Five years have passed since the tragic death of Brandon Paul, 23, the man from Floral City who fell overboard from the eighth deck of a Carnival Victory cruise ship 33 miles off the coast of Cuba.
However, his memory and legacy lives on through the annual Brandon Paul Memorial Golf Tournament at Oaks Golf Course in Citrus Hills.
“To date, we have awarded $20,000 in scholarships to high school graduate athletes from Citrus, Lecanto and Crystal River high schools,” Mark Paul, Brandon’s father, said Wednesday.
In addition to scholarships, the Pauls raised enough money through golf tournaments to benefit local county athletic programs.
On Wednesday, Mark and Susan Paul and their friends, Eric and Susan Nelson, were at Citrus County Parks and Recreation with a donation of T-ball equipment for the county’s PLAY program.
PLAY, which stands for Preparing Little Athletes Youth program, is an initiation to sport program for children aged 3 to 5.
On Wednesday, the Pauls presented Manny Coimbre, the county’s sports and events coordinator, with balls, bats and T-ball gloves.
Last year, the Pauls donated soccer balls, footballs and several sports-related games such as horseshoes, Spikeball Pro and Kubb, a strategy game, to the parks and recreation department.
“Brandon loved the sport,” Susan Paul said.
Born and raised in Floral City, Brandon attended Floral City Elementary School, Inverness Middle School and Citrus High School (CHS), graduating in 2012.
Since he was little, he excelled in sports – little league baseball, Pop Warner, and college and high school football. He also ran track and was a weightlifter.
After his death, family friends Eric Nelson, his son, Eric Nelson Jr., and another friend, Ryan Travers, hosted a golf tournament.
This first tournament raised enough to give three Citrus High School graduates each a $1,000 scholarship in 2018.
In 2021, six students, two from each of the county’s public high schools, received a $1,000 scholarship.
The next tournament, April 9, is sold out, Mark Paul said.
“This is something we can do for Manny and the children of Citrus County, and we hope to continue to do so,” said Mark Paul. “We have also sponsored Little League teams, five at Inverness and five at Central Citrus. We also hope to do something with Pop Warner football.