NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - It’s not everyday someone tells you your life expectancy is 19 years, especially when you are unable to comprehend what is being said to you. But that’s the uphill battle Reynold Brown has endured, and won.
At the age of three months, Reynold’s parents were told of their son’s genetic condition that would affect his respiratory and digestive systems throughout his life. That condition, cystic fibrosis, is generally unkind to those affected, and at the time of diagnosis, the average life expectancy was 19 years.
Thirty-three years later Reynold is a USCAA Second Team All-American on the University of Maine-Presque Isle golf team. His story is one of difficulty and triumph, pain and joy, hard work and a never-ending “bucket list.”
A non-traditional student in every sense of the word, Reynold’s successes both on the course and in the classroom are remarkable. Forget his 12-over par finish at the 2012 USCAA Golf National Championships at the Penn State Blue Course in early October, which saw him finish in a tie for ninth—even forget the three individual medalist wins he carded during the regular season for the Owls.
The grind that is every round of golf pales in comparison to the grind that is everyday living for someone affected by CF, as it is commonly known.
“Every day starts with three antibiotics which are inhaled, and a one hour treatment of using an inflatable vest which is hooked to a small air compressor,” says Reynold, who spends nearly two hours each morning going through specific procedures to help him through the day. “I then take my blood sugar levels and insulin is administered as needed. I take several pills and vitamins, and sometimes an additional antibiotic.”
That’s hardly where it ends for the Veterinary Medicine major. In order to keep his lungs healthy and maintain his weight, Reynold spends ten hours a week in the gym. His routine of high-intensity cardio and weightlifting actually help him keep weight on, as he battles the difficulties that most CF patients face. Because nutrients and calories are not easily absorbed by CF patients, exercise and proper diet become essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle for Brown, who maintains a diet of 3,000-5,000 calories per day.
“I need to take excellent care of myself to perform at my highest level possible,” adds Brown. “Doing all of these things enables me to practice and play my best golf.”
Brown didn’t play his best golf at the 2012 USCAA Championships, but still he was able to walk away with a top-10 finish during the two-day event. Chilly temperatures affected first round scoring, as did a tough but fair course.
“A course that offers great risk/reward is one of the great traits of a championship course,” Brown says. “I loved how (the Blue Course) was set up hard one day and accessible the next. If you played the course the way it was supposed to be played, it was scorable.”
Brown got his start in golf at the age of 15, when his stepfather took him to the Canon Greater Hartford Open, a PGA Tour event in Connecticut (now The Travelers). There, instead of watching golf on television and falling asleep, he was actually able to fall in love with the sport. Being a perfectionist, Brown began to work on his game and quickly found an idol in Greg Norman, who he received an autograph from at the tournament.
Then Brown would begin his real work on the golf course. A member at Mars Hill Country Club, he would play 36 holes a day and practice for hours. The work paid off, as Brown left high school and had a +1.1 handicap. Brown’s success, though, wouldn’t be possible without the support of his family and teammates.
“My family has always been very supportive of anything I have ever wanted to do,” Brown says. “I think sometimes they reserve their expectations outwardly toward me because they know how much pressure I put on myself to be the best in anything I set out to do. They understand that golf is a priority to me.”
That understanding comes with the sacrifice of added travel and missed family time. The travel can also take its toll on Brown, who must awake several hours before his teammates so he can go through his treatments. He always travels with a few extra heavy bags with medical equipment, but his teammate and roommate on the road, Mike Balmer, is always there to lend a helping hand.
“Mike is the best teammate I could ever ask for,” raves Brown. “If I’ve acquired nothing else out of my collegiate golf career, I have gained a great friend.”
While Brown’s collegiate golf career likely comes to an end in the USCAA after this year (he has yet to make a final decision on when and where he will head next), he hopes to continue to play at his next destination. He will be applying to the University of Florida’s veterinary medical school, and hopes to move to Florida to enjoy the weather and one of his other favorite past times, jet skiing.
Brown also gives back to the CF community, helping out with CF fundraisers, including a golf tournament at TPC River Highlands, the same course he went to see the pros play in the Greater Hartford Open. The event raises money through donations, as individual participants raise money through donations in order to compete in the tournament. And now that CF has become more manageable due to advances in medicine and treatments, fundraising has become even more important.
Brown works with the tournament, and even though he didn’t have success qualifying for the Greater Hartford Open, he’s happy to help out others with CF.
“I was good enough at one point to try and qualify for the GHO right out of high school, but didn’t quite make it,” he adds. “It was a great bucket list experience, but I enjoy being able to help out during the CF fundraiser.”
And unlike most other people, Brown looks at everything as a part of his bucket list. In fact, the way he sees it, he’s living on someone else’s time.
“I’ve always said that life experiences are worth more than the money it takes to live them. The way I see it, I’m living on time I wasn’t supposed to have to begin with, so everything at this point is just ‘gravy’.”
Brown’s sentiments become lessons learned, especially when you realize we’re all living on time we were never guaranteed.
To learn more about cystic fibrosis, find a local chapter or to donate, visit Reynold’s foundation of choice at www.cff.org.