Nearly a a century after it hosted the first one, Augusta Country Club rolls out the red carpet for the 94th edition this morning.

That’s welcome news for one icon of the sport.

Mark Plummer, who won the Maine Amateur a record 13 times from 1973 to 2002 and was runner-up in five more, is a member of the historic club that stretches along the Manchester/Winthrop line adjacent to Route 202.

Also enjoying the home-course advantage is Ryan Gay, at the other end of the generational spectrum and expected to turn pro in the near future after completing his collegiate career at New Mexico.

Gay, 22, is a three-time champion of the event. He edged Plummer at Biddeford-Saco in 2008, then won back-to-back titles at Kebo Valley in Bar Harbor (2010) and Portland CC (2011).

Plummer is now 61 but still fully capable of taking home the hardware. He’s the reigning Maine Senior Amateur champion. That title in August 2012 padded a resume that is the stuff of living legend.

In addition to his 13 amateur titles, Plummer has claimed 11 championships at the storied Paul Bunyan Tournament, four Mid-Amateur crowns and two New England titles. He also memorably stared down a young Tiger Woods until the 18th hole of a match-play semifinal at the U.S. Amateur in 1995.

The undercurrent of young vs. old runs much deeper than the two hometown favorites.

Seth Sweet of Madison is the defending champion. Sweet was 17 when he prevailed by two shots at Sunday River Golf Club in Newry a year ago. He recently completed his freshman year on scholarship at Old Dominion University.

Another college student, J.J. Harris, and two-time champion Ricky Jones tied for runner-up honors in 2012.

Jones, of Thomaston, hasn’t won the Amateur since capturing the 2003 and 2004 laurels. But he recently turned back the clock and exhibited his championship form at the Bunyan, a 36-hole event contested at Kebo Valley and Penobscot Valley in Orono.

It was Jones’ first major title since 2007. He credited a new focus on the CrossFit personal training program for his renewed strength and stamina.

The fifth and final former champion in the field is Ron Brown Jr., who went a whopping 24 years between his two titles in 1975 and 1999.

Augusta hosted the inaugural Maine Amateur in 1918, but the tournament hasn’t been here since 2001. Plummer rallied from a three-shot deficit over the final three holes and defeated Corey Poulin in a playoff that year.

It provides a different challenge than did the hilly terrain of Sunday River, with much greater emphasis upon accuracy and length off the tee becoming a risk-versus-reward issue. Par-70 Augusta will play almost 1,000 yards shorter at 6,214.

The tournament is a 54-hole, stroke-play event, with a full field of 132 teeing off Tuesday and Wednesday. The cut for Thursday’s championship round will be the low 40 players and ties.

Forty-eight players were automatic invitations, including everyone who made the 2012 cut. The remainder of the field was set by three qualifying tournaments in June. Winners were Michael Bouchard and Josh Hogan at Penobscot Valley, Auburn’s Brian Bilodeau on his home Martindale layout, and Brian Knipp at Biddeford-Saco.

Bilodeau is back in the mix after missing the 2012 Maine Amateur while playing in the USGA Public Links Championship.

Tuesday’s lead group of Sweet, Plummer and Ashley Fifield is scheduled to tee off at 7 a.m. Threesomes will depart every 10 minutes thereafter until 2:10 p.m.

Gay (7:20 a.m.) is paired with Joe Baker of Norway, who finished fourth a year ago, and Auburn’s Curt Jordan.

Another local player to watch: Minot teenager Will Kannegieser, who finished in a tie for seventh in 2012.

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: