Stanford’s Joseph Bramlett could be the poster boy for an old saying: f it weren’t for bad luck, the Cardinal junior would have no luck at all.
Bramlett entered Stanford after a highly touted junior career, especially after he became the youngest player to qualify for the U.S. Amateur at age 14 in 2002.
He didn’t disappoint as a freshman, earning second-team All-American honors after posting seven top-10 finishes, including a victory in Puerto Rico, and a 71.5 stroke average in 13 events.
He ended his inaugural college season with a tie for 39th at the NCAA Championship while helping Stanford capture the team title. After an opening 78, his next three rounds (68-70-69) counted in the team score.
In the fall of his sophomore season, Bramlett had three top 25s in five starts. But in January 2008, while working out in the school’s weight room, he slipped and fell, injuring his right wrist. He missed the entire spring and didn’t play again until July.
So when the current season got under way in the fall, Bramlett was filled with anticipation and high expectations.
He showed his game was back on track, posting four top-15 finishes in four events, including a tie for seventh at Olympia Fields and a sixth at CordeValle. He finished the fall in the top 10 of the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings and couldn’t wait for the spring season to begin.
Like the previous year, however, it never did for the soft-spoken California native, who has been sidelined for four months by another freak accident.
While riding his bicycle in December, the chain locked up and sent Bramlett tumbling over the handle bars. The result – another injury to, you guessed it, his right wrist. Bad luck? You bet.
“It’s a little different type of injury,” said Stanford coach Conrad Ray. “It’s not structural, but more of a ligament thing. He’s seen a number of doctors, and it’s one of those things that just takes a lot of time to heal.”
It’s only been within the last few weeks that Bramlett’s been able to even pick up his clubs, and when he can get return to action is anyone’s guess.
“He’s getting better, but it’s a long, slow process,” Ray said. “I know he won’t be ready for our tournament (U.S. Intercollegiate on April 18-19). Maybe he will for the Pac-10 Conference Championship (April 27-29), but I think it would be more realistic to shoot for regionals (May 14-16).
“It’s really too bad because I know Joseph wants to get back playing and we all know how much he can help our team. Not only is he a very talented golfer, but he’s one of the finest young men you will ever meet. But right now, the main thing is to get him well and not do anything to cause further injury.”
For Bramlett, it has been frustrating to say the least.
“It’s been very difficult sitting out so far this spring,” Bramlett said in an e-mail. “One of the most difficult parts has been sitting at home watching the guys play and not being able to help them at all. There’s nothing fun about being injured and not being able to play for a prolonged period of time.”
Still, Bramlett is trying his best to make the most out of his current situation.
“I’ve tried to find other ways to grow and improve my game,” he said. “You don’t always have to have a golf club to work on your game, and it’s amazing how creative you can get when you have to. I learned a lot last year about how to return from an injury. I feel I’ve learned a lot about myself in this process.
“Fortunately this injury . . . should have no long-term effects on my game or my health. (Rehab) is going well and I have seen improvements as of late, which is encouraging. I’m just ready to get back going again.”
Ray and his Cardinal teammates will second that.
• Big one for Blue Devils: Duke and Northwestern up with much-needed victories at a most-important time.
Both notched their first wins of the season last weekend – Duke at River Landing and Northwestern at the Kepler Intercollegiate.
The Blue Devils, who had finished out of the top 10 in three of their five spring starts under new coach Jamie Green, overcame a seven-shot final-round deficit for a six-stroke victory over host North Carolina State.
With the ACC Championship coming up this weekend, it was a huge boost for the Devils.
“The guys were very determined and playing with a calm confidence,” said Green, who took over the Duke program at midseason, replacing O.D. Vincent. “We’re now looking forward to the ACC Championship and are excited about going in with a great deal of confidence.”
Still, Green and the Blue Devils have some work to do this weekend in trying to stay above the .500 won-loss mark required for the NCAA postseason. Besting the other 14 teams in the River Landing field moved Duke to No. 43 in the rankings and improved its won-loss mark to 64-60.
Winning the Kepler was equally as big for coach Pat Goss and Northwestern. Not only did the Wildcats climb to No. 53 in the rankings, their 12 head-to-head wins gave them a 63-49-2 record going into this weekend’s U.S. Intercollegiate at Stanford and the Big Ten Championship after that.
Who says college golf’s regular season isn’t exciting.
• Back on track: Talented Marquette senior Mike Van Sickle set a tournament record with a 16-under 200 to win this week’s Palisades Classic in Charlotte, N.C.. After an outstanding fall, Van Sickle has struggled a little this spring, but now it appears he’s in tune and ready to make a strong postseason run.