Touching Lives, Teaching Golf

John Graeber

By Beth Seaman

John Graeber is one of those people  you feel like you’ve known all your life the instant you meet him. When I called him for an interview, I knew after the first thirty seconds that we’d never run out of things to talk about.

We met for lunch at Ajax Diner in Oxford, which boasts cold air-conditioning, even colder beer and some of the best food in the city. The relaxed atmosphere of the diner was perfectly suited to Graeber, though I imagine he’d be comfortable in any venue. He’s a fun-loving, easy going, humble man with wonderful manners and patent Southern hospitality. We spent an hour talking about our families, work, and, of course, golf. It was one of the most interesting lunches I’ve had in ages.

Graeber, 69, has been playing golf since he was 12 years old. He learned at the hands of his father, who John calls an “all-around great athlete”. He was an Ole Miss tennis player, a pool shark, and a scratch golfer. John’s father died of brain cancer in 1965, when John’s brother, Ken, was just 13 years old. John taught Ken the game of golf, just as his father taught him. Graeber poured his heart—and his energy–into teaching his little brother the game, and once he taught Ken everything he knew, John took him to Florida to work with Bob Toski. When Ken went off to college at Ole Miss a few years later, he did so on a golf scholarship, winning letters in 1971, 72, and 73. For John Graeber, this was the beginning of a successful career as a golf instructor.

John has been the golf instructor at the Ole Miss Golf Course for 15 years and says he enjoys helping other people learn to play the game. “You know what I enjoy about helping people? When they hit a really good shot and they smile. That’s what I like to see.”

He was a member of the Yazoo Country Club’s board for several years and his golfing buddies would come to him for tips. “I’d tell them what they were doing wrong,” he smiles, “but I didn’t want to tell them too much because I didn’t want them to beat me!”

When Graeber moved to Oxford 15 years ago, he taught a few classes at the Oxford Park Commission’s Activities Center using plastic mats and practice balls. Shortly after, he began giving lessons at the Ole Miss Golf Course. Graber has only had two breaks from golf in all his years of play. Once in 2009 when he had both his knees replaced, and this past April when he underwent a quadruple bypass operation. He estimates that during his years of giving lessons he’s helped over 1,000 people, including his own children.



Filed under Golf Stories and Interviews

7 responses to “Touching Lives, Teaching Golf

  1. Pingback: Touching Lives, Teaching Golf | Tee Time at Ole Miss | Top Rated Golf Courses

  2. Marion Dongieux

    Great words about John. I’ve known all the Graebers all my life and they are all wonderful folks. I suspect their excellent genes will continue throughout future Graeber generations. A definite boon to society, such as it is these days. May John’s spirit convey to all those he’s helped.

  3. Marion Dongieux

    Oops – typo. should read “A” definite boon to society…..not “I”.

  4. jamie and teri garner

    My wife and I met John at the Monday practice round at Augusta this past April, were guests at the Graeber house for a couple of days in June, had some very affordable lessons :), and met his lovely wife Nora and some of his family. Possibly the kindest people we have ever met. Go Rebs!

  5. Pingback: Free Golf Lessons at The Ole Miss Golf Course! | Tee Time at Ole Miss

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