ROCKLAND — For much of her eight-plus decades of life, the Rockland Golf Course was Helen Doherty Plourd’s home away from home. It was the playground of her youth, place to learn valuable life lessons, have fun and, of course, compete against herself and others.

And no person understands the history of women’s golf at that club better then Plourd. Well, because she lived it.

Although she now lives in Standish, the 82-year-old Plourd essentially grew up on the Rockland Golf Course, so, who better to discuss the changes over the decades than she?

And that is what Plourd did in an informal talk with about 20 members of the Rockland Women’s Golf Association on Thursday, Aug. 12 at the club.

Plourd, actively involved in most aspects of RGC for 67 consecutive years until 2018, talked about the “Youthful Years of the Rockland Women’s Golf Association.”

Helen Plourd on Aug. 12 at the Rockland Golf Club. Holly Vanorse Spicer

Plourd’s historical knowledge and golf resumé speak volumes about her talent, dedication, longevity and accomplishments.

A member of the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame and Maine Golf Hall of Fame, Plourd has been a golfer nearly seven decades.

She was one of Maine’s finest female golfers for more than 50 years. A remarkable all-around athlete in her youth, she long was a leader among Maine amateur golfers.

Plourd, a longtime Midcoast educator (most notably at Thomaston Grammar School), was RGC women’s champion 37 years, senior champion 12 years, couples champion many times, child/parent champion, with her twin sons, Jay and Jamie, state couples champion with Wayne “Butch” Farley, state senior champion two years and state senior runner-up two years.

She also has six holes-in-one to her credit.

Plourd finished among the top five gross averages for the Maine State Women’s Golf Association 45 years, semifinalist in state match play and top-10 finalist for state medal play. Plourd finished among the top 20 (15th once) in the New England Women’s Golf championships 15 times and has been a member of Maine’s Tri-State team five decades, being the team captain for more than 25 years.

With all that, Plourd said of herself, “It is not what she has done, but what the course and its members have done for her.”

On Thursday, Aug. 12, Plourd shared her historical knowledge and insight of RGC women’s golf.

Plourd said the first time she went to the course, at age 14 in 1954, she rode her bicycle. But when she arrived, she “had no idea I had to pay to play golf.”

Plourd remembered meeting club pro Tom Long, who greeted her as she approached the first tee with one club in her hand. Long asked her who she was and what brought her to the course? She explained she was the “number one” babysitter for Dr. David Hodgkins’ family, and they were members of the club, thus her connection to it.

That was her introduction to golf.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Plourd took lessons from Long and he told club members he was instructing a “young fledgling” who needed clubs. The “graciousness” of the members resulted in hand-me-down-clubs, bag and Wilson Patty Berg Cup Defender on her 15th birthday. A driver purchased by her parents from Sears and Roebuck topped it off.

She said young golfers today would refuse those used and well-loved clubs, but to her, “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven with those clubs.”

Plourd said those gifts were so appreciated from a teenager, “and little did she know at the time it was the beginning of her legacy” in a game that extended throughout New England and beyond.

 

From an early age, Plourd said she was “adopted” by the Rockland Women’s Golf Association, as well as Women’s Maine State Golf, New England Golf Association and Tri-State. She, in fact, became president of all of them, and she, and her husband, Armand, were the only couple to be presidents, a separate times, of the RGC.

Plourd said over the years she had a strong connection to the club’s pros, as well as Roger (course architect) and Anna Sorrent, and, along with playing at the club, she worked behind the counter and “on occasions drove the tractor mowing fairways.”

She said the women’s game at Rockland has evolved and it now is common for men and women to play golf on the course together daily. There also are women’s tournaments, men’s tournaments and those that combine the two.

That was not the case years ago.

All tournaments for women had to be played on Thursdays, Plourd said. Some of that group’s special championships were Athleen McRae Cup, Leah Robinson Two-Ball Championship and the women’s championship. In fact, in the early days, it was walking only since carts were not available.

Plourd said the women’s golf dates were moved to the weekends after many of the working women could not make the Thursday matches. Tournaments also were 36 holes. However, Thursdays has continued to be a special day for women of the club.

For awhile, Thursdays used to be for women only. Men were not allowed on the course from the women’s tee off until the final women’s foursome returned to the clubhouse.

Plourd said Wednesdays, back in the day, were being mostly for lawyers and doctors who played, with women not allowed.

Plourd, who, during her talk, also offered advice to golfers for helping to avoid sun-induced skin issues (she continues to work to keep her melanoma under control), said the course was much different when she first started playing the game. It was nine holes, which are the club’s current  front nine, but the clubhouse was what is now the white building between the second green and third tee. She said the first hole then is the third hole now and the finishing ninth hole is now the second.

There were no trees, just vegetation. When they planted trees, Plourd said they had to place plastic bags over them so people would not trample them.

With care, those small trees have grown quite large and are everywhere — often being obstacles to the greens for wayward shots. They have become the bane of many a golfer’s journey to the green.

Now, the course has an irrigation system, which keeps it mostly lush and green.

“The condition of the course without irrigation left a lot to be desired,” Plourd said, “but it was a challenge hitting off hard pan with woods. The greens made the course. They were always in above-reproach condition. Trees were absent from separating the fairways, but dense woods with tall grass made up for the open fairways.”

Plourd, who refers to herself as a “youthful golfer,” also said there were no women’s tees back in the day, where as now there are four sets of tees — blues, or back tees, to challenge the best players; whites, for most men players; golds, for older men and those with higher handicaps (or both); and reds, or forward tees, for women and junior players.

Near the end of her Thursday talk, Plourd said, “I sincerely hope you all have gained a wealth of information concerning the Rockland Women’s Golf Association and what it can be to any of you with patience, practice and giving back to the club that continues to grow under the tutelage of longtime pro Keenan Flanagan. His demeanor has made a reverie for many past members become a reality after their years of hard work and dedication.”

Plourd finished by stating, “although my needle is close to empty, yours can be on full” to assist the Rockland Women’s Golf Association and RCG to continue to be one of the best in the state.