Shawn Warren, 35, a teaching pro at Falmouth Country Club, is on a short list of Maine golfers who have played in one of the sport’s major championships. For the second time in three years, he has qualified for the PGA Championship, to be held in San Francisco on Aug. 6-9. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Shawn Warren knows playing in his second PGA Championship will be a very different experience than his first. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there will not be any fans lining the fairways.

“Everything is so different around the atmosphere,” said Warren, 35, a teaching professional at Falmouth Country Club. “In St. Louis (in 2018), the atmosphere was electric and they had huge crowds out there. That was my favorite part of the week was playing in front of those crowds.”

But make no mistake, Warren is still excited about getting a second crack at teeing it up with the best players in the world at this year’s PGA Championship, to be played Aug. 6-9, at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.

“It’s still a major championship,” said Warren, a Windham native who now lives in Portland. “There’s very few times in a year where a field is as strong as it will be for this event.”

In 2018, Warren shot a two-round score of 77-71, 8-over par 148, at Bellerive Country Club and missed the cut. While Warren enjoyed the buzz of playing in front of a huge gallery of fans, playing without spectators could be to his advantage, said his friend and caddy Shawn McCurdy of Gorham. Besides event staff, only the golfers and caddies will be on the course.

“Every single time I’ve caddied for him, other than that first PGA, it’s just been he and I,” McCurdy said. “It’s just been the two of us doing what we have to do and there’s no distractions. For us it will kind of be back to normal I guess you could say.”

This year, the pandemic has altered just about everything.

Normally club professionals like Warren qualify for the PGA by placing in the top 20 in The PGA Professionals national club tournament. That’s how Warren made the field in 2018. This year, the national club pro championship was canceled and the 20 qualifying spots went to the top finishers in the 2019 national point standings. Warren was 14th, thanks largely to his come-from-behind win at the New England PGA Section Championship.

The PGA Championship will be the first of golf’s majors to be contested this year. When the PGA Tour shut down from from mid-March to mid-June, the U.S. Open and The Masters were postponed to September and November, respectively. The British Open, golf’s fourth major championship, was canceled.

All players must be tested for coronavirus before they leave for San Francisco and again upon arrival.

Shawn Warren watches his drive down the 18th hole fairway at the Falmouth Country Club on Tuesday. Warren missed the cut while playing in the 2018 PGA Championship in St. Louis, but he’ll get another chance in August when the PGA Championship heads to San Francisco. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The pandemic has canceled Warren’s normal summer array of New England tournaments. He hasn’t played a significant multi-day tournament since winning a two-day club pro event at Pebble Beach resort in California in early March.

“I’ve played a handful of one-day events and pro-ams but all the state opens and some of bigger section stuff was canceled. It’s not that those events are comparable (to the PGA Tour) but you can use those to see where you’re game is at,” said the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Warren. “It’s hard to explain, but there is such a wide difference between playing golf at the club and going into tournament conditions … to just flip the switch will be different.”

Warren is on a very short list of players from Maine, or pros working in Maine, to play in a major championship. Tim Angis of Biddeford-Saco Country Club and John Hickson were working as Maine pros when they qualified for the PGA in 1993 and 1997, respectively. Sean Gorgone of Topsham played in the 1991 U.S. Open as an amateur. Casey Bourque was a club pro at Biddeford-Saco when he played in the U.S. Open in 1995.

Jeff Martin, a Portland High graduate, currently a club pro in Milton, Massachusetts, qualified for three PGA Championships (2005, 2008, 2013).

Making a major championship field a second time, “validates just how good a player Shawn is,” said Jeff Seavey, a teaching pro at Goose River Golf Course in Rockport. Seavey, who made one PGA Tour start in 2003 has teamed with Warren to win several New England PGA events.

The next step for Warren is to play well enough to make the cut.

“The cut will take care of itself. As long as I play good, solid golf, I should be inside the cut level,” Warren said.

“Shawn’s got above tour-average distance. He can hit all the shots you see guys hitting on TV, it’s just a matter of doing it consistently,” Seavey said. “Shawn’s got the power to compete with those guys.”

TPC Harding Park, a municipal course, normally is a par-72 layout. For the PGA Championship, two of the par 5s will be converted to par 4s and the course have been lengthened to a 7,234-yard par-70 layout, with longer rough, faster greens, and narrower landing areas.

“It’s a big park, a great course for me,” said Warren, who played one round there about five years ago.

As an amateur, Warren won a state high school championship (2002), the Charlie’s Maine Open (2004), the Maine Amateur (2006) and posted the low-scoring average each of his four seasons at Marshall University.

Now his game is at a much higher level, honed by professional successes and near-misses, and packing a powerful drive that he carries over 300 yards.

“I think that he proved that, the last time we were out there in St. Louis,” McCurdy said. “He got off to a little bit of a rocky start in that first round and I think you can attribute that to just the newness of everything. But we were getting comments from other players, asking Shawn things like, ‘How many PGA Tour events have you played in?’ Those guys were shocked that he hadn’t played in any PGA events before.”

Warren has no intention of stopping after his second appearance.

“I’m hoping this isn’t my last by any means,” he said. “I’m thinking with my game, I could see eight of these (PGA Championships). Once I broke through that door, I planned on playing every single year. It definitely feels good to be going back out.”


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