing at Q-School for the third time he took Lopez up on his offer.
“I went to Q-School and got close and didn’t make it,” says Hallett. “But five days later I helped a guy hit a drive and he says, ‘I’ve never hit a ball like that in my life.’ I was hooked.” 
As a kid, Hallett’s family moved to a home in Miami on the Biltmore Golf Course. He played through high school and walked on to the team at Furman. He graduated with that degree in accounting (“My father always said you’re not going to college to learn to be a golfer,” Hallett says with a laugh) and managed financial statements for three years before Lopez came calling.
The partner at the accounting firm, Hallett recalls, was fine with him leaving. That job was always going to be there, but the opportunity to pursue what he loved was more important. Managing that shop was his first foray into professional golf. 
“I played poorly on almost every Tour except the PGA Tour because I played poorly enough to never get there,” a smiling Hallett says. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with some great instructors over the years though, by being in the right place and having good connections.”
Fast forward to the early 2000s and Hallett was part of the PGA of America’s Education Faculty overseeing the Association’s Professional Golf Management Program. He met Charlie Yoo then, who was running a golf academy at Black Bear Golf Club in Mt. Dora, Florida, just down the road from where Hallett was working at the time. Yoo had five students in his program, but the course got sold and there wasn’t anywhere for him to take them, so he brought them to Hallett’s club. 
Olympian Hazel Clark with Joe Hallett, PGA, at the 2023 PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit.
Olympian Hazel Clark with Joe Hallett, PGA, at the 2023 PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit.
One student kept asking him questions over and over and he ended up caddying for her on the then-Futures Tour (now Epson Tour) and a little bit on the LPGA Tour as she was getting some early-career exemptions. 
Her name was Inbee Park. 
Park, of course, has gone on to have a Hall of Fame-caliber career and won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship three straight times, from 2013-2015. His effort with Park got him into the LPGA Tour’s arena, changing the trajectory of his career dramatically.
A 'life-changing' email
Hallett's next big coaching score came after he worked at the PGA's Center for Golf Learning and Performance in Port St. Lucie, Florida. He was hired for a job there but was asked to come down a few weeks early because they were going to shoot a special on CBS called ‘Get Golf Ready.’ Everything, Hallett says, was fun. But the students on the last day were brought onto a golf course to play alongside PGA Tour winner J.J. Henry along with major champion Stacy Lewis.
Lewis and Hallett became fast friends. 
“I got a really cool email six months later that I still have, something like, ‘I know we spent some time talking and I feel like I’m here with my game and would you be interested in spending more time together and see if we could take things to the next level.’ That’s one of those things you don’t realize is a life-changing email until you get one,” says Hallett.
Turns out Lewis, who was recently named captain of the 2024 U.S. Solheim Cup Team, was also an accounting major, and the pair had plenty in common. 
Stacy Lewis is one of Joe Hallett's LPGA Tour star pupils.
Stacy Lewis is one of Joe Hallett's LPGA Tour star pupils.
Hallett’s seen some the best in the world up close and is quick to say how impressive and athletic the LPGA Tour swings have become lately. They’re all athletes, he says. He worked with Ryan O’Toole for about five years, and they went to the gym together during one of O’Toole’s visits to Hallett.  While Hallett was on the treadmill with the sun barely risen, O’Toole was doing box jumps four-feet high. 
"I’ve stood on the first tee next to men and women who are out at the event and Stacy or Nelly (Korda) hits the ball and they go ‘holy you-know-what’ and see how far they're hitting it. It all becomes relevant. They want to know how to do that,” says Hallett.

Whether it’s helping some of the best in the world or those inspired by them, Hallett’s still working with numbers – but being a PGA Professional is just a way more fun way of doing it.