By LARRY VAUGHT
Dan Talley was not only proud of his daughter’s fifth-place finish in the Marathon Classic Sunday but also proud that she was in Ohio playing.
“Always proud of her for playing well but also very proud of her for just playing,” said Dan Talley after Emma Talley birdied the final two holes Sunday for a 2-under par 69 that vaulted her into a fifth-place tie — her best finish on the LPGA Tour since a third-place finish during her rookie season in 2018 — to earn $54,000.
Emma Talley finished the 72-hole event 8-under par despite admitting she was an emotional wreck the first seven holes Thursday when she was 3-over par. She was playing less than 48 hours after learning that her friend, 20-year-old Cullan Brown, had passed away after a year-long battle with cancer.
Emma Talley wanted to go home to Caldwell County. Brown lived in neighboring Lyon County and like Talley was a Kentucky state high school champion. He hoped to one day be a professional golfer like Talley and considered her both a mentor and friend.
I texted Talley to congratulate her on her finish and how I know Cullan would be so proud of her.
“Thank you. I had the best angel!” she texted back.
Talley won’t get a chance to see Brown’s family for a few weeks even though Dan Talley said Emily Brown, Cullan’s mother, reached out to her a few days ago. Talley and every other LPGA player and caddy that participated in the Marathon Classic boarded an overseas charter flight Sunday night. The LPGA has event in Scotland the next two weeks before playing in the United States again Aug. 28 in Arkansas.
“If she had come home, she would have had to give up playing the next two weeks,” Dan Talley said. “I had to convince here there was no reason for her to be here. With COVID, she could not have been around a lot of people here any way.
“Her and Cullan had talked just three or four days before he died. But the last three or four days were still very tough on all us. We actually went down to the burial site today. He was such a great guy. It kind of just puts our world in perspective.”
Emma Talley missed the cut in the Drive On Championship when LPGA play resumed July 31 because of a first-round 8-over par 80. She shot a 1-under 71 in round two to get within one shot of the cut and told me after that round she actually felt good about where her game was. She proved this weekend she was right.
“She was here practicing most of the time (during the LPGA stoppage). She changed coaches and worked through some kinks. I think she is hitting the ball better than she ever has,” Dan Talley said. “Now going to Europe is a whole different bird because of the wind and weather.”
Dan Talley said his daughter was tested for COVID-19 before and during the Marathon Classic and will be tested again in Scotland.
“They have even told the caddies if they test positive, the player has to forfeit (and not play,” Dan Talley said. “They are holding players’ accountable for their caddies. These next two weeks they all have their own rooms. They’ve got to eat separate and not be around anybody.”
Emma Talley won’t have a lot of other chances after returning to the United States to play in LPGA events.
“It’s going to be a short season and a lot of tournaments are going to have small fields due to darkness (where events were postponed due to COVID and rescheduled for the fall). There will be just 70 players in the field and since her status is coming off Q (qualifying) School, she won’t get in them all,” Dan Talley said. “But she is playing well and will be ready for next year, if there is a next year.”