MANCHESTER – As Mark Plummer set for a tee shot or stood over a 20-foot putt, a phrase might have crossed his opponent’s mind: Show me what you got left, old man.

Young Ryan Gay recoiled at the thought.

“No,” he said. “Never. I’ve got too much respect for Mark to think that. I know what he can do on a golf course.”

Good answer, kid. Giving off vibes about a 58-year-old golfer’s age would have stoked an already very hot fire. Don’t help Maine golf’s living legend think he has to prove himself all over again.

Mark Plummer gets motivated quite well on his own, thank you.

It took three sudden-death overtime holes Wednesday morning, but Plummer beat Gay in the MSGA match play championship at Augusta Country Club. When Gay missed a putt on the 21st hole of their morning match, the applause and cries of congratulations were for Plummer.

He crossed the green to shake Gay’s hand. Thirty-nine years separate their ages. Thousand of rounds of golf separate their experience. More than most, Plummer understood the depths of Gay’s disappointment.

They are friends and they are competitors. Saying they are friendly competitors might miss the mark.

Gay was the tournament’s top seed. He won the Maine Amateur earlier this summer, his second championship in three years. Plummer made the field of 16 as second alternate. Complications from a bleeding ulcer kept him away from the Maine Amateur.

He’s back, and so is his game. As he shook hands with friends in the small gallery of spectators, Gay walked away to hugs of consolation. Augusta is his home course. Too bad for him on this day, Augusta is also Plummer’s home course. There isn’t a patch of fairway or rough Plummer doesn’t know.

Old-timers can point to individual trees Plummer tried to fell with his putter years ago. The tree bark has long since grown back. Plummer’s bark and his fury left his game years ago. His intensity remained, refining his game even more.

A couple of times, Gay let a club fly from his hands in anger over a poor shot. Plummer watched. Later, in his low growl, Plummer would praise Gay after an approach shot or a putt. Plummer’s great wit would attempt to draw a grin.

“He’s a real good kid,” said Plummer. “I try to lighten the mood.”

Gay leaves his home in Pittston on Monday for the fall semester and another season of golf at the University of New Mexico. He is 19 years old. He and Plummer may have played each other 30 or 40 times at Augusta, by Plummer’s guess. They won’t play each other again this summer.

Plummer has been mentor, teacher and coach to Gay. Plummer will give only if it’s accepted, and Gay has done that. Repaying Plummer by beating him — and Gay has beaten Plummer — is a great compliment. Losing to Plummer is like failing a test.

“They are two aggressive golfers,” said Jim Quinn, 62, of Farmingdale, an Augusta club member. He caddied for Gay.

“It was a great round of golf, wasn’t it? Neither one was backing down. For Mark to beat Ryan, it had to be this atmosphere, on their home course, in match play.”

Match play is so much more personal, more competitive, with each golfer trying to win each hole. The pressure can be greater, which is why Wednesday was so satisfying for Plummer.

Plummer was 3-up after 13 holes, but Gay won three of the last five holes and they played the 16th and 18th even, setting up the overtime.

Had Plummer ever looked at Gay with the phrase, ‘Show me what you got, kid’ in his mind? A big laugh escaped.

“No. Ryan has already shown me. He’s very good and he’ll play better.”

At some point, Plummer will relax his 58-year-old body. After beating Gay, he had a two-hour break before the quarterfinals. Someone suggested Plummer take a nap. Instead, he had lunch with his father and caddy, Stan.

He took on Eric Crouse of Portland in the quarterfinals and for the second time in the same day, the golfers were even after they finished the 18th. This time, Plummer needed one extra hole to beat Crouse.

Mark Plummer plays golf the only he knows how: to win. 

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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