Shawn Warren has been in St. Louis since Thursday, learning all the quirks and nuances of the golf course at the Bellerive Country Club, site of the 100th PGA Championship.

Not surprisingly, he likes it.

“I love it,” said Warren, 33, who lives in Portland and works as a teaching pro at Falmouth Country Club. “It suits my game. It’s long and you can be aggressive off the tee. You can hit a lot of drivers, which is something I like to do.”

Warren is playing in the PGA Championship for the first time and is just the third Maine club pro to play in it in the last 25 years. He earned his spot in mid-June at the PGA Professional championship, a tournament where the 20 best scorers got a spot in golf’s last major championship his year.

Warren always has been a long hitter, which may play to his advantage as be attempts to make the cut for the final two days.

Warren will tee off in the first round at 10:02 a.m. Thursday with J.J. Spaun and Mikko Korhonen of Finland. The threesome will tee off at 3:27 p.m. Friday for the second round.

“He can bomb it for sure,” said Dan Venezio, the Portland Country Club head pro. “He won’t give up many yards to many guys in that field, that’s for sure.”

Venezio, 33, knows a little something about the tournament. While he was the head pro at the Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, in 2013, Venezio qualified for the PGA Championship. He played at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, and shot an 89-76-165. The cut was 146.

He said it was smart that Warren went out early to acclimate himself with the course – Venezio didn’t go out until the Monday before the start. “It seemed like a dream the entire week,” said Venezio. “You can think you’re ready to experience something like that but the entire week I was looking around and saying, ‘This is cool … Should I be standing on the range next to Jason Day?’

“It’s everything you expect – and a hundred times more than that.”

Warren understands that. Last week he was enjoying playing rounds in anonymity. Starting Tuesday, he knows that will change.

“I’m feeling comfortable,” he said last Friday. “There’s no one in the gallery. I’m figuring out where to park, where I’m going to eat lunch every day. But once everyone shows up and fills these empty grandstands, I’m sure that’s when it will hit me – now it’s time to play with the big boys.”

Venezio said the fans make the experience memorable. “There’s nothing that prepares you for this, when you’re working at the country club one day and then have kids screaming for your autograph the next,” he said. “They have no idea who you are, have no idea you were answering the phone in a pro shop a couple of days ago. They just want you to sign.”

Warren qualified in June at the PGA Professionals championship in Seaside, California, sinking a 14-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole. He was one of the nine golfers in the playoff competing for five spots.

Warren had played in the tournament four other times without advancing. In 2015, he was part of a five-man playoff for the final spot and was eliminated when he bogeyed the first hole.

He will join Tim Angis (1993), formerly of the Biddeford-Saco Country Club, and John Hickson (1997), now at Bath Country Club, as Maine pros to play in the PGA Championship. Neither made the cut.

Angis shot an 81-70–151 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. The cut was 143. Hickson shot a 78-84–160 at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. The cut was 146.

Those close to him say Warren can make the cut. The course at Bellerive is playing as a par-70 for the PGA Championship, with two par-5’s (for members) cut back to par-4’s for the pros.

“His game has matured so well,” said a longtime friend, Todd Bacon, who flew to St. Louis to caddie for Warren last week. “His golf swing has come full circle. Everything is where it needs to be to be out here on this stage.”

“He’s got the length,” said Venezio. “He’s always wanted to play at that level and now he’s got the chance. We’re all hoping he plays well.”

Warren certainly feels good about his game. He said he’s put in a lot of long days lately getting ready for this – not only on the course and driving range, but in the gym. He still conducted lessons with his current students – something the PGA pros don’t have to worry about – but put in the time on the course to “make sure when I came out here that I was ready.”

He said his chance to make the cut comes down to simple things. “I feel I just have to maintain what I’m currently doing as opposed to trying to rework the wheel,” said Warren. “I have everything going in the direction I want. I just need to handle my nerves and make the shots I need to make under the bright lights.”

Warren always has been regarded as one of Maine’s top golfers. He graduated from Windham High in 2003, then was a four-year captain on the Marshall University golf team. He won the Maine Open in 2004 and Maine Amateur in 2006. Then he turned pro and twice came close to earning his playing card on the PGA Tour. He returned to Maine as a teaching pro and has been named the PGA New England player of the year three times (2013, 2014, 2015).

Sean Barrett, the head pro at Falmouth Country Club, said at least 20 members are flying to St. Louis to cheer on Warren.

“Whatever happens there,” said Barrett, “this is a great experience for him. And it’s exciting, of course.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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