Lyon County’s Cullan Brown — a star sophomore men’s golfer for the University of Kentucky — died Tuesday in Lexington, following a year-long battle with osteosarcoma (specifically, bone cancer).
A deeply respected friend of Princeton, and virtually anyone he came across, he was 20 years old.
“Lost a best friend today,” tweeted Princeton’s LPGA star Emma Talley, on Tuesday. “I love you Cullan. So heartbroken. Your legacy will make a difference to so many people.”
In two decades, the Eddyville native amassed countless highlights across the country — most notably claiming Lyon County High School’s first-ever state championship in any sport by firing a two-day 139 and winning the KHSAA boys golf individual title in the fall of 2016.
Earlier that same year, Brown — then ranked the 30th-best golfer in the U.S. Class of 2018 — committed to the Wildcats, after taking unofficial visits to Auburn and Vanderbilt.
“I couldn’t be happier to play college golf at the state’s flagship university and to be a Wildcat,” Brown told Golfweek’s Brentley Romine. “I love the state of Kentucky and its people. To represent the University of Kentucky and have great people like Coach (Brian) Craig and Coach (Ben) Fuqua to guide me through my college career and be a member of the Wildcats team is a dream and a blessing.”
Brown won the final of his three First Region championships on Sept. 25, 2017, in a two-hole playoff with Marshall County’s Jay Nimmo at the Country Club of Paducah.
By the time he graduated, Brown had scrambled into the nation’s top 20 golfers in the Class of 2018 (according to Junior Golf Scoreboard), and was a member of a Team USA in 2017 that captured the Evian Junior Cup Championship in Evian, France.
Also a KHSAA state runner-up in both 2015 and 2017, Brown only blossomed further after joining the Wildcats in Lexington.
He earned All-SEC Freshman Team status following a terrific 2018-19 campaign, where he navigated past a fall injury and appeared in all eight spring events with seven starts — including the 2019 SEC Championship, where he tied for ninth behind a 67-69-72-208 at the Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
Following his prestigious spring play (and a 72.42 stroke average), Brown received a rare exemption and invitation to the PGA’s 2019 Barbasol Championships at Keene Trace Course in Nicholasville. Again, he soared — not only making the cut, but firing a four-day, 10-under par with a 72-68-67-71-278 and in a tie for 53rd place.
On Sept. 1, 2019, two weeks after his Nicholasville success, Brown revealed his diagnosis.
“It’s not the news anybody wants to hear,” he told former Sun sports reporter Al Willman. “It’s probably been worse on (my family) than it’s been on me. Everything has happened so fast and we’re staying so busy that we’re just focused on moving forward. I think we’ve all come to terms that it’s a bad situation and it’s a bad deal, and it’s obviously a huge kink in the whole plan. But, it’s a very fixable and curable issue. Basically, we’re going to have to take a year and we’re going to have to really, really focus on it and really fight it.
“Hopefully, after a year, we’re just going to be able to look back on it and say, ‘Dang. That was a bad year.’ And, move forward.”
On May 2, Brown was awarded the University of Kentucky’s “Male Freshman Athlete of the Year” award at the digitally-produced 18th Annual CATSPY’s presented by Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance, despite missing his 2019-20 athletic and academic season while receiving concentrated treatments in his left thigh.
“I’d just like to say ‘thank you so much,’ ” Brown told the digital panel. “It’s such an honor. I’m not 100% sure who goes about handing out these awards, but whoever it is, I just want to make sure they get all the thanks. And know that they have all the gratitude from me they could possibly have. It’s a fantastic award.
“We (the Wildcats) had a good spring last year, and I couldn’t possibly be happier to be accepting this award for both myself and for the men’s golf program. When I say it means a lot, it truly does mean a lot.”
Golf, sports world reacts“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.” — Brian Craig, University of Kentucky men’s golf coach.
“I just exchanged text messages with him the past Friday, telling him I’m thinking of him. And I saw his little sister play in her first tournament of the year. His response? ‘I really appreciate you checking in. She’s definitely putting in some effort, and needs a little more out of it than she’s getting now, but it’s going to come at any time.’ I know Cullan is in a much better place now; free of pain. Heaven has truly gained an amazing angel.” — Adam Wells, WPSD Local 6 Sports.
“He will forever be ‘The Governor’ to me. From the first time we stuck a mic in his face, to the several times he co-hosted my radio show, it was obvious Cullan Brown was one-in-a-billion. I know I’m just one of countless people who are brokenhearted tonight. #PrayForCullan” — Jeff Bidwell, WPSD Local 6 Sports.
“I hate this. I hate it for Cullan. I hate it for his family. I hate it for anyone who has spent five minutes in a room with him. He didn’t lose this, or any other battle. He, in 20 years, amassed more wisdom, kindness and understanding than most adults I know.” — Al Willman, former Paducah Sun sports reporter.
“I am so sorry to hear about the passing of UK golfer Cullan Brown. Wrote about him before last year’s Barbasol Championship. What a terrible loss, way too young. RIP, Cullan.” — John Clay, Lexington Herald-Leader sports columnist.
“Just heard the devastating news that UK golfer Cullan Brown of Lyon County has passed away after his bout with cancer. I wrote about Cullan in my book and he has been in my heart since we met. My prayers are with his family and many friends. Heaven gained a great one today.” — Matt Jones, Kentucky Sports Radio.
“The sun is rising this morning over Lyon County Schools. Many heavy hearts today as we mourn the loss of Cullan Brown, one of our all-time greats. Few student-athletes get to represent their hometown, state, and country. Cullan did that as an ambassador for all of us. Prayers.” — Lyon County Schools.