NTO exemption misses mark with Bramlett

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

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

PGA Tour rookie Joseph Bramlett, who became the first black golfer to advance through Tour Qualifying School since 1985, was named the recipient of this year’s sponsor’s exemption into the Northern Trust Open.

“Joseph is a talented golfer with a bright future. He’s already proving himself as a role model and inspiration to those with a dream of succeeding in professional golf,” said Frederick H. Waddell, Northern Trust’s chairman and chief executive officer.

I applaud the Northern Trust Open, which for the last three years has extended a playing opportunity to a top golfer who represents the advancement of diversity in golf.

It’s hard to argue with the choice of Bramlett, who follows in the footsteps of previous recipients Vincent Johnson and Joshua Wooding, but I will.

I hate to nitpick, but Bramlett earned his card at Tour Q-School. The NTO isn’t an invitational. Bramlett may not even need a sponsor exemption to get into the field, though history suggests he probably will. In 2009, only four players out of the Q-School category got in the field, and none did last year (the field commitment deadline is Friday at 5 p.m.).

Northern Trust surely will attract the most publicity by choosing Bramlett, but given that Bramlett is likely to earn 17-plus starts this year, depending on his play, this exemption should’ve been given to one of the other 21 deserving applicants.

“There’s a lot of us up-and-coming right now,” Bramlett said in December during Q-School, ticking off the names of his fellow black contemporaries whom he thinks will make the Tour one day.

One school of thought says let's help Bramlett, the guy who earned his ticket out here, improve his odds of staying on Tour. Sponsor exemptions are precious, but this year, if Northern Trust wanted to demonstrate its commitment to diversity, maybe they could've doled out two exemptions and given one to the likes of Kevin Hall or Tim O’Neal or George Bradford.

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