Marc's clubs are the talk of the tee. What makes them so special?

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"Oh, what's the use?"“Pitch-and-Putt Tournament Saturday,” Marc read on Peggy Jo’s Mini Golf bulletin board. “Winner receives certificate for complete set of clubs.”

“Wow,” he whispered hopefully. “There’s even a 10-and-under age group!”

The whip of a club and the clok! of a solid strike made Marc look at the driving range behind the miniature-golf course. He saw Billy and Michael winding up for full swings, then drilling the ball past the hundred-yard marker.

“Oh, what’s the use?” Marc muttered to himself. “I don’t even know how to drive.”

Peggy Jo shuffled out, her knobby toes bursting the sides of her house slippers. “Doll, you don’t need to drive on a pitch-and-putt course. Pitching is chipping. You know, scooping the ball a short distance—say about fifty yards for our course.”

Marc shrugged and gave her $1.50 for a game of miniature golf.

Peggy Jo handed him his favorite putter. “As I always say, ‘Drive for show and putt for dough.’ And, doll, you’re the best putter in town.”

“Thanks,” Marc mumbled. He stepped to the first hole, a straight shot through a wide schoolhouse tunnel. Marc squatted and read the bumpy green carpet he had played every Monday—Half-Price Day—this summer.

“Aha,” he said. “A new rip in the seam.”

He practiced his stroke a few times, then planted his feet astride the mat. Keeping his eye on the dimpled ball, he slowly pulled the putter back about ten inches. Then clik! he guided the club straight through the stroke.

Avoiding the torn seam, the ball careened off the right wooden bank, then rolled left off a bump straight into the cup.

“And Marc Devlin wins the U.S. Open in sudden death!” jeered Billy from the fence.

Marc tried to ignore the boys, whose fathers took them every week to play at the municipal golf course. To keep from swinging the putter at them, Marc silently repeated one of Peggy Jo’s sayings: “A temper is a golfer’s worst enemy.”

After he shot a hole in one into the clown’s mouth on the eighteenth, Marc returned the putter. Peggy Jo came out and gave him a different club with a tilted face.

“What’s this?”

“A seven-iron, doll,” she said, bobby-pinning a spit curl to her temple. “I chipped with it to beat Babe.”

Marc winced and thought, “Babe? What’s she talking about? The Babe played baseball.”

“Here,” she insisted. “Try it.”

Marc gripped the handle—smooth brown leather with tiny holes—just like the special putter she sometimes let him use. He pulled it back gently as if to putt.

“No, doll,” Peggy Jo said with a laugh. “Watch.”

Peggy Jo wiped her hands down her faded plaid shorts. She pulled the club back halfway, then swung down and through. With a swish, the club head flattened the grass into a stripe. “Now you try it,” she said.

Marc practiced the stroke over and over.

“Bend your knees, doll,” Peggy Jo encouraged.

“‘Doll?’” Michael repeated, mimicking Peggy Jo’s scratchy voice. “Look, Billy, Marc’s got a personal golf pro.”

Marc felt his grip tighten on the club handle as the boys ran off, laughing. Peggy Jo had been calling him “doll” for so long that Marc hardly heard it anymore. But now he did.

"Relax your hands and keep your head down."“Relax your hands,” Peggy Jo whispered. “Keep your head down. Do you think Babe let hecklers from the gallery bother her?”

“The Babe again?” thought Marc, raising an eyebrow.

“No, sirree,” said Peggy Jo, answering herself. “Now, take this bucket of balls over to the range. Don’t tell a soul I gave it to you free, doll, or I’ll be out of business in a spit.”

“Whoa, thanks.” Marc shuffled his feet. “Uh . . . Peggy Jo? Think you can come up with a different nickname for me?”

Peggy Jo looked up, her freckles now lost in her reddened cheeks. “I—I could try.”

All week long, Marc chipped buckets of free balls and putted on the grass practice green—not the miniature-golf carpet. While Billy and Michael kept driving long balls with their wood clubs, Marc aimed for tiny targets—a mound, a rock—because “accuracy gets the green.” Another of Peggy Jo’s sayings.

On Saturday morning, Marc showed up with Peggy Jo’s seven-iron and putter to register for the pitch-and-putt tournament.

Michael nudged Billy and said, “Hey, look! Marc’s got Peggy Jo’s clubs. Girls’ clubs!”

Billy guffawed. “Hitting off ladies’ tees today, doll?”

A million pins stabbed at Marc from the inside. First it was “doll,” now it was girls’ clubs. “I can’t play with these!” he thought. “Is Peggy Jo trying to make me look stupid?”

The first 10-and-under foursome included Billy, Michael, and Marc. “I have to play with these jokers?” moaned Marc. He glanced back at Peggy Jo, who gave him a thumbs-up sign. “Remember Babe!” she called.

Tired of Peggy Jo’s tricks and names, Marc yelled, “Who?”

Peggy Jo’s eyes widened in surprise. “Babe Didrikson, that’s who! Mildred Didrikson Zaharias. The best women’s golfer of all time! I used those very clubs to win my only hole against her in the U.S. Open.”

“You . . . played . . . in . . . the . . . U.S. Open?” Marc mouthed. His eyebrows arched into wings. His jaw eased into a smile. Peggy Jo had been that good?

He pictured her, the gray gone from her red hair. She was standing on the fairway, ready to chip onto the green. Then . . . putt for dough.

“First to tee off, Marc Devlin,” the official called.

Marc looked at the two clubs in his hands. U.S. Open clubs. More importantly, Peggy Jo’s clubs.

He gently leaned the putter against the fence. He took his iron to the tee and took some practice swings. He planted his feet, waggled the club once behind the ball, waggled twice. Then stroked.

Marc watched the ball fly clean and true, straight down the fairway.