Warren, Berberian eligible for 2020 PGA Championship, Aug. 3-9, at TPC Harding Park

When the difficult and disappointing decision to cancel the 2020 PGA Professional National Championship was made, 292 dreams of reaching this summer’s PGA Championship went down with it. But for the other 20 PGA Professionals in the 312-player field, that dream instantly became a reality.

With no PGA Professional Championship, the 20 PGA Championship exemptions annually dealt out at the tournament were instead awarded to the top 20 finishers in the 2019 PGA Player of the Year list, giving a pair of New England PGA Professionals an exemption into the year’s first Major.

Rich Berberian Jr., PGA (Vesper CC) and Shawn Warren, PGA (Falmouth CC) played well enough in 2019 to secure a spot in the top 20. Berberian, a two-time PGA Professional Player of the Year and the 2016 PGA Professional Championship winner, finished 10th on the list while Warren, the 2019 NEPGA Section Champion, finished 14th.

“To think about last year and how important the events I played in last year played a part in me getting a spot, I’m grateful for it and I’m very excited that I get another chance to do it,” Berberian said.

“Anytime you have a chance to play in a Major you can’t be disappointed in how it occurs,” Warren added. “Obviously I would have loved to have gone out there and competed, mainly because it’s our biggest event of the year as a club professional. The way they run that tournament it’s always at a great venue, there’s a great purse, and all the things that go along with it. But for me and Richie, we’re going to get to play in a Major and that’s always exciting.”

Warren will be competing in his second PGA Championship after reaching the 2018 edition at Bellerive CC. This year, his focus will be on the golf tournament without many of the distractions that normally come with the territory.

“A lot went into planning on getting out there, friends and family coming out, wondering what everything was going to be like,” he said of preparing for the 2018 PGA Championship. “Now, knowing what’s going to occur and without having to worry about making plans for 50 different people, there should be a lot less stress going into it. Maybe without all the fans and hoopla around it you can kind of try and make it feel like just another normal tournament.”

Berberian, meanwhile, will be competing in the tournament for the fifth consecutive year, and extending his stretch to six straight years appearing in a Major after reaching the 2015 U.S. Open. With no fans at this year’s Championship, he expects a more comfortable atmosphere as well.

“One of the big things for me is there’s no fans,” he said. “I’m lucky to get to play in one a year for the past few years, and getting used to the fans being there is always hard. I’m excited that it’s going to be more of a tournament this year, something that I’m used to. Something that the 20 guys that are going from the PGA are used to.”

Berberian posted his best PGA Championship finish in 2016, missing the cut by just four strokes, and never imagined he’d make the tournament an annual appointment for half a decade.

“When I won (the PGA Professional National Championship) a couple years ago and then I got in the following year, two in a row I thought that was magnificent,” Berberian said. “I was expecting at some point, some kind of downfall where I wasn’t going to play well in the event and miss it, but when I look back now it’s five years in a row and I can’t even wrap my head around it. Five years has gone by pretty quick to be honest. I ‘ve enjoyed every PGA Championship that I’ve played in so far and I’m excited to go back and try again.”

NOT YOUR AVERAGE MUNI
Not every municipal golf course has the opportunity to host major championships, World Golf Championships, and the President’s Cup. In that way, TPC Harding Park differs from most other munis, hosting some of golf’s most memorable moments. In 2005,Tiger Woods and John Daly went head-to-head in a sudden death playoff for the WGC-American Express Championship, with Woods taking the title on the third playoff hole. In 2015, Rory McIlroy won the WGC-Cadillac Match Play there. Not long after the upcoming PGA Championship, TPC Harding Park will begin preparations to host the 20205 President’s Cup. That might not be the resume you would expect from a muni, but the course still embodies the muni spirit.

“It’s a complete muni. The last time I played it I played it with a couple guys wearing jeans. It’s awesome,” Warren said. “The guys in San Francisco get to play it at a $55 or $65 rate. It’s unbelievable the fact that they’re going to host a PGA Championship and a couple years after that a (President’s) Cup. It’s an unbelievable venue and I’m just looking forward to getting out there.”

Unlike Warren, Berberian has not yet tee’d it up at TPC Harding Park, but has enough experience competing in PGA Championships to know what he’ll need to do to succeed.

“As far as I’ve seen from past PGA Championships, it comes down to hitting fairways off the tee for me,” he said. “Everyone’s long. I’ve got to make sure that I’m hitting it solid, I’m hitting it far, and I’m finding fairways. That’s how I’m going to try to prepare.”