Brand recognition at The Greenbrier Classic
"It's been nice to see him walk alongside the best of the best," his mother, Teresa, said Friday. Her son was offered a spot in the PGA event after winning the West Virginia Amateur.
"It's wonderful, this whole thing. It's very exciting to see him achieve this dream he has had since he was a little boy," Teresa Brand said. "I couldn't be more proud of him. His poise and practice. He is displaying himself as a real gentleman."
His girlfriend of more than four years, Sarah Skaff, said the whole ordeal has been a little too much for her at times.
"Sometimes I don't watch, because I get so nervous," Skaff said. "[Thursday] was worse, because he just started. But now that we know that he has not completely played his best, he is just having fun."
After an 8-over-par round of 78 on Thursday, Brand improved to a 3-over-par 73 on Friday. He didn't make Friday's cut and will not continue to the final two days of the tournament.
Skaff wasn't fazed. "It's still cool, though, because this is one of his dreams," she said. "Since the first day we met, all he talked about was wanting to play on the PGA Tour, and just to see it happen is one of the coolest things ever."
Skaff said that half of her family and half of Brand's family were on hand to watch him play the Old White TPC course at The Greenbrier, so his gallery was about 30 people.
Teresa Brand said people she hasn't seen in years came to The Greenbrier to support her son.
"We have people here that we haven't seen since junior golf and are following him. We're really surprised that people would do that and that they are showing so much support," she said. "That is typical West Virginia. It makes you proud of our state."
Brand has played on the golf teams at Capital High School and Marshall University, something his mother called "wonderful experiences" -- but she said being in The Greenbrier Classic was the most eye-opening experience yet.
"He did play a practice round with some of [the professional golfers] and said that he learned a lot just watching them and how they play," she said.
Although Christian Brand is taking in the whole experience, he wanted to make sure his family was not disappointed.
"He did say last night he hopes all of us were having a good experience," Teresa Brand said. "He said he was having fun and had seen some wonderful golfers, but wanted to make sure we were happy, too."
Her son did have one request, though.
"The only request he had was, 'Mom, make sure you're there for the first tee shot,'" Brand said. "He made me promise I wouldn't miss it."
And his family wouldn't for the world.
"It was amazing just to see him win the West Virginia Amateur," said his aunt, Kim Isaac, "and it was so gracious of Mr. [Jim] Justice to give him the exemption. We were just beyond thrilled, because it was a dream come true for Christian."
Isaac has followed Brand since high school and has traveled to Lexington, Texarkana and Virginia Tech, when he got to play in the NCAA regional with the Marshall team.
"The Marshall program has been really good to Christian," she said, "and now this is just the ultimate for him."
Isaac said getting to watch him in the tournament has been wonderful.
"Yesterday, when the fans came out, it was overwhelming," she said. "When he came on the 17th fairway and they screamed 'We are Marshall,' it was the best. We just appreciate how good this whole state has been to him."
Brand's biggest fan actually might be on the course with him. His caddy, Bosten Miller, is a former golf teammate and the young men have been friends for years.
"Bosten [Miller] and him are very close friends. They've been friends since junior golf," Teresa Brand said. The two men made a pact that whoever won the State Amateur would have the other as his caddy for The Greenbrier Classic.
Teresa Brand said that having Miller on the course with her son is the "perfect pairing. He knows what to say when he needs a little extra encouragement, and he knows his game. It's the best situation."
Although Christian Brand did not advance Friday, the day at least included a chuckle.
On the 2nd hole, Brand hit a ball into the crowd, striking his aunt, Stephanie Rucker, in the calf.
"I tried to stay really still and people were saying, 'You just got hit,'" she said with a laugh. "I didn't want Christian to know that he just hit me."
The family planned to tell him after he'd finished the round, but Rucker said she doesn't care about the minor injury.
"That is a souvenir I will have for life," she said with a smile, "and I'm very proud of it."
Later Friday night, at the West Virginia State Fairgrounds in Ronceverte, Greenbrier Classic guests attended a performance by the Black Eyed Peas.
"It's great to have a big name here in West Virginia because it's the kind of music that gets people's attention," said Jonathan Michael, 22, of Beckley. "When they come to events like The Greenbrier, it lets them see there's much more to the state than at first glance."
Peas frontman will.i.am. played to The Greenbrier crowd, and mixed the words "West Virginia is beautiful" into one song. He also became a DJ, throwing out old hits from Nirvana and Journey.
Staff writer Mackenzie Mays contributed to this report. Reach Kathryn Gregory at kathr...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.