By Jeff Groezinger
“On May 13, 1989, Jack Grout passed away. Though his physical presence may no longer be with us, his gentle warmth and kind words remain fixed in the minds of the thousands who were fortunate enough to know him.
I met Mr. Grout through my father. Dad was a PGA professional and operator of a public golf course on the northside of Columbus Ohio. Jack Grout was the head professional at Scioto Country Club; then and now, one of the country’s finest private golf courses.
The two men frequently crossed paths at PGA meetings and while staging junior clinics. Eventually they came to an interesting business arrangement. You see, at premier country clubs with well-heeled members, buying new sets of clubs is something of an annual tradition.
Typically, a purchase of new clubs is accompanied by a trading-in of the former set. As you might well imagine, there was neither then or now, a great demand for used clubs at Scioto. And thus a business and personal relationship was begun. Eventually, Minerva Lake Golf Club became the home of some of the finest “used” clubs in the city.
In the mid-70s, after Mr. Grout had accepted the offer of Jack Nicklaus to become the new Club’s “pro emeritus” at Muirfield Village, my father gave his youngest son a sixteenth birthday he’ll never forget; a lesson with Jack Grout. I wish I could tell you that one lesson led me to a string of amateur titles, wealth and fame, but I’m afraid those fables are better left to Aesop. No, after completely reworking my grip, I went out the next day in a nine-hole school match and shot a score much closer to 56 than the par of 36.
Several years later, after deciding to make a serious effort at the game, Dad called Jack and set up a series of lessons.
After our first session, we ended up in Muirfield’s grill room. There, it was decided that the series would be five lessons. “How much do I owe you?” my father queried. “Aw nothing,” replied Mr. Grout. “It’s a pleasure.”
Fifteen minutes later Jack reluctantly consented to accept a payment in an amount that escapes me, but I recall it wasn’t enough.
Our weekly sessions on the practice tee were pure pleasure. But even though Jack didn’t have “the secret,” he did have something that few men do – genuine warmth and humility. You see, the man absolutely loved the game. On the lesson tee he would show you the idea or fundamental to perform. As you gradually started picking up the concept, Jack would get excited. He loved to see you take a divot, and before you knew it you’d be just as excited as him. I soon came to realize that nothing pleased him more than seeing a good golf shot. By the end of our series, I felt the same way … I still do.
Almost without fail I would leave the lesson tee (often ten or fifteen minutes later than the lesson was scheduled to last) just looking for a golf course to play. To try out the new grip or swing thought.
That’s my memory of Jack Grout. It’s a memory of one of the kindest, most humble men I’ve ever met. But above all, it’s the memory of a man who loved the game for what, in my opinion, is its greatest thrill … the excitement of hitting a good golf shot.
In Jack Grout’s case he saw the best of two worlds, as an outstanding player in his earlier days, he hit many a perfect shot on the PGA Tour in the company of his friends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. But Jack had the special knack of communicating those abilities to a host of aspiring amateurs as well as professionals, and though an ailing back forced him off the course, he was able to share the enthusiasm and yes, even provide his own brand of excitement to all those whose lives he touched.
To be able to genuinely love the game of golf is rare enough, to share that love through enthusiasm and teaching is a very rare gift indeed. Many very good instructors can teach you the proper grip and set-up. But only a very few can teach you how to love the game of golf. Jack Grout was one of the few. The world of golf is fortunate that Jack Grout was a member of its community, and the world of golf will miss him.”