Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson weren’t the best golfers with a Glen Garden connection

Posted Saturday, May. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Jack Grout, A Legacy in Golf Published by Blue River Press $16.42 hardback, $13.72 Kindle edition at

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This is Colonial week, one of my favorite times of the year. I’m a lifelong golfer, so it’s always fun to watch the pros tee it up. I’m not a member, but I do get to play there occasionally, and it just reminds me how good they are (and how bad I am)!

My favorite memories at Colonial, in no particular order, would be seeing Tiger Woods play there in his only appearance; Annika Sorenstam nearly making the cut; Ben Crenshaw winning by saving par at 17 after hitting his ball into the concrete culvert that diverts water alongside the fairway and having it miraculously jump back onto dry land; and Phil Mickelson winning by curving the ball at least 50 yards from deep in the trees to make birdie on 18.

Although I was born in Fort Worth, my family moved away when I was 4, so I never got to see the greatest golfers to hail from Fort Worth play at the Colonial: Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson.

Hogan and Nelson, as nearly everyone who knows anything about local golf history is familiar with, learned the game as caddies at Glen Garden Country Club, built in 1912. H.H. Cobb of the OK Cattle Co. decided to build Glen Garden because he was denied entrance into River Crest Country Club, at the time the only club in Fort Worth.

But, as great as they were, I was surprised to learn recently that neither Hogan nor Nelson was the best golfer with a connection to Glen Garden.

Jack Grout just a couple of years older than Hogan and Nelson, was the assistant pro at the club in 1930. He would go on to be the lifelong teacher of another golfer who became quite accomplished.

You won’t find that fact on the course’s website, but it is detailed in a new book by Grout’s son, Dick, a teaching pro, and Bill Winter, a veteran reporter and editor who spent 16 years as executive director of the American Press Institute, a leadership development center for the news industry.

Jack Grout, A Legacy In Golf is a fascinating account of his journey from pre-Depression days in Oklahoma to the fairways of south Florida, where he gave his final lessons before passing away in 1989.

Although Grout gave it a go on the tour like Hogan and Nelson, he found he was really cut out to be a teaching pro.

According to the book, Grout saw that both men had that something special, although they were very different. Hogan was a loner and liked to work things out himself on the course, while Nelson liked to work with Grout’s brother, Dick, who was Glen Garden’s head pro. Nelson also liked to work with one club at a time — he would spend all day hitting his 2-iron, for instance — while Hogan would work through every club in his bag.

Hogan and Grout supplemented their income by working in the gambling industry. Grout took a job as a pari-mutuel clerk at Arlington Downs horse track, while Hogan was a dealer at the illegal gambling house Top O’ Hill Terrace, also in Arlington.

After leaving Texas, Grout went through a series of jobs at clubs all over the country before taking the head pro position at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, in 1950.

When he first got to town, he needed some medicine, so he stopped at the first drugstore he saw. The pharmacist, who was a member at Scioto, said he heard that Grout was starting a junior golf class and wondered whether his son could sign up.

One summer day not long after that, the 10-year-old boy took his first lesson from Grout, the beginning of a partnership that would last almost four decades.

Maybe you’ve heard of him. A guy named Jack Nicklaus.

Jim Witt is executive editor of the Star-Telegram. 817-390-7704 Twitter: @jimelvis

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