OAKLAND, Maine — Bailey Plourde stumbled into golf several years ago, completely by accident.
“My parents needed a baby sitter for me, so I went with my grandparents and that’s what they were doing (playing golf),” said the 14-year-old from Newcastle. “I chipped around a little bit, then I wanted to go again.”
Golf has been Plourde’s summer passion ever since. On Monday, she was among 83 players competing at the third annual Maine Women’s Amateur tournament at the Waterville Country Club.
Plourde carded a 6-over-par 79 that would have placed her near the top of the leaderboard, but persistent rain soaked the course, forcing cancellation of the first round.
“I get a little stressed out or nervous, but I just think, ‘hey, I don’t have anything to prove,’” Plourde said of taking on the state’s best women’s golfers. “It doesn’t matter how I finish. I just try to play my best, have fun. It’s easy to have fun with these girls. They’re awesome.”
Only 24 golfers completed their rounds before officials deemed the course unplayable. There was standing water on some of the greens and water streaming across a handful of the fairways.
Two-time defending champion Emily Bouchard of Saco set the early tone, shooting an even-par 73 playing in the first threesome of the day.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous. With it being a little soft out here, a little wet, it’s holding the ball well. It’s real receptive when you hit shots into the green, which allows you to kind of go for the pins, be a little more aggressive,” Bouchard said after her round.
The conditions deteriorated quickly and though Bouchard likely would have preferred her score to stand, others were relieved to receive a reprieve.
“It’s like today was a bad dream and I woke up,” said former longtime teaching professional Deb Gardner, a 5-handicapper who shot an uncharacteristic 86.
“I felt good playing, but I just didn’t have it,” said Gardner, who is a Waterville Country Club member and won the Women’s Maine State Golf Association title on her home course in the late 1970s.
Plourde, a member at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, was in the fifth group of the day, which completed its round amidst light rain. She was pleased with her round.
“There’s some holes that can get me in trouble, but nothing major that I can think of,” she said. “I feel pretty comfortable with it (the course).”
Plourde played alongside Liz Wiltshire of Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro and Ruth Colucci of Biddeford-Saco Golf Club.
Wiltshire was in second place at 76 when the round was cancelled while Colucci shot an 84 that left her excited for a new start on Tuesday.
“I didn’t think I played well at all,” Colucci said.
“I can promise that tomorrow it will be better, but I feel bad about the wash-out for the low-(scoring) players,” she said. “If that’s me, I would be a little disappointed, but it’s great for everybody else.”
Wiltshire came away impressed with Plourde.
“I enjoyed playing with Bailey Plourde, she’s an awesome golfer. You’ll see more of her coming up in the future,” said Wiltshire, who also got some unexpected support from the gallery on Monday.
“We enjoyed her cheering section today,” she added. “Her family was here and they cheered for us, too.”
Last fall, Plourde was crowned the individual co-champion of the Maine Schoolgirl Golf Championship as a freshman at Lincoln Academy, along with Presque Isle’s Jenna Hallett. Plourde still plays golf with her grandparents Tom and Barbara Wright.
Plourde, who finished 14th in the 2013 Maine Women’s Amateur at Brunswick, competes in summer junior tournaments. During the school year she plays basketball at Lincoln Academy and she also enjoys dance, even though her most recent recital was a painful one.
“I sprained it at my dance recital,” she said of her left ankle on which she wears a brace for support.
The emergence of young golfers such as Plourde behind established 20-something players like Bouchard isn’t lost on the veterans.
“All of us older ladies are glad to see the younger ones coming along,” Wiltshire said.
Plourde said she looks up to Bouchard.
“I just met Emily Bouchard last year and she’s been an inspiration since I met her,” Plourde said. “She’s awesome.”