No surprise Emma Talley opted to play to honor memory of her friend Cullan Brown

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No surprise Emma Talley opted to play to honor memory of her friend Cullan Brown

(Emily Brown Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT
I was not surprised to see Kentuckian Emma Talley playing in the Marathon LPGA Classic in Ohio today.

Sure, it was less than 48 hours after her friend, Cullan Brown, lost his battle with cancer at age 20. He was a former Kentucky state high school golf champion from Lyon County and she was a three-time state champ from Caldwell County. But they were much more than golfing buddies. They were friends and Talley was Brown’s role model in life and on the golf course.

She admitted her first instinct was to return home to be with Brown’s family. However, she also realized that Cullan would want her at the course playing, not back home grieving.

No surprise she had a difficult start with three bogeys on the first seven holes before playing the final 11 holes 2-under. Still, she’ll need a much lower round than 72 Friday to make the 36-hole cut because she’s tied for 87th after 18 holes.

Yet winning won’t really be determined by her score this week. Just being there to play and share her story and love for Brown is what counts. It was talked about on Golf Channel during the live telecasts. Several national media outlets wrote about it.

“The first hole, it was brutal. I had a mental breakdown. Had lots of tears just knowing that this was where he (Brown) would want me to be,” Talley said after her round. “Even though it was hard, I know this is the place he loved.
“He loved hunting and being outside and he loved golf. I talked to his mom last night and she said, ‘Enjoy the walk because he would want you to.’”

She was absolutely right because as much as her son loved golf, he loved just being out and around people even more. He could have as much fun watching Talley play as he did when he made the cut in the PGA Tour Barbasol Championship a year ago.

“I’m here for him. The first six holes golf was the last thing that was on my mind. I really struggled to focus. But then something hit me and I was just looking around. This is the perfect day. The weather was perfect. It was so pretty out there,” Talley said.

“I thought, ‘You know what? He would be so mad at me right now. Like I need to suck it up and hold my shoulders back.’ I wanted to make four birdies; ended up only making two.”

Considering all she’s deal with the last two days, just finishing was a monumental effort and to play the final 11 holes 2-under par — and it could have been even better if not for a few missed birdie putts — was remarkable.

“The last few days have been the worst days of my life. I know he’s not hurting anymore and I know that he’s the best angel I could have ever dreamed of.  So even though I’m heartbroken, just taking it one day at a time,” Talley said.

The LPGA player was not surprised that the golf world pour out its love and admiration for Brown.

“He truly was the best, and there is no words. He was the honest, humble, lighthearted, funny, witty. He’s actually really smart as well. He was a 50-year-old soul in a 20-year-old’s body,” she said. “He’s got the best personality in the world and cared for others. If you watch him in anything, he always said we, talked about other people, not himself.”

Talley said others learned from Brown and that he lived life very full.

“He made such an impact on so many people, and I just want people to know who he was and continue his legacy,” Talley said.

You could see the Pray for Cullan band she wears on her wrist and will for a long, long time. He had caddied for Talley in a LPGA event in Arkansas about two weeks before he found out he had cancer.
“I’m not going to take it off because I’ve had it for a year and it’s part of him,” Talley said.

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