At age 13, Plourde ready to take golf game to impressive heightsLincoln Academy freshman has bright future on links
Rockport — Try to remember the name Bailey Plourde.
No. Forget that.
One will not need to remember her name because the youngster's impressive performances on the golf course — past, current and future — will make it nearly impossible for anyone with a pulse on the game not to stand up and take notice.
After taking the state's courses — and competition — by storm this summer, the Samoset Resort Golf Club member is ready to bring her "A" game to the high school ranks at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle.
The school season is about to swing in and the following is a warning to all of the state's other teenage golfers: when the 13-year-old freshman for the Eagles walks onto the course, do not take her, or her game, lightly because, if you do, the outcome of the match may not be what you expected.
That is because Plourde, a 9-handicapper, is not your typical freshman student-athlete. In fact, coming off a summer to remember on the links, the youngster undoubtedly will give any foe — boy or girl, regardless of age — a run for their money on the course.
Plourde, who lives in Newcastle, continued to develop her game and compete at a high level in golf tournaments in recent months. In fact, this summer she finished 14th in the Women's Maine State Golf Association championships, including fourth in Flight 2 and third among juniors ages 18 and older.
She finished the prestigious 54-hole event at 82-83-89—254.
Additionally, she finished first in the Maine State Golf Association ages 13-14 girls tournament by shooting 82-90–172 at Val Halla Golf Club in Cumberland and won the state's drive, chip and putt qualifying event for the ages 14-15 at the same course before finishing tied for eighth in that same competition in the New England event in Massachusetts.
She capped her summer of golf glory by finishing first in the Mid-Coast Junior Golf Association championships Aug. 17-18 at the Rockland Golf Club. She had finished first in Division II in 2011 and 2012 before capturing the Div. I crown this season.
Plourde's lowest 18-hole score at the Samoset is 79 and her best 18-hole score overall is 77 on the Arrowhead Course at the Natanis Golf Club in Vassalboro. Her best nine-hole score is 36, also at Natanis.
The 5-foot 7-inch, 145-pound Plourde also is a standout basketball guard/forward and softball pitcher/infielder. In fact, her Great Salt Bay hoop teams were unbeaten Busline League middle school champions three straight years and in eighth grade her Cougar softball squad won the league title.
But now Plourde will focus on bringing her athletic talents to high school.
“She's very athletic," said Samoset pro Gary Soule, who has worked with Plourde for two years. "She plays softball and basketball, she's an all-sports girl. But I think, ultimately, the goal more than anything is she wants the golf.”
Despite her tremendous success in other sports, which should continue in high school, golf probably will remain Plourde's passion.
She began playing golf at age five thanks to her grandparents, Tom and Barbara Wright of Nobleboro, who were members, at the time, at the Boothbay Country Club.
The Wrights now take Plourde to the Samoset, where they are members, to play and take golf lessons from Soule, while her parents, Bob and Lynne Plourde, take the youngster to most tournaments.
Bailey's grandparents and dad play golf at varying levels of proficiency, but, even at her young age, Bailey probably is the most talented golfer in the family.
Bailey said her family and friends have been instrumental with support, especially her parents, who take time off from work to help her travel the state to play.
Bailey said having her home course be the Samoset gives her a challenging and beautiful place to hone her skills.
So what is it about golf that sparks her interest?
Bailey said golf is a "tough sport and I really wanted to see if I could do it. After the lessons I had when I was younger I saw that I was kind of good. So I kind of stuck with it and the last couple of years I have had some inspiration through some women [golfers] in Maine."
One of those women is Helen Plourd, a longtime member of the Rockland Golf Club and one of the most accomplished female golfers in Maine history.
Bailey said Plourd saw her at a MCJGA clinic a few years ago and was surprised how well a youngster her age hit the ball. Plourd encouraged Bailey to play higher level tournaments, which set those wheels in motion.
So why is Bailey so good, besides the fact she is consistently solid in all phases of the game, from accurate driving, to solid iron play, to masterful chipping to dead-eye putting.
"My driving really helps," she said. "In the fairways I can hit my woods or my irons. I have a good game there."
She can hit a solid drive about 230 yards, which is further than many golfers, even many men.
"Probably the most discomforting thing in my game now is short distance chipping," she said. "When I don't have a lot of green to work with I have difficulty hitting it in that one spot that I need to hit it."
In many respects, Bailey is wise and mature beyond her years. While most other young teenagers are thinking about, well, acting like teenagers, she is developing a strategy that will get her around a golf course in the least number of strokes.
“She's 13 going on 20 [mentally]," Soule said.
Bailey said her strategy going into an 18-hole round is to try to par at least half of the holes. "If I have a triple-bogey, obviously, I'm not happy with it, but I try to come back from it and try to get pars after that. I get anger off from that one bad hole and I kind of do better."
Which brings us to her personality. Unlike most golfers, especially young ones, Bailey has an incredible ability to shrug off a bad hole or shot and move on in a positive direction. For the most part, she maintains her composure, which is difficult when things go wrong on the course.
"In tournaments, I think it is a little more difficult for me," Bailey said of maintaining her composure. "In the women's state tournament, that third day, I could not get my head into it until that back nine [holes]. It is sometimes a little difficult, but I'm usually OK at it."
"If I have a bad shot I obviously know I can come back from it," Bailey said. "I think, 'Oh, geez, that's not good.' But I know I have more holes ahead of me so I can come back."
Of course, when a 13-year-old is facing the state's top female golfers, who range in ages from the 20s to 60s, some with decades of experience on the links, the pressure certainly is heightened.
That is something Bailey experienced this summer.
In that tourney, the older women simply could not believe someone her age could hit the ball so far off the tee. "They never believe that I'm only 13," Bailey said.
While one can look at Bailey and not see a 13-year-old due to her talent and overall composure, there still is a very young girl inside. "I just think that I'm only 13 so I have a long ways to go," she said.
But, to her credit, Bailey overflows with confidence on and off the course. "I get my competitive side from playing my other sports," she said.
Bailey said playing in junior tournaments against golfers her own age is less pressure than what she felt playing against much older competitors in the MSWGA event this summer.
Bailey said she was nervous all three days of the event, but especially the first day. "I didn't know what to expect, but I thought, 'Who cares, I'm 13 years old, so I didn't expect a lot. But I did surprise myself," although she said she expected a little more from herself the final day.
“She was competitive in her first women's amateur and next year I want her to win the women's amateur," Soule said.
Soule said, "I've been fortunate to have some pretty talented young ladies in my day. Probably she is [the best girl at that age he's ever coached] … It's just amazing how quickly she can change and pick up the changes we make.”
“She's got natural talent. Secondly, she's an intelligent young lady. And that's a pretty good mix for a golf swing.”
The pro added, "For [being] 13 the whole game is pretty darn solid. Ball striking is where it's at and that's what we're working on more than anything is full-swing ball striking. It just gets better every day.”
Bailey, who enjoys going to the movies with friends, said she sometimes becomes physically and mentally fatigued after playing golf, especially tournaments, day after day.
"[This summer] I played nine days straight and after that I was very tired and I had another tournament. I don't get tired after one or two rounds, though," she said.
It appears the sky is the limit for how good Bailey can be.
"I never actually thought that I could do this," she said about her golf dreams as a very young player.
“To get a good golf swing, it's a puzzle,” Soule said. “And it takes quite a bit of time to complete the puzzle and get the picture that you want. So right now we're still fitting in pieces to the puzzle. And really [from right now] it's a two-year process. Namely this year and next year. I hope by this time next July she's shooting par. That's the ultimate goal.”
Bailey, who does not watch much golf on television (her favorite touring pros are Paula Creamer and Tiger Woods), attended the U.S. Women's Open this summer.
"I think she got a little taste of what it takes as far as the time and effort that's needed to put into the game," Soule said of Bailey attending that prestigious event. "She really got a taste of that and she's running with it now.”
Bailey probably will play among the top three on the always talented Lincoln Academy golf team this fall.
"I'm a little nervous because the boys are always like, 'It is all about me and I'm the best.' I get kind of nervous playing with them. But once I beat them I know I can handle it," she said.
Although only age 13, Bailey is focused on now, but does have dreams of playing college golf and perhaps, just perhaps, becoming a touring professional.
"I don't know if I want to do that," she said. "I feel like I could if I really put the time into it."
Only time will tell where golf will take Bailey Plourde and Bailey Plourde will take her golf.
594-4401, extension 114
Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.
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