By TOM HANSON
Naples Daily News
Posted June 15, 2013 at 5:41 p.m.
Muirfield Village Golf Club on the practice tee – Dick Grout, Jack Nicklaus and Jack Grout in 1978 (Photo courtesy of Tim Revell).
Dick Grout remembers his dad turning work into family vacations. He remembers traveling the country, going to U.S. Opens and PGA Championships.
Grout remembers watching his dad’s protégé’s — Jack Nicklaus, Ray Floyd and David Graham — capturing those major championships.
Now, he’d like the golf community to do more than remember his dad, one of the game’s most prolific instructors.
Dick Grout is pushing for his father, Jack Grout, whose pupils have won 24 major titles, to be inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame.
Dick Grout calls it a travesty that he’s not already there.
“It’s absurd,” Dick Grout said. “I know I am tremendously partial but how can there be a PGA Hall of Fame without my father in it? The Hall should be honored to have him as a part of it.”
To spread his message, Dick Grout wrote a book — with the help of part-time Collier resident Bill Winter — about his dad. The book: “Jack Grout: A Legacy in Golf” isn’t a traditional golf tale about swings and score cards. This is a story told through the eyes of a son, about a quiet and humble family man who had a solid career as a touring professional, then a truly brilliant one as a teacher to the pros and the stars. This is a love story about Jack Grout’s passion for his wife, their four children and for the game of golf. This is a golf history book and the considerable impact one man made on the game.
“We tried to make it a human interest story,” Dick Grout said, “not just a sports book and not solely about golf, but about someone’s life.”
Jack Grout’s life changed back in 1950 when a husky 10-year-old redhead named Jackie Nicklaus attended his junior clinic at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio.
But some may say Nicklaus and golf had the good fortune that Jack Grout landed the head teaching job at Scioto. There had never been a junior clinic held in Columbus before, and who knows, a superb athlete like Jack Nicklaus may have become a football player.
Unlike today’s golf world, where players have strength coaches, swing coaches and sports psychologists, Nicklaus had only one coach for nearly 40 years.
With his 73 PGA Tour victories and 18 major titles, Nicklaus said: “If Jack Grout had not arrived as the new pro at Scioto concurrent with my father’s convalescence, right now I would probably be selling insurance Monday through Friday and flipping a fishing rod for my weekend fun. Conceivably, I would have continued to play golf, or come back to it in later years. But I am certain that my life overall would have been very different from what it became.” He added, “Without (Jack Grout), I’m certain I would never have achieved the professional success I have enjoyed.”
Nicklaus said Jack Grout’s omission from the PGA Hall of Fame mystifies him, but his coach wouldn’t be bothered by it.
“J. Grout, as I called him, was just too humble and too comfortable in his own skin — and with what he accomplished in life — to spend even one minute worrying about such things,” Nicklaus said in the foreword of the book.
Jack Grout was as simple as his golf theories: head still, good footwork, balance and a wide arc.
“He knew the golf swing probably as well as any instructor ever has,” Nicklaus said. “But I think his greatest gift to his students was his belief in them and his ability to get them to believe in themselves.”
Ray Floyd described Jack Grout as low-key and always positive.
Floyd said Grout always focused on “telling you what you were doing right. If I went to him when I was playing well, I came away from a session, man, I couldn’t wait to get to the tee. I knew I was going to beat everybody.”
In a letter to Jack Grout after winning the 1986 U.S. Open, Raymond Floyd wrote, “I want you to know that I could not have accomplished all that I have done without you. Your patience, your tutelage and your inspiration has been the formula of my success. I sincerely thank you.”
Nicklaus’ and other players’ tremendous success didn’t change Jack Grout.
Dick Grout said his dad may have never fit into today’s instant golf lesson landscape. Jack Grout would have been the polar opposite of Hank Haney. My father would have never participated in reality- celebrity TV, despite giving lessons to the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Andy Williams and Sean Connery.
“That would have gone against the grain of his shy nature,” Dick Grout said. “Dad would sooner put on a disguise and change his name before going on any reality TV show.”
Instead, Jack Grout quietly grinded out a career as a highly sought-out teaching professional. Besides Nicklaus, Floyd and Graham, Jack Grout worked with a stable of touring pros such as Jim Colbert, J.C. Snead, Gibby Gilbert, Roger Maltbie, Tom Purtzer, Olin Browne and Lanny Wadkins.
“Dad was a lunch pail guy. He was quiet, uncomplicated and did the job at hand,” Dick Grout said. “His desire to remain in the background and not promote himself in the public eye seems a key reason why
he hasn’t yet taken his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. But, he enjoyed his life; he lived his life the way he wanted to live it and on his terms.”
Lost in the lessons and his players’ accolades is the fact that Jack Grout was a respectable player in his early days. According to PGA Tour Selected All-Time Rankings and Statistical Highlights:
ERA Rankings (1930 – 1945)
#79 Jack Grout – Officially credited with 18 Top Ten and 35 Top Twenty-five finishes
Top 500 Players (1916 – 1988)
#425 Jack Grout – Officially credited with 20 Top Ten and 40 Top Twenty-five finishes
Grout learned the game working as a caddie at Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club. He earned 35 cents shagging balls and eventually won the caddie championship.
He turned pro in the early 1930s and traveled the PGA Tour with the likes of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Jimmy Demaret, and Henry Picard. He was a pioneer of the Tour and finished in the top 25 on the money list in 1941, 1942 and 1943.
Jack Grout gave up tour life in 1945 after marrying and starting a family.
“What surprised me the most was that on top of being a great teacher, he had a pretty solid playing career,” said Bill Winter, the book co-author who is a member at Hammock Bay in East Naples.
Winter met Dick Grout by chance at The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards in South Carolina. Winter’s wife, Rosanne, had heard the teaching pro at the course, Dick Grout, talking of a book about his father and looking for a journalist to help write it. After hearing the book was about Jack Grout, Winter, an Ohio native, walked over to Dick Grout and said don’t look any further, I’m your man.
“I wanted to do something that was worthwhile and a good story,” Winter said of his interest in writing the Jack Grout story, “and something someone may care about.”
Dick Grout had followed in his dad’s footsteps, becoming a good player and a teaching professional, too. The 59-year-old spent four years compiling notes and stories about his father. Winter and Grout spent another four years retooling the book.
“I quickly came to realize that his father is my father,” Winter said about the correlation between Jack Grout and Winter’s father who quit college to support the family and still became a successful accountant. “I realized that Jack Grout was every father who wanted what was best for his family and didn’t seek any acknowledgment or accolades for the hard work.”
Jack Nicklaus also looked up to Jack Grout as a father figure.
“The truth is that we developed a friendship as close and warm and comfortable as two men can, and particularly after my dad’s death in 1970, when Jack Grout became a second father to me,” Nicklaus said.
Dick Grout said growing up he didn’t even understand his father’s prominence in the game. He said when one of his father’s students won a Tour event, Jack Grout didn’t make a big deal about it. Grout said looking back the family should have celebrated his dad’s success.
“We all took our lead from our dad and we kept these things in perspective,” Grout said. “He didn’t come home and go crazy about it during tournaments or when Jack was in the lead.
“We took all of that in stride. I look back now and say this was really something else, history being made and made over and over again, and maybe should have made a bigger deal about it and it was almost crazy that we didn’t.”
Jack Grout was humble. He was quiet and reserved. He was loyal till the day he died. On his death bed, days after the 1989 Masters, Nicklaus and his wife Barbara came to the family home. Jack Grout asked Nicklaus why he pushed his second shot on 18. Jack Grout asked Nicklaus to standup and take his stance. Then Jack Grout proceeded to give Jack Nicklaus one last lesson even though he could barely lift his head off the pillow.
Dick Grout said his father had a saying: “If you know what is right, do what is right.”
Dick Grout said golf knows what’s right: His father, the second father to Jack Nicklaus and many other successful pros, should occupy a place of honor in his sports Hall of Fame.
Note: For the purposes of this article some additional details have been added to the original story.