In the Green

updated 11/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/14/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

FOR NICK PRICE IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST sight. This year's leading pro golfer got his hands on the Fat Lady in July, and the two have been inseparable and virtually unstoppable ever since.

The Fat Lady Swings, an oversize putter, has given new meaning to overnight sensation. Price, who auditioned the putter in the latter rounds of the Federal Express St. Jude Classic in Memphis at the end of July, used Fat Lady at the PGA Championship in August. "Sunday, he won it," says Bobby Grace, Fat Lady's inventor, "and Monday the phone was on fire." During the following week, Grace, 34, a St. Petersburg, Fla., native, took in 27,000 orders—at $150 a club, about twice the price of a typical putter. Not that the Lady is any great beauty. "She looks like something you'd see on Star Trek, may be a Klingon vessel," says Grace.

Grace, an accomplished two-handicap golfer himself, began designing his own line of handmade blade-type putters in 1991 and a year later started tinkering with a mallet-style club. The result has an aluminum face with a very large sweet spot and a beveled bottom designed to be parallel with the surface of the green no matter what the lie. It's supposed to give even duffers a feeling of complete control over the shot. At least it seems to work for Price. After his attention was drawn to Fat Lady by fellow golfer and Grace friend Davis Love III during a practice session in late July, he sank three straight downhill 10-footers with the putter—then turned to Grace and said, "This is exactly what I've been looking for." Crediting Fat Lady with his PGA win, Price said, "I'm going to kiss Bobby Grace the next time I see him."

Golfer Lanny Wadkins is also a convert. "I haven't made this many putts in 10 years," he says.

The sudden success of Fat Lady has forced Grace, his wife, Ann, 33, and their 2-year-old daughter, Danielle, to move from Palm Harbor, Fla., to a rented house near the machine shops in St. Petersburg where he has set up a manufacturing schedule for the putter. Otherwise, he says, "my life's not going to change." Except that with his new prosperity, he can now get back to playing golf.

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