Plaistow's Jack Pepin knows as well as anyone how mentally trying of a sport golf can be at times.
As a 13-year-old kid trying to help his Atkinson Country Club Junior All-Star team, his game went through a rough patch. The upcoming transition to Timberlane and trying to make the high school team as a freshman also loomed on the horizon.
"Jack is a big golf guy. That's his life," explained his mother, Vanessa. "Last summer he was struggling a bit. He was just going through a rough time."
Unbeknownst to both her son and her husband, Vanessa reached out to someone who she thought could get Jack back on the right path: The legend Arnold Palmer himself.
She penned a letter to the man nicknamed "The King" explaining Jack's love of the game and current struggles, mentioning his nerves for the upcoming Northeast Regional with the Atkinson All-Stars.
The family went on vacation soon after, and it was there when they heard the news of Palmer's death.
So, one could imagine the shock when they returned home to find an envelope with Arnold Palmer's name on it sitting at their doorstep.
"When I got home and saw the envelope I was like 'Oh my God,'" said Vanessa.
The Pepin family quickly saw the letter was dated September 20, 2016 -- just five days before Palmer's passing.
"I didn't know that my mom had reached out to him. So I was pretty shocked when I saw it," said Jack.
The letter reads:
I am told that you're a pretty good golfer and are a member of the All-Star Team for your local Jr. PGA League. I also heard that your team has qualified for the Northeast Regional Championships and that you will be traveling to Cape Cod to compete this month. Congratulations! I wish you and your team the very best of luck.
As your thoughts turn to high school and making the golf team next year, the only advice I can give you is to work hard and practice as much as you can but, most importantly, study hard in school. A good education is key to future success.
I wish you the very best in school and with your golf.
A year later, Jack has taken those words to heart.
He helped his Atkinson Country Club All-Stars win this year's Northeast Regional last weekend, beating teams from Connecticut, Long Island and Pennsylvania.
This week, Pepin has traveled with his team to Scottsdale, Arizona to compete in the PGA Jr. League Championship. What started as 44,000 junior golfers around the country has been trimmed to eight teams of 10.
"We've come full circle," said Vanessa. "Last year we knew that we were going to Regionals. All that advice Arnold Palmer gave him to work hard has paid off. Now here we are, going to Nationals."
What more, Pepin has split time in the No. 1 spot for Timberlane this fall as a freshman, and the Owls (9-5) are off to a fast start.
"I can't wait for Arizona," he said. "We've been to Scottsdale before, but it was just on vacation."
During his storied life, Palmer was known to write back to many that reached out to him.
"I just Googled his address and found that he had written to a lot of people," said Vanessa. "When I saw the envelope from him I was just shocked."
Added Jack: "I've been mainly working on my mental game, and everything else has just gotten better."
With the words of wisdom of one of golfs' great champions always by his side, Pepin's future is bright.
This article is written by Kyle Gaudette from The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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