Jack Nicklaus was struggling.
It was the spring of 1986, and the man who spent the two-plus decades atop the golf world was slogging through one round after another. His scores were high, but his frustration was higher.
He called on Jack Grout, the only teacher he'd ever known.
A no-nonsense Oklahoman, Grout minced no words about the issue with Nicklaus's swing.
“Way too handsy,” he said.
Nicklaus spent the next few weeks working relentlessly to fix the problem.
A month after Grout's diagnosis, Nicklaus authored one of the greatest major championship victories in golf history. The 46-year-old won the Masters, shooting a final round 65 and claiming his record 18th major professional championship.
Grout's simple but profound instruction in 1986 is one of many stories in a new book authored by his son. Dick Grout embarked on the eight-year project in the hopes that people would be reminded or introduced to his father's remarkable life in golf. “Jack Grout — A Legacy in Golf” starts in Oklahoma City, where he was born, and ends with the greatest golfer that the world has ever known.
But Jack Grout chose to stay largely in the background.
When Nicklaus won that storied Masters, for example, Grout watched on TV from his home in Florida.
Because of his behind-the-scenes ways, the golf world has largely forgotten Grout. He isn't a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame or the Golf Teachers Hall of Fame.
Sadly, he's been forgotten in his home state, too. He isn't a member of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, either.
Jack Grout deserves to be.
He's not the only coach who does.
Joining Grout at the top of the list is Varryl Franklin. The longtime boys basketball coach at Millwood High School has won more state titles than any other basketball coach in Oklahoma history. In more than four decades of coaching, he has 13 state championships.
No other coach is even close.
What's more, Franklin's impact on generation after generation of boys at Millwood is profound. I wrote a story about him a few years ago, and one former player after another professed of the coach's impact. One who left school went back and became a coach. Another who thought he couldn't afford college became an accountant in Washington, D.C.
If you induct Franklin, you'd best add Clyde Ellis, too. The former girls track coach at John Marshall High had a similarly profound impact on his athletes — and his teams won 17 state titles, including 14 straight from 1976-89.
And what about Seymour Williams? He coached high school football for the better part of four decades, including 31 years at Tulsa Washington from 1921-51. He had 13 unbeaten teams and 19 black-school state titles.
And Mike Little? No other high school football coach won at so many places in Oklahoma that had never won before. He turned Putnam West, Putnam North, Yukon and Bethany into winners.
And Joe Ross? He turned Thomas into a small-school high school powerhouse, winning seven state titles becoming the first coach in state history to win three titles in a row (1955-57).
There are plenty of coaches who rose above the high school level who deserve to be in the hall, too.
Chuck Fairbanks installed the wishbone at Oklahoma. Ron Gardenhire has managed the Minnesota Twins since 2002. Enos Semore took the Sooners to five consecutive College World Series. Ken Trickey nearly took Oral Roberts to the Final Four. Steve Nunno took Shannon Miller from his little-known Edmond gym to Olympic gymnastics gold.
But no coach at any level is more deserving than Jack Grout.
We all known what a huge impact Nicklaus had on golf, and if you read the new book on Grout, you'll quickly see that his impact on the Golden Bear was every bit as profound.
“Jack never sought the public spotlight,” Nicklaus wrote of Grout in his forward to the book, “never sought to take any of the credit for my career tournament victories or for those of any of the other successful players he mentored.”
That doesn't mean Grout doesn't deserve credit.
Doesn't mean he doesn't deserve a spot in the hall of fame either.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.