Encapsulating your life in a memoir is nothing new in John Groshell’s family — that’s what happens when you’re the son of a writer and newspaper publisher.
Groshell’s parents were co-owners of the Snoqualmie Valley Record between 1949 and 1961. His mother, Charlotte, penned the book, “Minding Our Own Business,” a memoir about their time running the paper.
And while Groshell maintains he is not a writer, he has published his own memoir, “Confessions of a Wee Poison PGA Golf Pro.”
“I’ve gotten to know a lot of people from working at a golf course for 50 years. Many of them told me I should write a book about my life,” said Groshell, 77, during a phone interview from his home in Ocean Shores, Wash. “Finally, I guess it’d be almost three years ago now, I sat down at the kitchen table here with notebook paper and a pen and started writing.”
A longtime Valley resident, the book tells the whole story of Groshell’s life, growing up in the Valley, becoming a popular teacher at Tolt High School and his five decades owning the Snoqualmie Falls Golf Course in Fall City.
“This book is simply the story of my life as I experienced it,” Groshell writes on the book’s first page.
Groshell was about 4 years old when his parents moved from Chicago and bought the Valley Record. He did write a brief weekly sports column for the paper (John’s Sports Shorts) but said he had no interest in the news business — “all I wanted to do was play sports,” he recalled.
“It was like pulling teeth, making me write something every week,” he said. “Once dad realized that neither my brother nor I had any interest whatsoever in taking over the paper, then he sold it.”
Although golf would end up as Groshell’s sport of choice, it was not a game he started playing seriously until he was a high school junior. No one in his family played golf, although his grandfather took him to a driving range one time, he said.
“He bought me clubs. He’d buy ‘em a dollar a club out of their bargain barrel. And I had a total mishmash of a combination of junior men’s and ladies clubs,” he recalled. “And that’s all I used. The little bit of golf I did play.”
It wasn’t until the family sold the paper — and Groshell no longer had to work there — that he began playing and taking lessons.
After graduating from Mount Si High School in 1963, Groshell attended Washington State University, where he majored in speech with a minor in English. He also turned out for the school golf team, despite playing just one junior tournament. He wound up as a team captain and would finish runner-up in the Pac-8 Northern Division Championship during his junior year.
In between school years, Groshell spent summers working at Mount Si Golf Course, sleeping on a bed in the back of the office.
Groshell married his wife, Liz, after graduating and returned to the Valley, spending the next five years as a teacher at Tolt High School, Snoqualmie Middle and Mount Si, primarily teaching speech. Groshell speaks foundly of his time as a teacher, saying he still keeps in contact with a few of his students.
After he left teaching, and after a brief stint at a Yakima golf course, he took out a loan to buy a 20% stake in the Snoqualmie Falls Golf Course. By 1994, he bought the other owners out of their shares, and became the course’s sole owner.
Groshell still owns the course today, but has turned the operation over to his eldest son, Jeff, who was born a day after he bought his original stake.
“I’m never going to be totally separated from that place,” Groshell said of the course. “Even if it’s not technically mine, it will always be mine as long as I live as far as I’m concerned.”
It’s at the Fall City Golf Course where Groshell’s memoir got its title.
Groshell opens his book by saying he has gone by at least 10 different nicknames throughout his life. One of those names, “Wee Poison Dwarf,” he earned from a regular member at his golf course on account of his 5-foot-5 height
“He was from Scotland and told me that there’s a group of people who they call ‘wee poisoned dwarfs.’ They’re basically short, stocky, drunken brawlers. He said that fit me perfectly,” Groshell said. “Although I’m certainly not a brawler, everything else fit at one point in time.”
Check it out
Groshell’s book, “Confessions of a Wee Poison PGA Golf Pro,” is available.