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Maine amateurs take on the pros in Falmouth this weekend

Caleb Manuel and Cole Anderson, who are good friends off the course, are hoping to perform well at their home state's sole professional golf tournament.

FALMOUTH, Maine — Last week, Topsham native Caleb Manuel got a taste of the PGA Tour when he competed at the U.S. Open in Brookline, Massachusetts. This week, the 20-year-old will compete in Falmouth, Maine, against a field of players who are fighting for a chance to play on the PGA Tour full-time.

The Live and Work in Maine Open is returning to Falmouth Country Club for the second consecutive year. The event is part of the Korn Ferry Tour, a professional tour that's a step below the PGA Tour. Three out of four PGA Tour members are Korn Ferry Tour alumni, according to organizers of the Live and Work in Maine Open.

Manuel, a Mt. Ararat High School graduate, and Cole Anderson, who graduated from Camden Hills Regional High School in 2018, both have sponsor exemptions for the tournament, meaning they were granted entry into the tournament without having to qualify. Because they're amateurs, they won't be eligible for any of the $750,000 prize money.

Manuel, who calls Brunswick Golf Club his home course, missed the cut at the U.S. Open but showed marked improvement between his Thursday and Friday rounds. After shooting 13-over on day one, he bounced back to shoot only 4-over on Friday. On a course that was giving even the most accomplished golfers fits, there were certainly some positive takeaways for the young Mainer.

RELATED: From Brunswick to Brookline: Maine golfer, 20, qualifies for US Open

“The U.S. Open is the biggest tournament in golf; you can’t get any bigger than that. It’s cool to say that I played in that, and I learned a lot from that. This time last week I was even nervous," he said Tuesday during media availability for the Live and Work in Maine Open. "I’m not nervous [right now], but like Cole said, I’ll be nervous on the first tee. It’s a professional event, and I’m not going to treat it any different."

Manuel and Anderson have both had decorated high school and college careers to date.

Manuel played high school golf at Mt. Ararat, leading the team to two state championships while also earning individual championships twice. He currently golfs for the University of Connecticut, where he's the school’s all-time scoring leader. Manuel’s achievements include Maine Golf Player of the Year in 2020 and 2021, Big East Championship co-champion, and 2020 Maine State Golf Association Junior Amateur champion. He's also the defending Maine Amateur champion.

Anderson, who golfs for Florida State University, won the 100th Maine Amateur in 2019 and was 2019 Maine Golf Player of the Year, three-time Maine Class A High School Champion, and New England PGA Junior Champion in 2017.

RELATED: Maine golfers will tee it up on the national stage this week

The two are good friends, having played a lot of golf with and against each other in the past.

"We grew up playing golf together and always kind of pushed each other. We always say we put the friendship on pause when we're playing in tournaments against each other, but he's one of my best friends and has been for a long time," Anderson said Tuesday. "Competing against him doesn't change anything, but for sure there will be some sort of competitive drive to see who can finish higher between the two of us this week."

"We've been friends for a while. He would beat up on me in high school and then I got him his senior year," Manuel said with a smile. "So, it's always been kind of a rivalry but a battle at the same time. It's friendly. On the golf course, if we're playing together or against each other, it's quiet. But then after the round, it's just all love between the two of us."

Both players are hoping to perform well at their home state's sole professional golf tournament.

“I think this is a great venue, it’s a great town, a great city to have it at. Hopefully we get some crowds out here this weekend with some Mainers out supporting the event," Anderson said. "We’ve got some good sports fans here, we just don’t have the number of events that a lot of other places do, and I think this is a great opportunity to showcase Maine and do some good for the community.”

Barbara Bush Children's Hospital is the beneficiary of this weekend's tournament, which runs Thursday, June 23 through Sunday, June 26. For tickets, click here.

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