FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Virtually every golfer comes into college already schooled by their own swing coach.
But there are swing coaches and there are swing coaches. Arkansas freshman Hally Leadbetter is taught by one of the very best – someone who just happens to also be dad.
Leadbetter is the daughter of David Leadbetter, one of the most famous teaching professionals in the game. His current list of protégés includes Ian Poulter, 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman, Michelle Wie and Suzann Pettersen.
Figuring out that her father is trusted by some of the top touring pros in the world took a while to sink in for Hally during her formative years.
It was an epiphany only a teenager could have.
“Before I came to college I worked with my dad a little bit, but it was always hard because we always would argue,” Hally recalled. “Then I would take a second and think, ‘Why am I arguing? I’m pretty sure he’s right.’ “
“I had another instructor. Now I send my swing to my dad. I think he’s a pretty reliable source.”
Golf runs deep in the Leadbetter family. Hally’s mother, Kelly, used to be an LPGA touring pro and is now an instructor at the famous David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Florida. And younger brother James recently committed to play golf for Arkansas’ men’s team.
Growing up, Hally avoided the sport. She had other career plans in mind.
“I did not like it when I was little,” she said. “I always had a set of clubs, but I thought, ‘This is so boring.’ My cousins rode horses and I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do. I’m going to ride horses.’
“When I was 12 I thought I might as well give it a try and it was like, ‘This is actually pretty fun.’ ”
Her first time playing 18 holes, Leadbetter figures she shot something in the range of 136.
“I thought, ‘Well, I have a lot of work to do if I want to go to college and turn pro one day,’ ”
Hally honed her game while attending The Pendleton School in Bradenton, Fla., which is affiliated with her father’s golf academy.
The Razorbacks weren’t on Hally’s recruiting radar at first. She looked at schools along the East Coast and at Arizona State, where her mother played college golf.
“My coach at the time said, ‘Let’s go visit Arkansas.’ I was like, ‘Why?’ Living in Florida you never hear about Arkansas,” Leadbetter said. “You don’t know what a cool place it is. But when I went there I immediately fell in love with the coaches. Shauna [Estes-Taylor] and [assistant] Mike [Adams] are amazing. The school and the facilities are amazing.”
In the end, though, Leadbetter is just like every other member of the team. She pulls on her hog-shaped club head cover the same as the rest of her teammates, and spent the afternoon following her second round fiddling with her swing plane and launching shot after left-handed shot into the fading sun. She opened the championship with rounds of 79 and 80.
“We work together,” Estes-Taylor said. “Obviously, her dad is an amazing golf instructor. But we treat Hally as part of the family. It’s not about who her dad is but making her a great Razorback.”
Leadbetter isn’t the only child or relative of a famous sports figure tied to this year’s championship.
Florida junior Isabelle Lendl is the daughter of eight-time grand slam tennis champion Ivan Lendl. Her older sister, Florida senior Marika, didn’t make it to the championships. Their younger sister Daniela is a freshman at Alabama and also didn’t qualify for the championships.
Texas is playing here without injured junior Madison Pressel, younger sister of LPGA touring pro Morgan Pressel.