University of Kentucky golfer Cullan Brown died Tuesday, less than a year after being diagnosed with a form of bone cancer. He was 20 years old.
“Our hearts are simply devastated over the loss of our brother Cullan,” Kentucky head coach Brian Craig said. “I have personally never known a more special or amazing young man. He was simply the most gifted person I have ever coached. He could literally do anything with excellence, but his greatest gift was the way he loved the Lord and loved people. That is a tremendous legacy to leave behind and one that will last forever within our UK golf family.”
Brown was just weeks removed from the making the cut in his first PGA Tour start and was about to begin his sophomore season with the Wildcats when doctors discovered osteosarcoma in his left thigh last September. Shortly after the diagnosis, Brown announced he would be leaving school to return home to Eddyville, Kentucky, and begin chemotherapy.
Last season, the Wildcats men's and women's teams stitched the hashtag #B4B, which stood for "Birdies for Brownie," on their hats and polos.
A state champion at Lyon County High, Brown posted four top-20s and a 72.42 scoring average in his one season at Kentucky. He also helped lead the Wildcats to the semifinals of match play at the SEC Championship and was named to the conference’s All-Freshman team. He also earned a sponsor exemption into the Barbasol Championship last summer and tied for 53rd, highlighted by a third-round 67 that included seven birdies around Keene Trace in Nicholasville, Kentucky.
“It’s just unbelievable to get to be here and even more so to get to play to the level that I’m happening to play at,” Brown told reporters that week.
While Brown was a talented player on the course, his infectious personality made him a superstar off of it. He had an extraordinary sense of humor and was so outgoing that friends and family referred to him as the “mayor” of his hometown because he knew everybody.
LPGA player Emma Talley, who grew up about 10 minutes from Brown, called Brown one of her best friends.
“I love you Cullan,” Talley wrote on Instagram. “So heartbroken. Your legacy will make a difference to so many people.”
Talley wasn’t alone.
Ole Miss head coach Chris Malloy: “All I can hope for is that my son grows up to be half the young man that Cullan was. Truly devastated to hear this and our thoughts are with he and his family. Absolutely one of the most delightful humans I have ever had the chance to meet.”
Auburn head coach Nick Clinard: “Just an absolute joy to be around, we said repeatedly after getting to know him, ‘If you walked in the locker room each day and Cullan was in there, how could you possibly have a bad day?’ We are praying for his family and his team in Lexington and will certainly miss him.”
Former teammate Chip McDaniel: "This world just isn’t fair, can’t even put into words the human being this guy was. One day we’ll grill steaks and hit the white ball around again. Until then, RIP Cullan. You will not be forgotten!"
PGA Tour player Josh Teater: "So sad to hear of the passing of Cullan Brown, I was fortunate to chat with him at Barbasol in 2018, and what a great kid. Thoughts and prayers to the Brown family! Gonna go try to make some birds for you buddy!"
One of Brown’s current teammates, Matt Liston, posted a video of Brown and his trademark laugh with the caption: “The world will miss this laugh and goofy character. Cullan was able to bring a smile to everyone’s face from the moment they met. Such a great teammate, golfer, hunter, chef, family man and much more. RIP to one hell of a guy.”
Brown is survived by his parents, Rodney and Emily, and sister, Cathryn. Funeral arrangements are pending, though the family does have a GoFundMe page, which Brown’s teammate Jay Kirchdorfer set up last year to help with medical expenses.
As of Wednesday, the page has already raised more than $56,000.
“I ask for special prayers for Cullan's wonderful family,” Craig said. “Rodney, Emily and his younger sister, Cathryn, have all been so faithful and supportive of Cullan over this past year. I have witnessed firsthand what unconditional love looks like. It looks like the Brown family. They have inspired all of us during this battle and I stand in awe of them as a family of believers.
“I cannot properly put into words how much I loved Cullan and love his family. Our entire team has been blessed to have had him as a member of our family even though it was cut way too short. For as long as I coach at the University of Kentucky, I will make sure our young men know of Cullan's legacy and impact on every one of us. May God comfort and bless the Browns during this difficult time.”