One day Grout walked into a nearby pharmacy and introduced himself to its owner, Charlie Nicklaus, who mentioned that his son had just taken up the game and needed lessons. Grout was planning to start a junior clinic, so the timing was perfect. Jack Nicklaus would be his first student.
Almost immediately, he knew the 10-year-old Nicklaus kid — whom he called “Jackie buck” — was a cut above the other junior players. “He just took me under his wing,” Jack recalled. “He saw something in me.”
Lessons were costly. So was the bill that “Jackie buck” was running up on the range. At 35 cents a bucket, the monthly charge sometimes reached $300. Young Jack explained to his dad, “You told me to go give it a try. I hit a lot of balls.”
Eventually, the bills stopped coming. Jack Grout knew a special talent when he saw it — after all, at one of his first teaching jobs, he was friendly with a couple of Texas boys named Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson — and spent more and more time with Jack, who eventually referred to his teacher as “J Grout.”
“He wanted to be part of my life and part of me,” Jack said. “That’s the type of relationship we had.”
By the end of the summer in 1950, Nicklaus broke 100. By the end of 1951, he had shot 81.
“At the age of 11, he asked questions that might well have come from a 25-year-old professional,” Grout once said. “He has always been far ahead of his age in temperament, poise and concentration.”
“I would go out and hit balls whether I wanted to or not because I wanted to spend time with Jack Grout.”
— Jack Nicklaus
Even after Nicklaus became the world’s best golfer, he never stopped the range sessions with Grout, whether in Ohio during the summers or South Florida during the winters. “I would go out and hit balls whether I wanted to or not because I wanted to spend time with Jack Grout,” he explained.
Their relationship would last for 39 years until the day Grout passed away. It was so much more than teacher and student.
“Grout was wonderful,” Nicklaus said. “Just became a second father to me.”