By Glenmore Jones
Register Golf Columnist
After 18 long years, an American golfer is back again as the Player of the Year in the LPGA.
No American has won the title since Beth Daniel in 1994. Stacy Lewis, a University of Arkansas graduate, clinched her third victory of the year at the Navistar giving her a 56-point advantage over Jiyai Shin in the Rolex Player of the Year race. She then wrapped it up with a win in the Muzimo Classic on Nov. 24 for her fourth victory of the year.
It has not been an easy road to the top for Stacy, but perseverance has paid off. At age 11 she was diagnosed with scoliosis and for seven and a half years she wore a brace 18 hours a day to correct curvature of the spine which resulted from it.
She took the brace off only when she played golf. As a high school senior, Stacy endured a traumatic back surgery in which doctors deflated a lung and moved organs to place a steel rod in her back.
Stacy showed enough talent in high school to earn a scholarship at Arkansas. As a redshirt freshman she practiced her short game until she had recuperated from the surgery. In her junior year she won the NCAA Championship and in her senior year she played as an amateur in the Kraft Nabisco Championship and tied for third.
She graduated from Arkansas in 2008 and became the first American ever to win 5-0 in the Curtis Cup.
Stacy Lewis really went into high gear when she won the 2011 Nabisco Championship. She came from two strokes back to beat the No. 1 golfer in the world, Yani Tseng, for her first major championship.
Tseng had won 17 titles in 2010 and 2011.
This year, Stacy has kept her great game going with the four victories and bringing that player of the year award crown back to an America.
Hats off to you and I would like to say “You da Lady!”
Keep it going.
Why am I so interested in Stacy Lewis?
It is two-fold.
She is not only a great champion and person but her coach, Joe Hallett, is a friend of mine. Joe was a senior and my No. 1 player on a golf team I started at St. John’s High School in Ocala, Fla. in 1977 and 1978. My son, Jonathan, also played on that team.
Our record that year was eight wins and three losses. Joe was the lone player on that team that I took to the state championship, where he performed well.
Joe was always a student of the golf game and I learned more from him than he did from me. I lost track of him for a few years and then I saw he had an instructional school set up at Black Bear Country Club near Leesburg, Fla.
I visited with him there briefly.
I lost track of him again then I saw in “Golf Week” he was general manager of Golf Instruction at the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance in Port St. Lucie, Fla. A couple of years ago I stopped by Port Lucia and visited with Joe for an hour.
Joe was not as happy sitting in an office managing as he was out on the range teaching.
Joe is now director of instruction at the Vanderbilt Legends Club in Franklin, Tenn. The three things he tries to tie together are club fitting, fitness and instruction. He certainly has two good examples of his teaching in Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park, who is the No. 1 money leader in 2012.
Congratulations to Joe Hallett.
I bust my buttons every time I think of what you have accomplished since high school. May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.
The most important thing for a human being is to be relevant — Henry Winkler.
I fibbed last week – I did not know about the Stacy Lewis story and I had to get that in print. So next week will be my final column of the year.
Dec. 8 – Boxing meet at Igo’s Boxing and Fitness. Enter at 6 p.m. Weigh-in at 4 p.m. Showtime at 6 p.m. Admission is $10.
Knowledge is the wisdom that you know nothing — Socrates.
Until next time … live, love, laugh and learn, Glenmore.