FALMOUTH — On a challenging layout such as the Falmouth Country Club, it helps to have course knowledge.

It also doesn’t hurt to be one of New England’s hottest players.

Shawn Warren of Windham had both going for him Tuesday in the first round of the Charlie’s Maine Open, and the result was a 6-under 66 and a share of the lead.

Warren, an assistant pro at Falmouth, is tied with Beon Yeong Lee, a South Korean living in Montreal who plays the mini-tours and state opens.

Warren was first on the board with a 66, later matched by Lee.

They will compete for the title in today’s final round. They could have some challengers or it could be a two-man race if they repeat their fast starts of the first round.

In a 36-hole tournament, Warren, 26, doesn’t think of the competition as a whole but in nine-hole increments.

“I think of it as four nine-hole rounds,” he said.

“My goal is to shoot under par for each nine holes. If I do that, everything will fall into place.”

So far, so good. Warren shot a blistering 32 on the front nine, which included eagles on the two par 5s. He shot 34 on the back nine with birdies on the other two par 5s.

Warren loves those par 5s.

“I was 6 under on the par 5s,” he said.

Falmouth is a par 72 that plays 6,879 yards from the tips of the gold tees.

The course wasn’t playing that long in the opening round, but it played long enough and tough enough for most of the field.

A number of top players had figures on the scoreboard that might have brought double takes from the few spectators.

Tournament pressure on a tough course caused the numbers to escalate quickly.

Dustin Cone of Port St. Lucie, Fla., the defending champion, opened with a 74.

Even though he carried the favorite’s tag, Warren said he’s played in enough tournaments to handle it.

Over the past two years he’s been the top player in the New England Assistants’ tournament series. Earlier this month he played in a 36-hole U.S. Open sectional tournament.

“I’ve played in a lot of tournaments like this. It’s not like I haven’t won the tournament before (as an amateur in 2004). Because of that I try not to put pressure on myself,” he said.

Put another way, he added: “I wanted to play as stress-free a round as possible.”

One way he achieved it was by hitting irons off the tees on most of the par 4s. It left him a longer second shot but he kept his tee ball away from trouble.

“I know where the trouble is,” said Warren.

Warren opened his round with a birdie. He went back to even par with a bogey (three-putt) on the 194-yard, par-3 fifth hole, but bounced back with an eagle on the par-5 sixth and another eagle on the par-5 eighth. Warren had three birdies and a bogey on the back.

Lee made four straight 3s on holes 2 through 5 and shot 31 on the front. He bogeyed the 10th hole but got it back with a birdie on No. 12.

He parred the next five holes before birdieing the long par-4 18th.

In pursuit of the leaders are Jeffrey Castle of Nottingham, Md., who shot 68, and three golfers at 69 — Eric Egloff of Sandy Spring, Md., Michael Carbone of Brewster, Mass., and Matt Parsiale of Brockton, Mass.

There are four golfers grouped at 2-under 70, including a former winner, John Hickson of Topsham.

Jason Gall of Augusta is the low amateur after one round with a 71. He’s among a group of seven at that figure.

The cut was the low 50 and ties, and those within 10 shots of the lead.

 

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be contacted at 791-6419 or at: tchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: TomChardPPH