Jack Grout probably didn’t realize it as he was driving across the desert in early 1936, heading back to Texas, but a key factor in creating a higher comfort level for himself as a touring pro was finding the ideal traveling companion. Having a pal alongside to help ease him through the rough patches, a chum right there to share the good times, was what he lacked. In each of Dad’s previous winter excursions he paired himself with friends who would become exceptional players. As great as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Jimmy Demaret were on the golf course, though, all three were emotionally tough guys to be around on a daily basis, at least for my father. All three were, in a sense, lone wolves.
My father’s search for a supportive tour traveling partner came to a happy conclusion later in 1936 in the person of one of the game’s most accomplished players, Massachusetts’ own Henry Picard. Picard liked Dad’s strong character and businesslike approach to the game, and a close and lasting friendship developed. As they traveled the circuit together and eventually worked side by side as club professionals, Picard became one of my father’s key mentors, teachers and colleagues.
Henry Gilford Picard was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts on November 28, 1906. He began his lifelong career in golf as a caddie at the Plymouth Country Club. While in high school, Picard advanced to the position of clubhouse steward with the help of Donald Vinton, the club’s golf professional. The pro knew that this promotion would give the young fellow playing privileges at the club. Vinton recognized Henry’s love for golf and wanted him to have an opportunity to develop his burgeoning natural talent.
In the fall of 1925, after Picard had graduated from high school, Vinton petitioned William Picard for his 17-year old son’s services, as his assistant, at the Charleston Country Club. Vinton had the pro position at the South Carolina club in the wintertime. When Henry told his father how badly he wanted to go, Mr. Picard reluctantly gave his approval. Before Henry left home, however, his father gave him a little piece of advice to take along with him. He said, “You’ll always be rated by the people you choose as friends.”
In 1925, the Carolina’s Open was held at the Charleston Country Club. To everyone’s surprise, it was won by young Henry Picard. However, to show that it wasn’t a fluke, he won the tournament again the following year. In January 1935, Picard journeyed to the West Coast to put his flourishing game to the test against much tougher competition. During that winter campaign, Picard was traveling and rooming with his pal Johnny Revolta, an excellent player who would win nineteen pro tournaments, including the 1935 PGA Championship. When my sister Ronnie and her husband Tom visited Mr. Picard at his Charleston, South Carolina home in December, 1995, the aging pro reminisced how Revolta was “out on the town every night.” While Picard enjoyed Revolta’s company, rooming with him was difficult because Picard was a staunch family man. He didn’t begrudge Revolta and the other pros their nighttime fun; he just preferred to have calm and restful evenings, better to prepare himself for the next day’s golf.
Picard and his wife, Sunny (Annie Addison), had married in December, 1930 and by 1936 were parents of a pair of young sons, Bill and Larry, my dad being the latter’s godfather. It was disquieting to family-man Picard during his first foray in 1935-36 that Revolta sometimes was returning to their shared hotel room just as Picard was leaving for his morning round. It was a piece of good fortune that Picard began to notice my father’s purposeful ways and quiet work ethic at about the same time. Soon the two men began palling around away from the golf course, and later in 1936 they began traveling together.
Jack Grout would find no greater ally, confidante and traveling companion in all of golf than Henry Picard. In retrospect, the Picard-Grout pairing seems such a natural. Their playing styles were comparable; each had a long, rhythmic swing and could hit the ball a great distance. More importantly, the two also were like-minded, with many similarities in the way they approached life. Honesty, hard work and modesty were attributes they shared. Picard was more serious-natured than my father and a tougher individual both physically and competitively. With his lighter personality, Dad generally was more fun to be around. In many ways these contrasting traits tended to attract one to the other.
When the tour reached San Francisco in January 1937, Picard had a candid discussion with my dad about his own increasingly busy work schedule and how my father could help him deal with his obligations as head pro at Hershey Country Club. Then and there the job offer was made and accepted. My father experienced three solid years of growth as a player and a teacher at Hershey. His day-to-day association with Henry Picard had a lot to do with that. That is, Picard and Dad worked together on the golf swing for countless hours.
Over the succeeding decades the personal lives and golf careers of Henry Picard and Jack Grout would crisscross many times. In the fall of 1943 when Picard was in his second year as Twin Hills’ head pro in Oklahoma City while also employed during the week in a war-plant job at Douglas Aircraft Company, his trusted friend Jack Grout was there to run the golf operation in his weekday absence. In the fall of 1945 this golf version of musical chairs continued to unfold after the prestigious Canterbury Country Club reached out to Picard offering him its head professional position. When Picard told his employers at the Harrisburg (PA) Country Club that he was headed for Cleveland, Ohio, the club quickly set its sights on my father and in 1946 made him their new golf professional.
Dad wasn’t looking to begin the 1950s in a new job or in a new city. The four years in Harrisburg had been good for him and his family. But in the fall of 1949, a head professional position opened in a city that my father had driven through a number of times during his various travels and he had liked a lot. Things happened pretty fast after that. Henry Picard, still the head pro at Canterbury, teamed with Ohio businessman John W. Roberts in contacting my father about the position. Then the two men backed Dad’s eventual efforts to secure the new job.
The Associated Press reported the news on December 9, 1949: Thirty-nine-year-old Jack Grout, head professional at Harrisburg Country Club in Pennsylvania for the past four years, had been named head professional of Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. The story noted that, as the new head pro, Grout would be the host for the 1950 PGA Championship, scheduled at Scioto on June 21-29, 1950.
The prospect of hosting one of golf’s major championships excited my dad. But I know he would have been infinitely more excited had he been able to look into the future and see that within a few months, his orbit would collide with that of a husky Columbus ten-year-old redhead named Jackie Nicklaus, who would become under Jack Grout’s tutelage, the most successful golfer the world had ever seen.
My father and Henry Picard were shy and humble men. They were gentlemen and “first-class guys” who had great respect for one another. Throughout their long and successful careers they provided each other with assistance and support whenever and wherever it was needed. Both men had much to be proud of, including their ability to inspire in their respective families great loyalty and devotion for their father.
Note: Henry Picard had 26 wins on the PGA Tour and won the 1938 Masters Tournament and the 1939 PGA Championship. He retired in 1973 and returned to Charleston where he was a fixture in the local golf community. Picard played golf regularly into his 80s and died at age 90 on April 30, 1997. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in April 2006.
Great story Grootie…..
I have a great, great uncle named Arlie Frost (1867-1947) who was a famous harness horse racer. The day after he died there was a short article about him in the NEW YORK TIMES. I enjoyed reading about your father. I remember him and your sister Debbie from Upper Arlington OH.
I always enjoy your posts. I love to read your words about the game and the quality and character of gentlemen such as your father and his contemporaries. It was an honor to meet you some years ago. Learning more about your father makes it easy to see why you turned out to be the class individual you are. All the best to you and your family.