Bramlett earns historic Tour card at Q-School

Joseph Bramlett

Joseph Bramlett

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Hilton Head, SC - Harbour Town Golf Links

2:25:12 PM ET. 04/17/2014




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WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – Hang a poster of your hero in your bedroom. Believe in your dream. Joseph Bramlett did. When the final putt of the 108-hole marathon fell for Bramlett, he exclaimed, “Yes,” and pumped his right fist. Remind you of anyone? From a Tiger Woods Masters poster pinned to his bedroom wall to a PGA Tour money clip, does it get any better than that?

To think that Bramlett wasn’t even able to play at the start of the year, still nursing a wrist injury. To think that he started in first stage and endured 252 holes of qualifying and bitter-cold, final-day conditions unlike any he’d ever played in before. To think that Bramlett, whose father is black and mother is white, became the first black golfer to advance through Tour Qualifying School since Adrian Stills in 1985.

“To end that 25-year drought means the world to me,” Bramlett said. “It feels like a dream.”

Bramlett and his caddie, longtime friend Don Allio, were having a club sandwich the day before Q-School began at Orange County National when they each read the Golfweek story recalling Stills’ success.

“We both said, ‘Whoa, that’s a long time,’ ” recalled Allio. “I think it really hit home for him.”

How much has the world changed in those 25 years? Bramlett dialed his father, Marlo, on his cell phone. Stills? He ran out of money and had to borrow change for the pay phone.

Stills had been waiting for this day when someone would put an end to his 25-year run as the answer to the trivia question: Who was the last black to make it through Q-School? He followed online at Osceola Golf Club, where he is the director of golf, and burst with pride when reached via cell phone for comment: “I had goose bumps,” he said. “To be able to put the hammer down on the final day the way he did takes a lot of game and a lot of fortitude. My hat goes off to him.” 

Stills wasn’t the only one hitting the refresh button to track Bramlett’s performance. So was Marlo, the father who put a plastic club in his son’s crib. He said very little work got done at the office of the mechanical contracting company where he works in California this past week. Cheers reverberated through the office with each birdie. For the final round, Marlo took the day off. It was probably a good idea because he said he hardly slept a wink, his mind spinning at the possibilities. The top 25 finishers, plus ties, would earn full status on the PGA Tour for 2011, and his son was on the outside looking in. He and his wife crowded around the computer until the Golf Channel picked up the coverage.

“First we were throwing up, then we were jumping up,” Marlo said.

Bramlett began the round two shots outside the cut line, in a tie for 33rd. He bogeyed his first two holes. A birdie at No. 4 settled him down and restored his confidence that his dream was still within reach.

“I never doubted it would happen,” he said afterward. “It’s been my dream since I was a little kid. If you let go of your dream, that’s pretty serious.”

So was the 12-foot par putt at No. 7 that he called “huge.” It sparked five birdies in a row on Nos. 8 and No. 12.

“I just wanted to keep riding it,” Bramlett said. “This isn’t the time to take the foot off the gas pedal. I just tried to give it everything I had.”

Afterwards, the first phone call went home. Marlo, who describes himself as the stoic type, admitted that even over the phone he couldn’t hide his raw emotions.

Marlo already was thinking of when he could go see his son play. Stills wanted to pass along one piece of advice for the 22-year-old who is about to follow in his footsteps.

“I remember after I made it, (Tour pro) Mike Sullivan told me, ‘You might think this is the hardest part, but the real work is just to come,’ ” Stills said. “Those were wise words.”

Good thing that Bramlett is ready to report for duty.

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