Shawn Warren, a teaching pro based out of Falmouth Country Club, will compete in the Live and Work in Maine Open, a PGA Korn Ferry Tour event, at Falmouth Country Club. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Two Portland-area golf professionals with experience playing in the PGA Championship have been granted sponsor exemptions to play in the Live and Work in Maine Open, a Korn Ferry Tour event, at Falmouth Country Club.

Shawn Warren, a teaching pro based out of Falmouth Country Club, and Portland Country Club head professional Dan Venezio will be in the 156-player field when the 72-hole tournament runs June 24-27.

Warren, 36, of Portland, is a four-time New England PGA Section Player of the Year, most recently in 2018 when he qualified for the PGA Championship. Warren was also selected to be one of 20 club professionals to play in the 2020 PGA (normal qualifying was not held because of the coronavirus pandemic).

Warren, who grew up in Windham and won the 2004 Maine Open as an amateur and the 2006 Maine Amateur, said he had hoped he might get a sponsor’s exemption but did not feel it was a given.

“Being a guy from Maine and having the tournament at my home golf course, and having won multiple players of the year in New England, I was thinking it would make sense, but it wasn’t really up to me,” Warren said, noting sponsors have the right to invite who they want. “I’m flattered it was me this year.”

Dan Venezio is the head pro at Portland Country Club.  Courtesy of Shamrock Sports

Venezio, 36, of Portland, qualified for the 2015 PGA Championship when he was an assistant pro at Myopia Hunt Club in Hamilton, Massachusetts. Venezio became the head pro at Portland Country Club in 2016.

“It really is an honor to be selected and I’ve played against Shawn in numerous events across the years, and it will nice to have him alongside and we’ll try to represent Portland, Maine golf, and, for me, the members of the Portland Country Club,” Venezio said.

Warren and Venezio are the two unrestricted sponsor’s exemptions allowed for a Korn Ferry Tour event, with the only criteria being that the golfer’s handicap has to be zero or lower. Pros who routinely shoot under par have a negative handicap.

The tournament also gets two restricted exemptions.

‘Those are players who have qualified for the Korn Ferry Tour or the PGA Tour but for one reason or another they’re on the outside, and not in active status,” said tournament director Brian Corcoran, the CEO of Shamrock Sports and Entertainment, the group managing the tournament. “We were looking for Korn Ferry guys with roots down to New England.

Jon Curran of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and David Pastore of Greenwich, Connecticut, were granted the restricted exemptions for the tournament, which has a total purse of $600,000 and will pay $108,000 to the winner.

Curran, 34, is a former winner on the Korn Ferry Tour (when it was know as the Web.com Tour) and finished 12th on the tour’s money list in 2014 to earn his PGA Tour card. He twice lost in playoffs on the PGA Tour, at the 2015 Puerto Rican Open and the 2016 Memorial Open. Curran ranked 66th on the PGA Tour in 2016, making over $1.9 million. Since then, he has struggled with his game and a significant rib injury. In 2020 and 2021, Curran has played in one Korn Ferry Tour event.

Pastore, 29, finished seventh in points on the 2019 Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada and has made four PGA Tour starts and three Korn Ferry starts in his career.

Warren said that being on the grounds at Falmouth Country Club on a daily basis, he feels and hears the excitement building for the Live and Work in Maine Open. But he’s still not sure the general golfing public recognizes just how talented the Korn Ferry Tour players are.

The Korn Ferry Tour is one step down from the PGA Tour, somewhat akin to the Triple-A level of professional baseball. The top 25 players in the regular season earn PGA Tour cards, and another 25 tour cards are earned at the Korn Ferry Tour finals.

“The field is going to be extremely strong,” Warren said. “There will be a player out here at Falmouth who in the next five years will be on the Ryder Cup (team), probably someone else who will win a major in the next five years. The quality of golf will be above and beyond what people expect.”

For his part, Venezio said his trip to the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits (where he shot 89 and 76 and did not make the cut) taught him some perspective that he’ll try to use at the Live and Work in Maine Open.

“I told myself if I got that type of opportunity again, I would go in with a different mindset, not worrying about the level of competition,” Venezio said. “This time, it’s not my accolades versus their accolades. Just go out and play my game to the best of my ability.”

An additional 10 players will make the field via a Monday qualifier on June 21, which will be held at The Ledges in York. Warren said he had been planning to compete in the qualifier. In 2019, he played in his lone Korn Ferry event in Findley Lake, New York, after making it through a Monday qualifier. Warren shot 2-under for two rounds but missed the cut by three strokes.

“There will be a deep field at The Ledges,” Warren predicted. “They’ll come from Europe. They’ll come from California. They will come from all over the U.S.”


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