U.S. AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Brasfield Making Most of Second Chances in Golf, Life May 27, 2019 | Bandon, Ore. By Tom Mackin

Cullen Brasfield hit several bumps along the road of life before getting to his first USGA championship this week. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)

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If one player is best equipped to handle the vagaries of match play it might just be Cullen Brasfield.

Brasfield, 39, of La Quinta, Calif., and his 22-year-old partner, Tyler Moore, of Escondido, Calif., advanced to the Round of 32 of this week’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort after finishing stroke play with an 8-under total of 133. They face the father-son tandem of John and Andrew Sajevic at 10:48 a.m. PDT on Monday.

It’s been a long road to Brasfield’s first USGA championship, one he reached only after overcoming both golf-related and personal challenges.

After playing golf at the University of San Diego and the University of Nevada in Reno, Brasfield tried professional golf for six months. But missing five consecutive cuts by one stroke each on a developmental tour in California turned his life in a different direction.

“That’s when I said this isn’t for me and gave up playing,” he recalled. “I went and lived for three years at the beach in San Diego, working at a P.F. Chang’s and Del Mar Country Club. Golf was the furthest thing from my mind. It was more, where is my next drink coming from?”

Prodding from his father to do something more with his life eventually led Brasfield, then 27, to enroll at Golden Gate University Law School in San Francisco. During his time there he met his wife Athena. But halfway through school he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

“That was a big deal to continue through school while battling cancer,” he said. “I had surgery and went though radiation. It’s been 11 years now and I still have lingering side effects. And there’s the mental grind of wondering if it will return. But I have a good support team who help me get through every day.”

After residing in San Francisco for a few years, Brasfield and his wife, an optometrist, moved to La Quinta in 2014 to be closer to family. They are the parents of a 6-year-old son and run their own optometry practice with offices in Indio and Coachella.

By the time of that move, he hadn’t played much, if any, golf for more than a decade. “My wife thought it best that I try playing again for a hobby,” he said. It quickly became more than that.

In September 2015, just six tournaments after regaining his amateur status, Brasfield won a Golf Channel Am Tour National Championship and had the golf bug again. After three years of battling injuries and inconsistent golf, he partnered with Moore to earn medalist honors last September in a U.S. Amateur Four-Ball sectional qualifier at The Oaks Club in Southern California.

The duo met while playing in Golf Channel Amateur Tour events. “It’s an odd relationship because I’m almost 40 and he’s 22,” said Brasfield. “But it works.”

“Once I got to know him better, he told about what happened to him when he was younger,” said Moore. “I’m happy that I know him now. He, his wife and son are basically family now to me.”

Moore, who has competed in three U.S. Junior Amateurs and two U.S. Amateurs, started his college career at the University of Arizona, where his sister, Haley, holed the clinching putt to win Arizona the 2018 NCAA Division I title in Stillwater, Okla. In 2017, he transferred to the University of California-Riverside.

“I look at him and think of myself at his age and it’s two different people,” said Brasfield. “I was into partying and he is so well rounded. He’s so easygoing. I think he’s brought a lot of that back into my life. He’s got me having more of a carefree, fun attitude.”

“I try to make him feel young again,” said Moore. “He isn’t considered old yet, but he is trending that way.”

“He’s the 22-year-old I wish I could have been,” said Brasfield. “But you have to figure it out as you go.”

With a renewed focus on golf, family and his overall health, it looks like Brasfield has done just that.  

“I got with a good coach (Bryan Lebedevitch, a Palm Springs-based instructor who works with 2007 U.S. Women’s Open champion Cristie Kerr) last year and have tweaked my swing a bit,” he said. “I’m right where I want to be in my life. I’m perfectly happy, work out all the time and eat healthy. I just can’t stop smiling.”

Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA digital channels. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com.

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