Mark Plummer has a lot of stories about playing golf with his friend George. Most of the time they played at Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunk, George’s home course. One of Plummer’s favorite stories is about the time he marked George’s ball for him.

George played a Titleist 41, and that made sense, as George was George H.W. Bush, the 41st President. But when Mark studied the ball, there was more written on it. FLFW? George, Plummer asked, what does that stand for.

“Former Leader of the Free World,” the president said. They all laughed and finished their round. They laughed a lot on the course.

“He was just so down-to-earth,” Plummer, who lives in Manchester, said. “He was remarkably unspecial for a guy of his accomplishments.”

Hours after President Bush’s death on Nov. 30, Plummer received the email invitation to the funeral service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Plummer met President Bush in the early 1990s, shortly after Bush left office. Plummer and the president had a mutual friend in Fred Martin, who published a golf magazine and found people for Bush to play a round of golf with when he was at his Kennebunkport home. Who better than the best player in Maine history? At that point, Plummer already was established as the top golfer in the state. Plummer’s 13 Maine Amateur championships is a record unlikely to be broken.

Plummer and Bush started out as golfing buddies, and became friends. After a round, Plummer and his wife, Alison, would have dinner with the Bushes at their Walker’s Point home.

Mark and Alison flew to Washington the day before Bush’s funeral service. The invitation stipulated guests needed to arrive a few hours before the service began. That’s how the Plummers found themselves making small talk with celebrities from the sports world. Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin, Brad Faxon, Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples (”I knew him,” Plummer said), who all knew the president through golf. Sure-fire Baseball Hall of Famer Albert Pujols. Duke and US Olympic team basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Bush planned all the details for his service. Why not seat his buddy Mark from Maine with all these people he would never otherwise meet? People with whom he has more in common than he knows?

“I guess he thought people would enjoy chatting with each other before the service,” Plummer said. “It was a beautiful service.”

When Plummer and Bush played golf, they didn’t talk politics. It wasn’t that it was forbidden. It just didn’t come up. They chatted about golf and the news of the day, Plummer said. Plummer estimated he played 15 rounds with Bush over the years. Most at Cape Arundel, and one at Portland Country Club.

Could the president play? Plummer said yes.

“He could shoot in the 80s on a good day,” Plummer said. “He played so fast.”

After a round at Cape Arundel one Saturday afternoon, Bush asked Plummer if he wanted to play again tomorrow. Of course.

So Plummer met Bush and his son, President George W. Bush, at the course at 6 a.m. The Bushes had to meet their families at church at 9 a.m., so they sprinted through the round. Plummer laughed as he remembered them changing out of their golf clothes into suits at 8:30 to get ready for church.

In 2008, Plummer was in the final group on the final day of the Maine Am, played at Biddeford-Saco Country Club that year. President Bush came over to support his friend on the back nine. Plummer remembers it fondly.

“That was the first time I introduced him to my dad,” Plummer said.

Plummer remembers his entire relationship fondly.

“It was a very special relationship with him and Barbara,” Plummer said. “There’s things I’ll treasure always. A lot of great memories.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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