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When a youngster takes up a sport—golf, for instance—cut-down clubs and a lopsided ball will do. After all, today's fascination with golf may tomorrow turn to horses, baseball, boats or girls. But if his interest in golf persists and his ability is obvious, he deserves the best equipment available. In the past few years the manufacturers of sporting goods have begun to take the junior athlete seriously enough to develop equipment scaled specially to his needs. The best of the lot is gathered here and photographed in use by 10-year-oid boys and girls—an age at which a rubber football or a toy racket is viewed with scorn. However, let parents take warning well ahead of Christmas that junior sporting goods can be senior in price as well as performance. The price of the baseball glove—$40—may make a father gag, but if the boy keeps it well-oiled (and doesn't lose it) his own son will use it someday. The same is true of the fiber-glass spinning rod. At bat, on a horse or making a first down, a child needs gear that allows him to function freely and at the same time protects him. Certainly no one would want his son swimming around underwater with cut-rate scuba gear. The junior golfer can have clubs that equal in balance and design the ones his father uses, but modeled to his size. His golf ball should be round, too. That's only fair.

On the riding trail East may differ with West West about boots and how to sit a saddle, but for junior cowboys and Central Park equestriennes the quality of saddle leather is as important as the quality of horseflesh. Eric Lenes, on his palomino, wears the same brush-resistant denims favored by older cowpokes ($4, Levi Strauss), a Westerner's shirt of checked gingham ($4, Levi Strauss), boots made by a noted Texas bootmaker ($26.50, Justin) and a half-pint Stetson ($12). A cowboy's best friend is his saddle, and Eric's is hand-tooled ($177). It, like his bridle ($19.75) and saddle blanket ($6), is made in Texas cow country (Tex Tan). Lark MacDonald, on her chestnut hack, is properly turned out in a fitted tweed hacking jacket ($29), yellow broadcloth ratcatcher shirt ($5.50), jodhpurs of cavalry twill ($20), velveteen hunt cap with hard protective lining ($14), jodhpur boots ($11) and ridge-palmed capeskin gloves ($6). Her saddle is the best available for its price ($125 without fittings by Stubben of West Germany). All are from Miller's Harness Shop, New York.

Boys' team sports demand equipment as effective as that used by professionals. The plastic batting helmet at Ricky Maxwell's feet is mandatory for Little League batters and base runners. It has a shock-resistant suspension cradle ($9.25, Wilson). Ricky's uniform is like that of the Chicago Cubs ($17.50 for suit, $5.75 for hat, both by Wilson). His shoes have rubber spikes for safety ($6.75, Spalding). His red bat is made by the batmaker to Mickey Mantle ($3.20, Hillerich & Bradsby). To a fielder the glove is as precious as a saddle to a cowboy—so Ricky's is a scaled-down pro model ($40, Wilson). The ball is Little League regulation ($2.40, Spalding). John Creamer's football helmet is padded inside and out, protects wearer and opponents ($13.45, Rawlings). His shoes have rubber cleats ($7.95, Rawlings). His pants are padded at thigh, knee, kidney ($10.95, MacGregor), and his jersey comes in NFL colors ($4.60, MacGregor). Shoulder pads are of light molded plastic ($13.50, MacGregor). Football is junior in size, not in quality ($13.25, Spalding).

This Sprite sailboat by George O'Day of Boston, manned by young Mary Larkin Hughes, is one of the best all-round trainers for junior sailors. It is a 10-footer of fiber glass and converts from a catboat to a sloop ($575 without sails). Mary's foul-weather suit is from Norway ($20.95, Fulton Supply, New York). Skin diving requires the best of equipment. The wet jacket worn by Niles Jaeger comes in boys' sizes for the first time this month ($22.95, U.S. Divers). His mask ($3.95, U.S. Divers), fins ($5.95, AMF-Voit) and snorkel ($1.95, Healthways) are all of salt-resistant rubber. The 42-cu.-ft. tank ($43.45) and Scuba Star regulator ($34.95) are from Healthways. The backpack is a single-tank design, suitable for children ($18.95, AMF-Voit). A boy's fishing rod should be light yet sturdy, like the fiber-glass spinning rod being used by Calvin Waters ($13.95). It and the reel ($31.50) are by Orvis and can be used in salt or fresh water. Calvin's other gear includes a net ($10.25, Orvis), tackle box ($3.25, Stratton & Terstegge's) and a belt bait box (98¢, Ross).

Golf and tennis are sports demanding equipment fitted correctly to the player. They are also sports in which champions often start to become champions before they leave grammar school. Future champion Marshall Smith swings a club from a set designed specially for the junior golfer. The two woods, four irons and putter are scaled-down models of Jackie Burke's favorite clubs ($54 with bag, MacGregor). Marshall's golf jacket is a boy-sized version of the famous Drizzler ($9, McGregor), and his shorts are India madras ($7, McGregor). His shoes ($13, Wolverine) are made with nonslip soles to grip the fairways. Anne Thompson's racket is a Jack Kramer model, made smaller and lighter for younger players ($16, Wilson). Her cable-knit tennis sweater is just like those worn by tournament players ($14.50, De Pinna). Her white tennis shirt is of cotton mesh ($3, Saks Fifth Avenue), and Fred Perry makes her pleated skirt in a wash-and-wear fabric ($12, S.J. Feron). Her Jack Purcell sneakers are for grass or clay courts ($8.95, B. F. Goodrich).

Ski equipment for kids puts such a big HP hole in the budget that many areas have ski-swap clubs. New equipment worn here at Love-land Basin, Colo, covers a wide range of use. Tom McHugh puts on steel-edged wood skis ($20) with Allais toepiece and cable ($12, all by A&T). His aluminum poles ($5, Mark-Fore), boots ($18.50, Nordica), quilted parka ($20, White Stag) and foam-insulated stretch pants ($15, Edelweiss) are for recreational skiers. Laurie Wren wears a Tyrolean jacket ($20) and hat ($7, both by Hajek) with corduroy knickers ($14) and leather mittens ($7, both by Iselin). Her wood skis ($17, Intersport) are excellent for beginners, as are her Junior bindings ($9, Dovre) and her poles ($3.50, Barrecrafters). Her boots are Speedfits ($30, Henke). Fastest man on the hill is John Ennis in a racer's jacket ($18, Butwin), pants ($18.50) and gloves ($11, both by Nor-Pol). His skis are for junior racers ($112.50, Head), as are his poles ($16, Scott-USA) and double boot ($25, Dolomite). He uses a Marker toe-piece ($11), Dovre cable ($6), Iselin helmet ($20).