Bailey Plourde chased the Maine Women’s Amateur golf championship for three years, finally winning the title last summer after two second-place finishes.

But Plourde, the Newcastle native who finished sixth in the NCAA Division III women’s championships last spring while playing for Centre College of Danville, Kentucky, won’t be back to defend her title. She chose to stay in Kentucky this summer as an intern for that state’s golf association. And when the three-day Maine Women’s Amateur begins Monday at the Webhannet Golf Club in Kennebunk, there’s a large group of young golfers ready to fill the void.

“There are a lot of young girls coming out to win this,” said Ruth Colucci of Saco, who was the Maine State Golf Association’s women’s golfer of the year in 2018. “It opens the door to a lot of people. And there’s a lot of young girls capable of taking it.”

Jordan Laplume is coming off an impressive showing in the New England Amateur. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Start with Jordan Laplume, last year’s runner-up by three strokes to Plourde. Laplume, who plays out of Dunegrass in Old Orchard Beach, recently was the top Maine finisher in the New England women’s amateur – a three-day total of 231, 27 strokes better then the next Maine finisher – and had a strong freshman season at Merrimack College, where she averaged a 79.73.

Laplume, 18, will tee off at 7:30 a.m. Monday with Erin Holmes, 20, of Val Halla, and veteran Kristin Kannegieser of the Martindale Country Club.

“I’m really excited about the tournament,” said Laplume. “It’s a gorgeous course, the weather looks like it’s going to be great. It’s going to be exciting.”

Holmes, who recently finished a strong sophomore season at Bucknell, and recent Greely High graduate Rachel Smith, who will Laplume’s teammate at Merrimack in the fall, figure to be among those challenging Laplume. The three are close friends, going back to their days of competing in the Maine  junior tournaments, and look forward to playing each other.

“We’re just all really good friends,” said Smith, 18. “Jordan and I actually play quite a bit together and talk on a daily basis. I’m excited to be her teammate at Merrimack. To me, this tournament isn’t just a competition. I’m wishing that Jordan does well.”

Erin Holmes, who plays out of Val Halla, will be a top contender in the Maine Women’s Amateur.  Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Laplume is playing well, evidenced by her showing in the New Englands. And she’s been working daily on improving her game. “I’ve just been putting in a lot of practice,” she said. “And it’s finally paying off. I’m proud of that. It’s so rewarding to see that work pay off.”

Laplume will miss playing against Plourde but noted she never plays against another golfer in any tournament. “It’s me against the course,” she said. “Everyone is competition, but it’s how well I can play the course.”

Webhannet promises to be challenging. The course will be set up to play about 5,200 yards, which could favor the younger golfers who hit the ball longer. “It will play into the gals who hit the longer balls,” said Kannegieser.

But Holmes, who played a practice round at Webhannet recently, said it isn’t that simple. Some holes do play long while others are shorter but just as tricky, with multiple traps or twisting fairways. “It’s got a good mix of different types of holes, so it doesn’t favor certain types of players, like those who hit long balls,” she said. “It should be fun.”

Since Webhannet is a semi-private course, not many of the golfers have played there much. So it might take a round to get accustomed. “You’ve got to get the feel of the turf,” said Colucci.

“I really think the field is wide open,” said Smith. “It makes it exciting for us as younger individuals in the tournament to hopefully score well and be on the leaderboard.”

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