Bailey Plourde smiles after making a putt during the opening round of the Maine Women’s Amateur on Monday at the Augusta Country Club in Manchester. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

MANCHESTER — With every degree the temperature went up, the bag full of golf clubs slung over Bailey Plourde’s shoulders became a little heavier.

One of the rules imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic at the Maine Women’s Amateur golf championship this year is no caddies. Some players drove a cart, some placed their bags on push carts. A few, like Plourde, schlepped their bag across Augusta Country Club. Although Plourde was in the first group of the day and avoided the hot afternoon sun, by the time she completed her 18-hole opening round, Plourde was ready to set the bag down.

“And I have a hurt back, so that doesn’t help the case either. It was a little upsetting when I heard no caddies,” Plourde, 20, said.

It’s the confidence developed over the last two years that Plourde was eager to clutch tightly.

A three-time Maine high school state champion at Lincoln Academy, Plourde won the Women’s Am two years ago at Rockland Golf Club. She followed that with a strong sophomore season at Centre College in Kentucky, winning three tournaments, placing sixth at the NCAA Division III championships, and setting the Centre record for lowest average score in a season (75.52).

Even with all that success, sometimes all it takes to make confidence evaporate like a puddle on a hot day is one bad shot. Monday, that didn’t happen. The bad shots didn’t get any more space in Plourde’s head than the small corner to which they were entitled.

Plourde shot an even par 73, and will enter Tuesday’s second day of competition with a three-stroke lead over her nearest competition. Plourde excelled over the front nine, earning birdies on holes one and seven while picking up an eagle on hole four. She was 3 under at the turn, and 4 under after a birdie on 11, but a bogey on 12 and back-to-back-to-back bogeys on 15, 16. and 17 pulled Plourde back to even.

“That front nine, I felt really good. Had an eagle, had some birdies. I was confident in my putting for sure,” Plourde said. “The back nine, I don’t really know what happened. A few holes, I misjudged the wind, which obviously knocks down your confidence a little bit.”

Her parents, Bob and Lynne Plourde, walked the course and watched their daughter. Whatever struggles his daughter had on the back nine were anything but mental, Bob said.

“Her mental game, I’m not sure if it’s any better, ever. You’ve seen her hit a couple bad shots, a drive she doesn’t like, but that’s it,” he said. “She played (the tournament) in her head last night, getting ready for it.”

He was right. On eight, Plourde’s approach went right, landing in rough short of the green. It didn’t linger. Her next shot put her within a few feet of the flag, and she saved par. On 13, Plourde chunked her second shot, hitting a slow roller that maybe went 30 yards. Again, her next shot was strong,

These last four months have been a test of everyone’s mental toughness. To Plourde, she may as well put that to use on the course.

“You’ve just got to remind yourself it’s one shot. It’s not going to make or break your round. Try to keep that confidence up, tell myself ‘you can still make up for it,’ which I did on those two holes (8 and 13),” Plourde said.

Plourde missed the Women’s Am last summer, choosing to stay in Kentucky for an internship. If everything hadn’t shut down in March, would she have been back home in Maine this summer or stayed in Kentucky? Did the Covid-19 pandemic make it possible for Plourde to come back and try to win another Women’s Am?

Probably not.

“I think I would have been here. I was supposed to have an internship in Portland. I was going to be in Maine, so I was hoping to get these few days off,” Plourde said.

The last competitive round she played was on March 10, when Plourde led Centre to a fourth-place finish at the Savannah Invitational. A few days later, the coronavirus made the world go sideways.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a competitive round. I’ve played in some weekly tournaments with the women, which kind of helps getting that competitive mindset. This is a bigger stage, so it’s trying to get used to that again. That birdie on the first hole really helped get me into that mindset. It got me on a good start,” Plourde said.

Even finishing the semester remotely (she stayed with her boyfriend Hans Stromberg’s family in Kentucky when Centre went to virtual learning), Plourde earned a 4.0 grade point average. There’s the mental toughness again, not giving in to a bad situation.

“The whole package is coming together,” Lynne Plourde said of her daughter.

Before the tournament, Plourde said she was more familiar with the front nine at Augusta Country Club, having played it more often in high school competition. You know she’s thinking about the back nine now, especially that trio of holes 15, 16, and 17, that gave here a little trouble.

“Overall, I felt like I played well. I’m glad I could come out and shoot a good first round,” Plourde said.

Lynne Plourde enjoyed every second of the match. She doesn’t get nervous anymore. She knows what Bailey can do on a golf course.

“She’s going to graduate, and what am I going to do? I’m going to have to adopt a kid to watch play golf,” Lynne said.

Plourde will graduate from Centre College next year. These next two days, though, she’ll once again be the favorite in the Women’s Am.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

 


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.