MANCHESTER — Mark Plummer took a little ribbing about the royal blue hat he wore at the Maine Open on Wednesday. Emblazoned on the front were three large white letters, “ACC,” in honor of the tournament site, Plummer’s home course, the Augusta Country Club.

“That looks like the type of hat they give you when you get out of prison,” one of Plummer’s buddies and a fellow club member quipped as Plummer putted out on the ninth hole. Later in the round, a passing golfer asked Plummer if he were representing Duke, North Carolina or Maryland, all members of the Atlantic Coast Conference, also known as the ACC.

Funny thing is, Plummer didn’t need to tout his home club at all. He’s a walking advertisment for the Augusta Country Club and Maine golf in general. Certainly his accomplishments put him at the head of the list among Maine amateurs — 13 Maine Amateur titles, two New England championships, more than 30 club championships and countless titles against pros and amateurs alike in a career that’s approaching 45 years.

He’s set course records from here to Kalamazoo, including a 60 at Augusta and 62 at Riverside in Portland. But that’s only part of the reason for Plummer’s popularity and status as a golf icon in the state.

“His sense of humor is probably his best asset,” Maine State Golf Association executive director Nancy Storey said. “Even when he doesn’t play well he can still maintain his sense of humor.”

Plummer didn’t play very well in Tuesday’s opening round, shooting 74. He took a deep bow and doffed his cap as he sank a par putt on the 18th hole.

“I hit it awful and I putted awful,” he said. “I was lucky to shoot 74.”

Plummer played much better Wednesday, shooting 72 in a round in which he narrowly missed several birdie putts.

“How did he say it?” said Jason Harris, who also missed some good birdie chances. “We hit it well enough to shoot in the 60s, but we putted like we shot in the 80s.”

Harris, who nearly won the Maine Amateur last year, met and played with Plummer for the first time Wednesday.

“He’s was a very nice guy from the time we met on the first tee to when we were walking down the 18th fairway,” Harris said. “We had a lot of conversations.”

When it comes time to hit the ball, Plummer’s all business, but in between shots, he’s just plain folk. He told Harris of his battle against Tiger Woods when he took him to the 18th hole in the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur.

Harris, 20, was 4 years old at the time while Plummer was a youthful 43. His swing has changed little, although it may have shortened due to age and recurring arthritis.

“It’s not conventional but he gets it done,” Harris said. “He hits a lot of greens.”

Plummer, 60, was joined part way through his round by friend Jack Cameron and the two chatted between tee and green for a few holes.

“I remember when he used to reach this green with a 3-wood,” Cameron said of the short par 4 12th, an elevated green 280 yards off the tee.

Cameron encouraged his friend, yelling “atta boy Red,” when Plummer sank a birdie putt on the 11th hole.

Red referred to Plummer’s red hair and there’s still plenty of it sticking beneath his cap although his flowing mustache long ago turned white. Plummer never set out to earn the unofficial title of Maine’s golf ambassador, he earned it through his talent and personality. Those attributes have gotten him dozens of invitations to play with former president George H.W. Bush at his home course at Cape Arundel, along with pros from Phil Mickelson to Fred Couples. It’s also got him an invitation or two for a personal tour of the White House.

Plummer is reluctant, almost embarrassed, to relate any of his brushes with the rich and famous or for that matter his own exploits. But that doesn’t diminish what he means to golf in Maine.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how much,” Storey said. “He serves on our board, he’s the voice of reason. He knows the game of golf inside and out. He does everything that he can in the best interests of the game of golf.”

Storey told how a terminally ill boy from Bangor’s one wish last summer was to play in a golf tournament and win a trophy. Storey asked Plummer to go, tearing him away from both Father’s Day and the U.S. Open. Plummer scored a hole-in-one as he and the boy won a title. This is how golf ambassadors act when asked.

“I’d say he’s the best player this state’s ever seen,” said Hampden’s Joe Alvarez, who has played with Plummer the last two years in the two-man championship. “I’ll play with him as long as he plays. Just to be in the company with someone like that is a real treat and I think most people in the state view him that way.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.