FALMOUTH — The Live and Work in Maine Open made its long awaited debut on Thursday, and coming to Falmouth Country Club may have been just what was needed for a few Korn Ferry Tour veterans looking to regain their groove.

The first round of the four-day pro golf tournament came nearly two years after a five-year agreement between the club, the organizer and the PGA Tour’s top development circuit was announced in September 2019. The inaugural tournament was to have been held last June, but it was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With nearly perfect weather conditions of temperatures in the low 70s and clear blue skies, the 156-player field showed their skills on the par-71 layout measuring over 7,300 yards. A crowd announced at 1,200 could purchase lobster rolls and craft beer while watching some of the world’s top up-and-coming pro golfers apply their trade.

With about three-quarters of the field still on the course at 6 p.m., 47 players had finished with under-par rounds, including Maine native Shawn Warren who is at 2-under.

Steve LeBrun, 43, and Brett Stegmaier, 37, along with rising star Brent Grant, 25, the longest hitter on the tour, and Jim Knous, a Colorado-based pro with limited PGA status, are atop the leaderboard with 7-under rounds of 64.

For LeBrun and Stegmaier, a strong showing in Maine is essential for them if they hope to maintain their status as exempt players on the Korn Ferry Tour. LeBrun is currently ranked 149th and Stegmaier, a Connecticut native who played on the PGA Tour in 2018, is ranked 134. Only the top 75 players on the tour retain their status for the 2022 season. Players outside the top 75 on the points list have to go back to Qualifying School to regain Korn Ferry status.

“To be honest, I don’t have any money to go to Q school. I barely have enough money to travel,” to each event, LeBrun said. “I don’t have a sponsor and I haven’t had one in years. I’m just thinking about the next round, the next shot of every one of these weeks. Clearly my spot on the money list is way down so I need a week like this.”

LeBrun’s wife, Jen, was his caddy. When his round was over, the couple, married 16 years, shared a tender embrace and a kiss, celebrating his lowest score since the 2020-21 season began way back in January 2020.

“For me, it’s been bad. It’s been a rough couple of years. So that embrace was just like, ‘Hey, we had a good round and there haven’t been many of them,'” LeBrun said.

“The weather is beautiful. I love these types of courses. To me it feels like an older, classic type course. I feel comfortable here for sure.”

The course, which sprawls over a nearly 425-acre tract of land, is also trying to make fans feel comfortable. Surrounding the 18th green is a VIP grandstand that was lightly used on Thursday but is sold out for each day of the tournament. Farther up the fairway were other less exclusive seating areas offering both adult beverages and food options.

Fans had plenty of room to move around the course. General admissions tickets are available for $20 per day, and officials expect attendance for the final three days to reach 2,000 per session.

“It’s kind of a neat event for a first-year event because you’ll be able to follow the guys,” said Chase Wright, a pro from Muncie, Indiana, who shot a solid 4-under round with Portland resident Tom Bill as his caddy.

Like Stegmaier and LeBrun, Wright is trying to get himself back into the top 75, not only to have Korn Ferry status for 2022 but also to qualify for the three-tournament finals where 25 PGA Tour cards are awarded. Wright played on the PGA Tour in 2019.

“You could see someone finish in the top 10 this week and it propels them to that top-75 level and then maybe they’re on the big tour next year,” Wright said.

Between the 10th green and 18th tee, another viewing area offered a balcony-style sight line for the 10th green, with a tented beer gardens and a fan zone with games for kids. Nearer the clubhouse, fans had the option of buying one of 30 different brands of Maine-based beer for $10 a glass, or a Luke Lobster’s lobster roll for $23 (four ounces) or $30 (six ounces).

“I think it’s a big boost for the club,” said Ray Roux of Windham, an Falmouth Country Club member who was watching Warren and 19-year-old amateur Caleb Manuel of Topsham finish their rounds. “Everyone is excited about it being here. And I’m just a big avid golf fan, so I think there will be a big crowd here on Saturday and Sunday.”

Across the course, blue-shirted volunteers like Julie Natale and Dotty Collins, long-time friends from Westbrook and employees at WEX Inc., a tournament sponsor, making sure little things ran right. Natale and Collins were serving as traffic monitors for the entrance road to the clubhouse, making sure no cars or pedestrians were crossing in front of players as they lashed drives off the newly constructed 10th tee.

“These guys are great,” Natale said of the pros. “They’re all trying to get to the next level but they’re personable and when they see kids, especially kids, the caddies give them a ball and they say something nice to them.”

But their focus remains on shooting low scores on the golf course – and that’s no disrespect to the Falmouth Country Club layout.

“Even if it takes 23-under to win, it doesn’t make it a bad golf course. We’re just that good,” Wright said. “It’s just a lot of good golf to come and see.”

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