Jack Grout – Unparalleled Teacher of the Game

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.”

The Coach who stands above them all?

May 12, 2013

By David Waldenstein of the New York Times

LEAVING GREAT ENOUGH ALONE

“The greatest coach of the 20th century performed his job so well, he made himself obsolete.

Jack Grout, the first and only instructor of Jack Nicklaus, believed that self-reliance was the key to golfers’ reaching their fullest potential. It worked for Nicklaus, who won 18 major championships and is widely considered the greatest golfer of all time.

Unlike today’s instructors, Grout never showed up on the practice tee with a video camera bag slung over his shoulder. He would have shuddered at the thought of becoming a reality television personality. Grout’s face rarely graced a PGA Tour practice range. Nicklaus said that he very seldom set foot on the practice tee at a tournament. When they got together for practice, Grout taught Nicklaus how to fine-tune his game, and when the major championships rolled around, he was often there but stepped back into the shadows.

 Far from trading on Nicklaus’ fame, he hardly acknowledged his part in it. Unlike today’s coaches, Grout never would have earned his own endorsement deals, unless it was for Wite-Out. In the galaxy of coaches, Grout was the Pistol Star, the brightest star in the Milky Way but totally obscured by dust clouds.”

 

Memories of a Champion

 

 

JWN80-Grout bookJanuary 15, 2020. Jack Nicklaus reflects on career and turning 80 years old. Note: Displayed prominently on Jack’s desk is a copy of my father’s book: “Jack Grout, A Legacy in Golf.”

“Looking back, the most remarkable thing about those earliest days was how much time Mr. Grout always seemed to have for me. He’d see me coming in off the course and it was always the same: “Well, Jackie boy, how’d you play today? How’d you hit ’em out there, young fella.” And I’d tell him my score, a 93 or an 88 or whatever, and he’d say, “Well, let’s go out and hit a few, let me take a look.” And off we would head once again for the range or the putting green. Certainly he was tickled by my enthusiasm, and in later years he liked to suggest that a certain clairvoyance about where I would go in golf stimulated his efforts to help me. Whatever the reasons, without fail his time was my time.

Equally valuable – especially during my inevitable slumps – was the durability of Jack’s conviction about my innate golfing abilities. Come a bad patch and he couldn’t wait to start getting me refocused and remotived by helping to make the game fun for me again. It was like that every day of his life, even in those terrible times when he was dying of cancer and could barely sit upright in a golf cart. The phone would ring and there he would be … the faint voice trying so hard to sound upbeat and cheerful: “Jackie boy, come on, let’s go out and hit some balls.”

There would be some times as the years passed when Jack’s enthusiasm was my only motivation, when I would go to the practice tee and hit shots for him that I knew his failing eyes could not even see, simply because he wanted to spend time with me, and because I wanted to be with him just as much. And when I got there it was always fun, and, like as not, without him telling me even one teacherly thing, I’d fall back in love with the game again.

Jack Grout was the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me in terms of golf, and the reason was that he would not, under any circumstances, allow me to get really down on myself. In this respect he was relentless. “Come on Jackie boy,” he’d urge and exhort me, “you’ll get it, stay with it, keep at it. You’re the best, Jackie boy, you’ve beaten ’em all before and you’ll beat ’em all again. Okay, you lost it for a while, but forget that, put it out of your head. It’s another day, and there’s another tournament coming up. Now, let’s get out there and go to work. Come on, let’s go hit some balls, there isn’t any time to waste. Now, don’t you forget, it’s right there inside of you and we’re going to find it. Jackie, young fella, you’re going to be unbeatable … you hear me … Un-beat-able! Now, let’s get out there and start playing some real golf.”

It was heady stuff, and there was no way I could not respond to such boundless faith in me. Thank you, Jack, from the bottom of my heart.”

JACK NICKLAUS: MY STORY, SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2003. PAGES 50-51

Death of the Country Club

The country club, once a mainstay of American suburbia, faces a cloudy future, with a changing culture eroding its societal influence. Golf and tennis, the traditional club pastimes, have lost popularity. Declining marriage and fertility rates mean fewer families joining. Young professionals, many burdened with limited incomes and high debt, balk at paying dues. And a yearning for broader community makes the exclusivity of the clubhouse unappealing. The country club is increasingly a refuge for retirees—and, upon closure, a site for mixed-use development.

Country clubs once served as communal centers for social climbers. Dating to the 1880s, the clubs—modeled on the country houses of the British aristocracy —opened in the bucolic outskirts of industrial cities and towns. For a growing upper-middle-class, wealth permitted entry into this local society. Golf, dormant since the colonial era, became the favored sport for club members; in 1895 alone, more than 100 courses opened. Country clubs would help shape the development of streetcar suburbs, with stately homes lining manicured courses. By the Great Depression, nearly 4,500 country clubs existed across the country.

Throughout the twentieth century, the club’s influence was reflected by its prominent place in American literature. “In Zenith it was as necessary for a Successful Man to belong to a country club as it was to wear a linen collar,” wrote Sinclair Lewis in his 1922 novel, Babbitt. A decade later, in Appointment in Samarra, John O’Hara documented how a set of missteps at a country club could destroy a man’s social standing. In the 1950s, John Cheever’s short stories revealed the centrality of club life to upper-middle-class suburban America. Philip Roth’s first book, Goodbye, Columbus, sets a New Jersey country club as the stage for exploring class divisions in a youthful romance. John Updike’s 1981 Rabbit is Rich offered the country club as a paradise of relaxed indulgence; by 1990, in Rabbit at Rest, the poolside and fairways of the club are shadowed by mortality.

By the early 1960s, shortly after Roth’s fiction debut, the U.S. had 3,330 clubs with 1.7 million members—fewer than during the Roaring Twenties, but membership now extended beyond “old money.” The typical postwar suburb featured several country clubs, divided by ethnicity and class, where young professionals and successful businessmen enjoyed status, exclusivity, and recreation. The prosperous Reagan years yielded even more clubs—and baby boomer members—though concerns started to emerge about changing lifestyles, age-old restrictions, and exorbitant fees. Country clubs responded with family-oriented attractions and cheaper “junior memberships” for younger people. More than 5,000 clubs operated during the 1990s, and thanks to Tiger Woods’s ascendance, the golf market enjoyed a 20-year period of growth.

The Great Recession changed the club’s fortunes. According to a recent Business Journals analysis of 449 U.S. counties, the number of golf courses and country clubs declined by 5 percent between 2005 and 2015. A generational shift will only intensify this trend. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, Americans born between 1981 and 1996 are financially outmatched by every generation since the Depression. Despite higher levels of education, millennials have “less wealth, less property, lower marriage rates, and fewer children.” Annual country club dues, which run in the thousands of dollars, put membership beyond practical reach for many. Leisure for today’s younger adults more often involves streaming TV shows in a high-rent city bedroom, not playing 18 holes on a suburban green.

A combination of millennials’ empty pockets and aging club members has brought more closures, and the suburbs have had to adjust. In El Paso, to take one example, the struggling Vista Hills Country Club recently shut down. More than 500 households surround the club’s golf course, and owners worry about depreciating property values. Following a community meeting, an initiative is underway to raise money from homeowners to maintain the golf course.

Mixed-use development projects are often replacing defunct courses. At the site of California’s Santa Clara Golf and Tennis Club, a developer plans to build City Palace, which would be the country’s largest entertainment complex, featuring nearly 2 million square feet of retail and dining. In suburban Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Blue Ridge Village will replace a former country club with hundreds of single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments, along with an assisted-living facility and retail space. The redevelopment, occurring near the base of an Appalachian ridge, will transform a once-quiet corridor outside the city.

A country-club resurgence is unlikely, even with Woods’s recent comeback. The houses in today’s mixed-use developments recall those of earlier suburban patterns, from fifties-era ranches to the nineties’ double-arched McMansions. Ironically, it is millennials, not baby boomers, who will ultimately reside in these communities. They will become condo tenants on their parents’ former links, seeking cheaper housing, decent schools, and a respite from the rush in an age that moves too quickly for a round of golf.

Charles F. McElwee, Assistant Editor, City Journal; June 7, 2019

“Wee Bobby”

Bobby Cruickshank (Born, Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland, November 16, 1894; died, Delray Beach, Florida, August 27, 1975.) Known as “Wee Bobby” or the “Wee Scot” because of his small stature (5-foot-2 to 5-4), Cruickshank served in the British Army in World War I. Captured in action by the Germans, he was a prisoner of war and later successfully escaped with the help of a local woman he had befriended. He then rejoined his regiment and saw out the war with distinction as Sergeant RA Cruickshank.

Once the Great War ended with an armistice on November 11, 1918, Bobby returned to Scotland and resumed his promising golfing career. With the success he was enjoying, Cruickshank turned professional and left Scotland for America in February 1921. He rose to prominence in the United States after reaching the semi-finals of the PGA Championship in 1922 and 1923, but lost both times to eventual champion Gene Sarazen. Cruickshank was also the runner-up in the U.S. Open in 1923 and 1932, won by Bobby Jones and Sarazen, respectively.

As one of the star names in golf, Cruickshank was well placed to take advantage of the extra cash ($300 per appearance) that could be earned by way of exhibition matches. The Scotsman’s flair and colorful game brought him to Oklahoma City in the fall of 1924. On Sunday, October 12th Cruickshank and his traveling companion Al Espinosa played in a best-ball match against Bill Creavy and Harold Long.

During that match, my 14-year-old father, who was the No. 1 caddie at Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, was assigned the honor of toting Wee Bobby’s golf bag. As time passed, Dad’s admiration deepened for Cruickshank and he caddied for the Wee Scot every chance he could. In those days it was considered a privilege to caddie for a player the likes of Cruickshank. My father said that the Scotsman was the first truly distinguished golfer that he was able to observe. Cruickshank was a magnificent player with a beautiful style and my father paid particular attention to the distinctive and artistic way in which he played. Dad is quoted as saying, “But, Cruickshank too, experimented with his game and taught others what he had picked up along the way.”

Bobby Cruickshank was an active member of the P.G.A. tour from 1921 to 1950, winning 20 tournaments. His greatest year was 1927, when he won the Los Angeles and Texas Opens and led the tour with winnings of $17,800. In 1967, Cruickshank was elected to the PGA Golf Hall of Fame. When his competitive career was over, he took on a series of pro jobs across the country, until his death at age 80.

Without a doubt, Cruickshank’s was no ordinary life. He lived it without regret, and remained philosophical about his “near misses”. He made this clear in the 1974 interview: “I’ve no regrets. We had our chance, that’s the way the Lord makes it. I think things work out for the best. If you win, you win, if you don’t, you don’t. It’s fate’s work, you see.”

Cruickshank

Bobby Cruickshank (left) and Thomas (Tommy) Dickson Armour were fierce competitors on the golf course and lifelong friends off it. In the above photo, Cruickshank and Armour are shown after turning in 66-66-132 total strokes to tie Jack Grout and Henry Picard 67-65-132 in the Mid-South Pro – Pro Best Ball Golf Tourney. The four-ball event was held at Pinehurst #2 in Pinehurst, North Carolina.  The title attached to these historical images is “Tying Pain in Southern Golf Tourney.” Below, is a photo taken of my father and Henry Picard upon completion of their round on November 16, 1938.1938 JG & Picard @ Mid-South 4-Ball

 

“You Must Go Where the Money Is”

The era of the 1920s embodied the beginning of modern America. Under any moniker, The Roaring Twenties” were an age of dramatic social and political change. For the first time, more Americans lived in cities than on farms. The nation’s total wealth more than doubled between 1920 and 1929. However, this economic growth was not being felt by those playing on what passed as golf’s pro-tournament circuit. The colorful Gene Sarazen called pro golf “a sucker’s game.” Even the best players made little cash from tournament play, golf’s purses of the day being far inferior to the pay offered the top athletes in, say, boxing and baseball. For example, the prestigious U.S. Open title carried a purse of only $500 in 1926 (equivalent in purchasing power to about $7,265 in 2020).

A golf champion’s overall earnings, then, depended largely on his personal showmanship and ability to market his playing skills away from the scheduled tour. Exhibitions were where the money was in golf, and stars such as Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen were among those who crisscrossed the country playing one- or two-day events for cash. These matches were a sure thing – no pressure and an automatic payoff. Once a player had established himself as one of the leading tour pros, the exhibitions offered an easy supplement to tournament winnings.

In 1922, Hagen aimed a glaring spotlight on the importance of these good-paying exhibition matches to leading professionals. After becoming the first American to win the British Open, he opted just a few weeks later not to defend his PGA Championship when the tournament was held at Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh. Hagen wasn’t ill or injured. Rather, his schedule was full of more-lucrative engagements. During his career as a golf pro, Hagen played close to two-thousand one-day stands. The man called “Sir Walter” played wherever cash was available – from Chatham, Massachusetts, to Salt Lake City, to the dusty fairways and sand-based greens of the Southwest.

In October 1922, the Hagen caravan pulled into Oklahoma City for an exhibition match at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club. This one pitted club pro Sandy Baxter and caddie master Dick Grout against Hagen and fellow touring pro Joe Kirkwood Sr. Seven hundred people turned out to watch, and Hagen and Kirkwood were paid about $300 each. Baxter made $100, and my dad’s brother, Dick, just eighteen years old but already playing in high-level company, took home $50. My dad also played a role in the club’s big day. Having established himself by then as a first-rate caddie, even at age twelve, he was assigned to tote Hagen’s bag, giving him yet another great learning opportunity. Hagen was at that time the most celebrated American professional golfer. Dad’s terrific chance, then, would be comparable to a pre-teen caddying for Tiger Woods in his prime.

Texas, Byron and Ben

Near the end of January 1930, a headline in the morning paper read, “Oklahoma Loses Dick and Jack Grout; Brother Pros Go to Fort Worth Club.” Though most of the Grout family had known of the news long beforehand, it was a bit jarring when they actually saw the account in the Daily Oklahoman. The story read:

“Dick and Jack Grout, brother professionals who ranked topmost among Oklahoma’s promising salaried golfers, will be lost to the state by Saturday, February 1st. The Grout brothers, both of whom are Oklahoma City products, announced … that they had come to terms with the Glen Garden Club of Fort Worth, Texas. Dick Grout will become professional and Jack will become his assistant on February 1.”

As Dick’s assistant, my father had a range of assignments around the club, but he also found a good deal of time to play and practice, sharpening his game for his burgeoning competitive career. It was just lucky for Dad that a couple of fellows named Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan were hanging around the club from early to late most days. Those two had first gotten to know one another during their nine-hole Glen Garden Caddie Championship match – won by Nelson – in December, 1927. As one of their prizes for that match, they were allowed to play and practice at times when the club wasn’t busy with member play.

Nelson and Hogan took full advantage of their playing privileges, and Dad would say later that he and the future golfing legends “palled around together and played golf quite a lot.” As it turned out, the friendship forged between the three men on the practice range and the nearly treeless course at Glen Garden would extend through their golfing lives, with Nelson and Hogan joining the ranks of the game’s best-ever players and Dad being a very good player but eventually becoming recognized as one of the game’s greatest teachers.

Big-Time Golf’s Big Sugar Daddy 

The Tam O’Shanter National Open was held in suburban Niles, Illinois on July 23-26 1942. It was billed as the biggest golfing extravaganza in history – and the most unusual. The tournament was sort of like a circus with side shows for practically everyone. It was the brain-child of wealthy businessman and promoter George S. May. The event hailed itself as having several unprecedented highlights for the expected large galleries. Top ranking black golfers played against their white brethren for the first time in any major tournament.

It was a golfing double-header, another first in the history of the game. The whole affair began earlier in the week with the All-American Amateur tournament and its field of 200 golfers. Then the Tam’s National Open started on Thursday with the 64 lower-scoring amateurs carrying over into the Open competition. The amateurs ended play on Saturday-the Open on Sunday. Next, the size of the starting field and the total prize list were advertised as the largest ever. The combined fields in the two tournaments totaled nearly 500 players. There was a purse of $15,500 in the Open and $1,300 in War Bonds for the winners in the amateur division making it the biggest prize-winning event in the history of American golf.

The week of madness had its fair share of calamity. George May, a flamboyant, shrewd and fast man with a buck, issued each professional a number placard about six inches by four inches and expected it to be pinned to the back of the shirt. He put the numbers on the players to help the gallery identify their favorites much the same way athletes in other sports are denoted. This did not go over too well with the Tour professionals and actually caused a revolt. Many of the pros thought it was undignified and rebelled. May declared he had a “written agreement” with the PGA that all players would wear the numbers, but this was denied by PGA officials. They said it was an “oral agreement” and that the players could wear the numbers if they wished to.

Angrily declaring that he would not be a “circus horse” for anybody, Joe Kirkwood Sr. refused to wear a number on his back at the start of the third round. In explaining his stand, the veteran trick shot star said: “I’ve been playing tournament golf for 25 years and I don’t propose to start plastering a number on my back at this time. I offered to put the number on my caddie or my golf bag, but under no circumstances on my back. Nothing was said to me in advance about wearing a number.”

The incident grew in proportions when many of the assembled professionals threatened to follow Kirkwood’s example and withdraw from the tournament if the committee insisted on the no numbers, no play rule. A group of leading stars, including Byron Nelson, Paul Runyan, Clayton Heafner, Lawson Little, Dick Metz, Jug McSpaden, Toney Penna and Fred Corcoran, tournament manager for the PGA, held an indignation meeting in the club locker room. Then, they conferred with May in his private office to fight it out. May was adamant and would not back down.

The assemblage of players was unable to make headway with May, who threatened to “call the whole thing off.” May not only refused to permit a player to go off the 1st tee without a number but declined to reinstate Kirkwood. Tommy Armour said he wore his last number as a prisoner of war and in a display of solidarity joined his friend Joe Kirkwood and withdrew from the tournament. “Nobody can tell me what to wear,” said the Silver Scot. “I shall be an interested spectator from here on.”

Apparently, two other pros felt strongly enough about it to withdraw. Joe Coria from Minnesota and George Fazio from Philadelphia told May where he could pin their numbers. None of the fellows particularly liked being “dressed up like a Christmas tree” and when many of them teed off they had their numbers pointedly pinned to the back of their trousers below the belt. Square-shooting Henry Picard did not have his on when he left the first tee, but he later pinned it on. Picard was like most of the fellows who had their priorities in the right order. After all, there was a lot of money to be won and some numbers just meant more than others.

 

 

What If?

My father and his traveling companion Henry Picard were in Fort Worth, Texas to play in two exhibition matches on January 1-2, 1938. Before long, they were joined by Sam Snead and Johnny Revolta for the publicized event held at Colonial Golf Club.

On New Year’s Eve, 1937, Dad and Picard went out for the evening and decided to have dinner at the celebrated Blackstone Hotel. After being seated, my father took a quick look around and happened to see Valerie and Ben Hogan sitting at a table on other side of the dining room.

At that time, Picard and Hogan were not yet acquainted with each other. Actually, by the end of 1937, there were a number of PGA Tour regulars who weren’t familiar with Ben Hogan; who had joined the pro circuit toward the end of 1931 but still had not established himself out there. Adding to the challenge of getting to know Ben Hogan was his complex personality. His never-ending custom was to keep to himself on the golf course and give the distinct appearance of being standoffish.  Nevertheless, Dad knew that Picard was anxious to meet Hogan and figured that this was his chance to introduce them.

As my father and Picard got up from their table and made their way across the dining room, they began to overhear some of the conversation coming from the Hogan’s table. Evidently, Ben was “talking rather loudly” with his wife Valerie.

It soon became apparent that the Hogan’s were having a difference of opinion. Ben appeared relieved to see a close friend like Dad and to meet Picard who arguably was the Tour’s best player at the moment. He politely asked the two men to join them for a few minutes, because he needed to hear what they thought about the predicament he and his wife were facing. The Hogans’ disagreement was over whether they had enough money to go on tour together.

Hogan was very discouraged. “I’ve got to quit,” he told his tablemates. “If I go back on the tour, we don’t have the money for her to go with me.” That said, the Hogans eyed each other silently as Dad and Henry did their best to encourage them that it was in their best interest for Ben to play and for Valerie to be there with him. Then, Picard declared, “I’m not the richest man in the world, but go ahead and play. If you run out of money, I’ll take care of it.” Both my dad and Picard knew that Hogan was a determined and talented fellow who was much too stubborn not to succeed.

Ben Hogan did hang in there for the 1938 season and at the Hershey Four-Ball tournament (with partner, Vic Ghezzi) finally took the first of his sixty-four wins as a professional. It’s amazing to think how close this great player came to chucking the game before even accumulating his first win. Dad, Picard and a number of others had to feel gratified, knowing that they’d played a role in keeping Ben Hogan going during his darkest days.

 

1926 PGA Championship

Sept 20-25 1926 the 9th PGA Championship was contested at Salisbury Golf Links, Westbury Long Island, New York. The total purse was $11,100. On Monday, a 36-hole qualifying round was conducted before the start of the Championship. Walter Hagen turned in a score of 140 and was the medalist among the 32 qualifiers. A score of 154 qualified for match play, my uncle Dick turned in a card of 153, so he made it. The young Oklahoma professional had a 78 for the first 18, but clipped three strokes off that, in the afternoon, with 39-36-75. Notable players who didn’t make it to match play were Emmett French (155 lost in playoff), Cyril Walker (157) and Bill Mehlhorn (157). All matches were played at 36 holes.

Jock Hendry, a professional from St Paul, Minnesota who qualified for match play with a score of 152, was Uncle Dick’s first round opponent. Jagged nerves and a sluggish putter seemed to get the better of Grout during the front-nine of their match. He was two-down to Hendry at the turn. But, Dick came from behind on the back-nine of the morning round and wound up ‘going to lunch’ 2-up. My uncle played steady golf in the afternoon and was victorious over Jock Hendry by the final score of 4 & 3.

The next morning, for his second match, Dick would meet a vastly more experienced and confident pro named Walter Hagen. Hagen, the defending PGA champion, had advanced to the next round by defeating Joe Turnesa of Elmsford, NY by a count of 3 & 2. When the Grout’s back in Oklahoma learned the news of Dick’s victory, they were joyous. H.D. “Pop” Grout was so proud of the achievement that he immediately sent his son a congratulatory telegram which also contained some counseling for his next opponent, “The Haig.” Pop Grout reminded Dick to stay calm. Then he added, “Son, about all I can tell you is, go out there tomorrow and play your best, because if you do, you can’t be beaten.” As far as Pop was concerned, it was just that simple.

That night in his hotel room, as stated by my uncle, he could not get comfortable enough to get much sleep. Apparently, his mind raced in every direction as he assessed his chances the next day against the great Walter Hagen. So, why was he experiencing so much anxiety and self-doubt? After all, Dick Grout was a fine player and this was definitely “not his first rodeo.”

The main ingredients for making a champion are confidence, concentration and patience, combined, of course, with the ability to play the proper shots. Cicero said: “Confidence is that feeling with which the mind embarks in great and honorable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself.” So, confidence is, perhaps, the greatest of all winning assets. If a player doesn’t believe in his ability to play championship golf, the chances are that he will never get very far.

Had there been pari-mutuel wagering during the 1926 PGA (which, of course, there wasn’t), an expert handicapper might have given this pre-round analysis of the match pitting Walter Hagen against Dick Grout:

About Hagen, he’d write; the Defending Champion never tries to force the madness of perfection on his golf. Hagen is oft quoted as saying “I expect to hit at least five bad shots a round.” However, Sir Walter fully expects to win, whenever he plays. There might well be no golfer with a better attitude toward the game than Walter Hagen. On the fast, undulating greens, usually found in big championships, there has never been a better putter than Hagen. He is known as a master putter.

Summary of Hagen: Great Attitude, Great Putter.

About Grout, he’d write; the Oklahoman is playing in his first big championship. It has been reported that Grout lacks the calm, steady disposition characteristic of great golfers; that his golfing temperament leaves much to be desired. The twenty-two-year-old is inclined to grow careless when he misses a shot or two. Grout’s putting is like so many of us golfers, he is off again and on again.

Summary of Grout: Lacks Confidence, Moderate Putter.

On Wednesday, September 22nd, as their match began, Grout grabbed the early lead when he took the first hole, getting down in four strokes while the champion took one more. Hagen squared the match on the third, and went one up on the fifth. Grout continued to execute a number of quality shots but a balky putter failed him in the early goings. Hagen dropped a birdie three on the ninth to go two up, having made the outward journey in 34, one stroke under par. Grout’s card showed that he scored a nifty 36 despite some missed opportunities. The champion fought his way to a three-hole advantage at the end of eighteen and increased his margin to 7 & 6 at the final.

When a reporter asked for comments from some of the spectators following the Hagen versus Grout match; one fellow stated, “Oh, you know Walter, he hit three of those and one of them and that was it.” Then another man said, “Hagen’s a magician around those greens, even ‘The Great Houdini’ couldn’t escape from some of the places where he did.” A third person, who watched the entire contest, commented that “Grout battled gamely against {Hagen} a master at his best.” He added, “I believe the young Oklahoman hit 16 out of 18 greens in the morning round and was still 3-down.”

My uncle had been eliminated from the PGA Championship. Now it was time to go home. But, he took with him an outstanding experience and some unforgettable moments. During his match with Hagen, my uncle witnessed, perhaps, the greatest shot that he would ever see in his life. On number 6, a 400-yard, par 4 hole, Hagen trapped his second shot. Unlike many bunkers that are shallow, this one was deep. Hagen’s ball was buried within inches of the sheer side of the green. To make matters worse for him, the hole was cut not more than six feet from the edge of the green. Hagen lifted the ball almost straight up and plopped it down, six feet past the cup but, with enough back-spin for the ball to finish within a yard of the hole! That fantastic shot literally took Uncle Dick’s breath away!

My uncle’s match with “The Haig” had its lighter moments too. Many years after they played, Dick reported this memory: “I was paired with Walter Hagen in the second round of the PGA Championship in 1926. All matches were 36 holes. The tournament was held in Garden City, Long Island. It was my turn to putt. I noticed a worm in my line and hesitated. Walter said, “Pick it up, Dick. It won’t bite you.”