Bramlett working on historic Q-School showing

Joseph Bramlett during the final stage of 2010 PGA Tour Q-School.

Joseph Bramlett during the final stage of 2010 PGA Tour Q-School.

Joseph Bramlett brushed the face of his putter with his left hand before he settled into his putting stance. When he slipped into his pre-shot routine, it’s as if he has entered a trance. I haven’t seen a player with his intense concentration since – dare I say it – Tiger Woods.

“That’s been my routine my whole life,” Bramlett said. “Every shot means a lot to me. I’m not going to hit a shot if I’m not 100 percent into it. I love this game, so I’m going to put everything into it.”

At the halfway point of the 2010 PGA Tour Qualifying School finals, Bramlett, 22, is 5 under after a 69 in the third round. A three-putt from 25 feet at the last hole dropped him to T-27.

The top 25 finishers Monday, plus ties, earn full status on the PGA Tour for 2011.

Comparisons to Woods have followed Bramlett for as long as he can remember because of the color of his skin. Bramlett’s parents are of mixed race like Woods. But the comparisons are more than skin deep. Bramlett was recognized for his prodigious talent even before he became the youngest at the time to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, at age 14. Like Woods, he attended Stanford, and he plays the same Nike clubs as his idol (though Bramlett is not a paid endorser). Growing up, Bramlett received a Tiger Woods poster for Christmas that he pinned to his wall.

“Tiger has inspired me,” Bramlett said

Like Woods, Bramlett began playing the game as soon as he could stand. He said his father handed him a plastic club that he dragged around “chasing the cat.” Before long, he was hitting balls on a soccer field at the local community college near his home in Saratoga, Calif. Bramlett’s road to golf success took a detour in college after he helped Stanford win the NCAA men’s team championship in 2007. Hobbled by a pair of wrist injuries, he was sidelined for the better part of two years. With a clean bill of health, he resumed playing again in February. Bramlett graduated from Stanford on a Sunday and then drove down to Pebble Beach that night in preparation for his first U.S. Open. There, he played practice rounds with Woods.

Bramlett turned professional after an impressive amateur swansong, winning the Northeast Amateur and advancing to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur. In his first crack at Q-School, Bramlett cruised through the early stages, tying for fourth at second stage at Bayonet and guaranteeing him at least conditional status on the Nationwide Tour next season.

Bramlett didn’t tiptoe around the topic of becoming the first black to make it through Q-School in 25 years. He’s acutely aware of the long drought and knows something deeper is at stake.

“I’d love to do it,” he said, a half-smile on his face.

Bramlett said he read the Golfweek article on Adrian Stills, who survived the 6-round slugfest to earn his Tour card for the 1986 season, and that it helped Bramlett put a name and face to his quest.

“I knew it had been a while since an African-American made it - frankly, too long,” he said.

He stopped, and with modesty verging on grace, shifted the focus from his own pursuit.

“There’s a lot of us up-and-coming right now,” Bramlett said, ticking off the names of his fellow black contemporaries he thinks will make it. “If not this week, then (it’ll) certainly (happen) down the road.”

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