The House That Built Jack

On page 46 of Jack Nicklaus’ autobiography “My Story,” Nicklaus wrote, “If my dad (Charlie Nicklaus) was first the catalyst then the architect of my golfing career, Jack Grout was its principal builder and supreme motivator.”

Yes, as many of you know, my father was the man who built the powerful, fairway-eating swing of Jack Nicklaus, golf’s all-time leading major-championship winner. Despite all the recognition and great compliments Dad received for his many notable achievements, he remained through it all a humble, loving and caring husband and father.

Of course, it was in the house that built Jack where my brother, two sisters and I lived with our dear mother and father. Our life together was happy and relatively uncomplicated, with the focus on home, school and friends. There were bumps and detours along the way, of course, but it was a generally healthy and satisfying life for the whole group.

When Dad came home after work, he usually was tired and just wanted to relax. Any conversation there was around the dinner table always seemed to center on family matters. And, as I remember, the chatter rarely included much at all about Dad’s day at the golf course: Or how Jack Nicklaus or any other golf pro in Dad’s group of players was doing in some tournament somewhere.

Furthermore, as years passed, that same sort of quiet, family, lifestyle pattern remained rather consistent: Even while Dad’s reputation as a golf instructor intensified, which brought to his lesson tee successful players such as Raymond Floyd, Ben Crenshaw and Lanny Wadkins. He still had the ability to leave behind what had happened that day at the golf course and, like clockwork, shift comfortably into his other world as a family man.

While growing up, my three siblings and I were certainly aware of our Dad’s prominence in the game. But, at the same time, when Nicklaus or another one of Dad’s students was leading a tournament or had won some major championship, we didn’t jump around and make a big deal over it simply because Dad didn’t either. It just wasn’t in my father’s nature to act like that.

Is it possible to imagine any golf instructor today, not allowing himself to get caught up in the high-life and hoopla (like flashy displays of mugging and hugging their player after he walks off the 18th green) that now comes standard with the success of one of his students? Especially the type of fanfare and praise that would result when his student just happened to be the most accomplished player on the planet? Well, it’s obvious that Jack Grout did not concern himself with such things. He would have considered those actions as being pretentious and phony.

As a family, we all took our lead from Dad and as far as he was concerned, one’s personal accomplishments were always kept in perspective. In retrospect, perhaps our family should have made more out of his successes than we did. After all, they were honest-to-goodness significant moments in sports. Golfing history was being made over and over by players who sought him out for his advice and counsel.

Maybe, Mom and we kids would have behaved differently and gotten the big head, so to speak, if all of this had been happening in the contemporary cable TV age, when Dad’s work with Nicklaus and the others would be the subject of a reality show or continuing reports on ESPN or the Golf Channel.

But, I can tell you that all the fanfare and sensationalism that always seems to accompany present-day news reporting would not have changed Jack Grout one bit. He would have continued being happy and content to just remain in the background and let his golf students take full credit for their successes both on and off the course.

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