By LARRY VAUGHT
He didn’t play in Wednesday’s Pro-Am at Keene Trace Golf Club, but that didn’t stop Kentucky sophomore Cullan Brown of Lyon County from enjoying some time at the Barbasol Championship.
He got a sponsor’s exemption into the event and will tee off Thursday at 2:59 p.m. Thursday in a group with Hunter Stewart of Lexington and Martin Piller of Dallas. They will start at 9:59 a.m. on Friday in the second round.
“It is a just great opportunity to be here and fantastic experience to see where I am at compared to some of the great names in the game,” Brown said between doing media interviews and visiting with family, friends and fans.
Even though he wasn’t playing, his parents and grandmother all walked the course because Cullen’s sister, Lyon County freshman Cathryn, was caddying during the Pro-Am.
“She gets dragged to about every tournament I play in. She acts like she doesn’t enjoy, but we know she does,” the UK golfer said. ”We are very fortunate that we get to travel to some really spectacular destinations and she enjoys the travel.”
Brown said not only did his sister make a “little money which always excites her” by caddying but she also likes the perks that go to him for being in a PGA Tour event, especially getting the use of a Lexus all week.
“That Lexus got her fired up. She has pushed all the buttons it has,” Cullan Brown said. “She is really enjoying the inside the ropes experience (on the course), though, that she gets this week.”
His sister also plays golf along with basketball. Several times she was taking imaginary swings on the course Wednesday when there was a break in play.
“She loves golf. She just won’t quite admit it that way,” Brown said.
He didn’t know getting the sponsor’s exemption into the event meant he would get a car to use.
“That was not included in the phone call. Once we saw the paper work, we were all very excited about that obviously. It is a cool perk, no doubt,” he said. “I am a truck guy. It is an unusual feeling to look up at cars as you go by because you are sitting very low to the ground. But for this week it is certainly something we can deal with.”
Same with the parking privileges that Tour players get.
“No shuttles. Get to pull up and park right here at the course. Great stuff,” Brown said. “There’s also the dining. My family can come in and have lunch with us, too. They are also enjoying that a lot.”
Brown, a former state high school champion and all-SEC freshman despite missing the fall season with a hand injury, didn’t set expectations for himself at UK his first year. He’s not this week, either.
“It’s already a successful week. We are here and having a great time. It is not as much about the golf as it just is the experience,” he said. “That’s what it is all about. If good golf happens to follow, that is a great experience. If good golf does not show up, then it is still great.
“From somebody coming in from my perspective as a college amateur who wasn’t even expecting the opportunity, just to be here is such a success. It speaks volumes about the great fortune and great support I have had in golf. It is just fantastic to be here to see some faces and names and talk to people you have looked up to your whole life and have followed along. It is phenomenal.”
Former UK golfer Chip McDaniel, who is playing in the Barbasol for the second straight year, thinks this will be a valuable experience for Brown.
“Any experience you can get is only going to help you. I feel a lot more comfortable this year than I did last year. I felt a lot better at PGA start No. 2 than my first one,” McDaniel said. “I didn’t get any (PGA) starts as an amateur like he is. That will be big for him because then his pro debut won’t really feel like a debut. He will be used to it.”
McDaniel is not worried about Brown being overwhelmed when he tees off, either.
“Knowing Cullan, I don’t think he will be very nervous. He is pretty laid back. I am sure he will enjoy it,” McDaniel said.
He already is.
“It is such an unbelievable transition from playing in high school two years ago to where we are at now,” Brown said Wednesday. “It will be a great opportunity playing with these guys to see where my game is at. It should be a good week and a good test.”