I’ve always felt that my father was the ideal teacher for Jack Nicklaus, not just because Dad was a highly skilled golf instructor, but also because he had spent a couple of decades on the PGA Tour dealing with tough, competitive and sometimes-curt men such as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead. Through his interactions with these great players, he grew to understand the drive and the personalities of highly talented individuals who often were self-involved and insensitive to how their actions impacted others. Dad, thus, had an intuitive understanding of Nicklaus’ strong and demanding personality, intense focus and occasional impatience with persons or issues that distracted him from the work at hand.
My father, with his relaxed way of dealing with people and his low-key approach to teaching golf, matched well with Nicklaus’ personality for several reasons. First, Dad was consistent. Through exposure to accomplished professional golfers on the early tour and decades of working with good players, he had come to a set of golf-swing principles that he taught unwaveringly. He was not attracted to and did not confuse his pupils by advancing every new swing theory that came down the pike. Nor would Nicklaus have wanted him to. Second, Dad was by nature a highly supportive and encouraging person, and this characteristic won him great loyalty from Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd and many other top-level golfers who were his students. And, third Dad was by nature a humble man. He drew great satisfaction from the success of those he taught, but he had no need to be the “star of the show.” He was happy to stand in the background and let his golf students take full credit for their successes both on and off the course. This was his viewpoint for one simple reason: He felt they deserved it.
Jack Grout “was perfect for my dad,” said Nicklaus’ son, Jack Nicklaus II, himself a talented golfer and course designer. “Whether it was my dad’s analytical mind trying to understand on his own accord what to do and how to make adjustments on the golf course, or Jack Grout’s way of teaching that allowed him to do that … it was probably a combination of both. Whatever buttons Jack Grout pushed, my dad responded very well to.”