POLAND — When Karen Nichols was working at Poland Spring Golf Course seven years ago, a member asked a simple question: Were there any ladies leagues available in the evening?

Nichols said there weren’t any ladies leagues. So she decided to change that.

“At the time, Allan Menne was the pro and I bounced it off him and he said, ‘Karen, that’s a wonderful idea, I would be glad to do it.’ So, we worked over (that) winter to plan it and my job was to recruit the players and he was going to teach clinics.”

When Nichols and Menne got together, the Tuesday ladies twilight league was born in 2015. Now it’s better known now as the League of Laughter.

“The interesting thing — this is our sixth year — the lady who suggested it has never come out and she’s a member here. She has never come out and play,” Nichols said. “And when I see her, I go, Michelle (Boucher), your league is open.”

The first year of the league saw 36 players come out and Nichols — a retired school teacher —reached out to fellow retired teachers to come out and play. She asked female members at the course or even asked women at the grocery store if they were interested in joining the league.

Susan Provost, one of the retired teachers who plays in the league, thought joining the league would be a good way to socialize.

“I taught with Karen, I was her boss — if anyone could boss her (around),” Provost said with a chuckle. “She told me about (the league) and I decide to join.”

Jill McCann was a “prized recruit,” according to Nichols, since her husband is a long-time member at Poland Spring.

“I would see him almost weekly and he would say, ‘What are you going to do to get Jill out here (playing golf)?” Nichols said. “I said, ‘Don’t know.’ He kept going, ‘What is it going to take to get Jill out here?’ This went on for years and finally, I don’t know how it happened, she said, ‘I am ready to try it,’ and she brings a couple of friends.”

Each year the player pool has grown and Nichols has almost reached her goal of 100 ladies playing on a given night, with 99 players signed up to play this past Tuesday. Provost said she has seen more younger players join the league the past few years.

Players who didn’t have much experience playing golf took lessons with Menne or now with John King, the current pro, before playing in the league.

Jacqueline Giasson and a few friends took advantage of the lessons prior to playing in the league.

“We did take advantage of the clinics,” Giasson said. “We have done both the clinics and private lessons.”

League members get a discount on green fees, paying $25 for nine holes and a golf cart. A normal nine-hole round with a cart costs $39 during twilight hours.

One of the big sticking points Nichols wanted for this league was there would be no commitment to the players to play every single week or finding a replacement player. She also wanted it to be fun for the casual player, along with the highly competitive player.

“Golf leagues scare people off because they think highly competitive but I designed it so there was no commitment,” Nichols said. “Family before golf. If something comes up, go do it, don’t worry about us. I also said it’s going to be fun and a lot of people found that hard to believe. I said ‘No, it’s going to be fun little games and it’s going to be fun.’ That’s how we evolved into the League of Laughter. Most people are proud of that name.”

Players also pick their playing partners, so highly competitive players aren’t grouped with players who just want to have fun.

“(Karen) allows people who like to be competitive or people who want to get some fresh air to have fun,” Giasson said.

Giasson has been playing in the league with three of her friends: Cathy Adamson, Sharon Davis and McCann. The four said they are self-competitive with each other.

Nichols will only collect scorecards from players who want their scores to be recorded. Each week, there’s a game of the day, like this past Tuesday was the best ball on five holes, according to the results they sent in, and there’s always a scramble every week if players prefer that format.

“I want to take all the pressure off of them, I want to make sure the pace of play is reasonable,” Nichols said. “I have nights that I have put 88 players (on the course) and to put that many players through here I have to have the option of go pick up your ball, go with your team, you will be OK.”

One player who once played golf at a high level as a teenager was Pat Maines, but she stopped playing when she started having kids and she didn’t return to playing golf on a regular basis until she was in her 60s.

“I wanted to have fun,” Maines said. “I started playing golf at the age of 11 and until I was 16 everybody who knew me said I need to practice more and you can join (this league) or whatever and you can play really well. So I stopped playing and I never started playing again until 10 years ago. I decided since I retired I can play, but I don’t want to be competitive because that’s why I quit golf (in the first place), so I just play for fun and we do have fun.”

While Maines has gotten back in the swing of things on the golf course, has her game returned to form from her teenage years?

“It hasn’t, it has gotten worse,” Maines chuckled. “The more I play the worse I get.”

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