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Bramlett Comfortable at Pebble Beach
Though Joseph Bramlett is justifiably proud to become the first player of African-American descent in 25 years to earn a PGA Tour card by successfully making it through Qualifying School, the 22-year-old Stanford graduate would rather make his mark with a victory in this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in front of his family and friends.
"I think just the fact that it's kind of like being home right now," Bramlett said Tuesday. "You know, driving the same car that I have when I'm home, and I'm staying with one of our donors from up at Stanford. So it's just a very comfortable feeling. I have a lot of really cool feelings playing the State Am here in high school and the U.S. Open last year.
"You know, I don't feel like everything is foreign," he added, referring to the typical adjustment period encountered by PGA Tour rookies. "I spend a lot of time in Monterey. I kind of know where to eat. It's a comfortable environment for me, and also one of the most beautiful spots in the world. It's great to be here."
Bramlett, whose father Marlo is African-American and mother Debbie is white, made headlines by becoming just the second African-American golfer on the PGA Tour. A fellow named Tiger Woods is the other.
Bramlett, a native of Saratoga, Calif., became the first African-American to make it through the grueling, six-round Q School since Adrian Stills, closing with a final-round, 4-under-par 68 at Orange County National in Orlando in December to finish in a tie for 16th.
AT&T will be Bramlett's third career Tour event. His first was the season-opening Sony Open in Hawaii, where he earned $10,395 by officially making the cut. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to play the final 36 holes because bad weather forced organizers to abbreviate the field. In the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego two weeks ago, Bramlett missed the weekend cut by a stroke.
Thanks to being on familiar turf, the 6'4", 190-pound long-hitting player is hoping for a different outcome this week. Here's what he told reporters following a practice round Tuesday.
MODERATOR: We welcome Joseph Bramlett. Joseph, thanks for spending a few minutes with us. If you could just get us started. Third start of the year. Just kind of talk a little bit about your year and coming back to Pebble. I know you've had some experience playing the golf course.
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Yeah, no, I'm very excited to be coming back to Pebble. Like you said, it's the third event of the year. So far I've had a great experience. Everything has gone really well. Haven't played quite as well as I wanted, but I've learned a lot along the way and definitely making some progress. You know, coming back to Pebble Beach is as good as it gets right now, so I'm very happy to be home.
MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. Questions?
Q. Have you had a welcome-to-the-PGA-Tour moment or anything like that? Some moment that hit you, Oh, I'm here on the PGA Tour and playing golf for a living on the PGA Tour?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, nothing official I guess in the last couple weeks. Playing in the U.S. Open last year here was really cool, and getting to play a couple practice rounds with Tiger and Arjun. Spending some time with those guys was really good fun. Then, you know, it's just kind of carried on from then. Last couple weeks has just been typical tournament weeks. You kind of go about things the same way. Nothing too crazy yet.
Q. Are there differences that you have to get used to playing on the PGA Tour versus college golf or amateur golf?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Certainly, yeah. There are a lot of things that go into it, first of all. You're in charge of all your travel and rental car arrangements and everything you really have to be a lot more independent. In college, you just kind of follow your coach and he tells you where to go. So there's definitely some growing up involved. The golf courses definitely step it up a notch. I guess we're also playing against the best players in the world, so plenty to be had out there. It's just kind of the next level, the next progression in my career.
Q. Just playing Pebble Beach, a course that you have some experience at with both Cal State Am and then the U.S. Open; last year, is there any more of a comfort level being here than the first two tournaments on the Tour?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Yeah, I think just the fact that it's kind of like being home right now. You know, driving the same car that I have when I'm home, and I'm staying with one of our donors from up at Stanford. So it's just a very comfortable feeling. I have a lot of really cool feelings playing the State Am here in high school and the U.S. Open last year. You know, I don't feel like everything is foreign. I spend a lot of time in Monterey. I kind of know where to eat. It's a comfortable environment for me, and also one of the most beautiful spots in the world. It's great to be here.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to the game? What really turned you on with the game as a youngster? Maybe just a little bit what inspired you about the game golf.
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Yeah sure, well, my dad got really into the game shortly before I was born. And kind of like any dad, he gave me a little plastic club. His son, his boy, you know, he wanted me to follow him. So I did. I took up the game - I can't even remember what age. I was just crawling around with a little plastic club. Just continued from there. I played other sports. I love basketball still today, but I just a lot individual aspect about the game. You know, it's all on your shoulders. You determine your own practice schedule. You don't have to please a coach to get playing time. Whatever you shoot, that's how good you are. So that really just clicked with me. I loved the fact that I could get up early and I could go do it all day, and it was all up to me.
Q. At what point did you know you were good to compete at this level or know this was what you really wanted to do as a living? Was there a certain tournament or a certain shot or words of encouragement or support you got?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: It's hard to say exactly. You know, it's weird. I don't know why it is, but I remember walking into kindergarten thinking, I want to play on the PGA Tour. I have no idea why that was. Nobody else really understood it in my class, they didn't know what I was talking about. But that's just what I wanted to. It was something inside of me. As far as when did I know I could compete with these guys, that's more a progression over time. You know, I played a lot competitions growing up, and always kind of felt like I could -- my parents always tried to get me to play with better players than myself. I was constantly looking up and trying to compete with them. This is just kind of the next progression for me, you know, from college to professional, and now I'm just trying to get better and learning each day.
Q. What did you learn from all those state amateur rounds on this course? How did that accelerate your development?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Well, I think in terms of my general development, I mean, it was, you know, playing against some great players. We were playing the top amateurs in California. For a young high school kid, that was a great atmosphere for me to be in. There was a lot of collegiate players and a lot of older amateur players that had had a lot of experience. One of the rounds I played Jeff Wilson, who was low amateur in the Open at I believe Pebble back in 2000. So it was just a great environment for me to be in. It was a PGA Tour golf course, a U.S. Open golf course, and I was playing against some older players than myself who were very good in their own right. Just kind of one of those moments that pushed me to continue to get better.
Q. (Question regarding Spyglass and MPCC.)
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Well, I've only played MPCC twice now. I played it on Sunday, and then I played it about two weeks ago. Like I said, I'm comfortable in this area. I've been around the area a lot. I feel comfortable on the golf course. I haven't seen it a whole lot. And then Spyglass I played quite a bit in high school. A lot of Nor-Cal amateur stuff out there. So I've seen Spyglass quite a bit. Especially with as good a shape it's in right now, it's a pretty cool golf course.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: You know, I'm not certain yet. I think it'll be announced this afternoon.
Q. How many rounds do you reckon you've played here?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Well I think it's got to be pretty close to 20. I played the California State Am; I made it to the finals one year in and then the semis, so I think I played approximately 15 between those two years. I was in the Open last year, so probably been pretty close to 25.
Q. (No microphone.)
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Well, I think some people aren't very partial to playing on poa annua greens, but I grew up on them and I'm extremely comfortable. I love just feeling the grass under my feet out here. It's just a very comfortable feeling. I also love that they're very small greens and there's several holes you have to hit some interesting little wedge shots into. So I think that's something that in my experience playing out here -- it's similar to my home course up in San Jose, the San Jose Country Club. There's a lot of little wedge shots you have to hit. Kind of the same green structures, so it's something that I'm very comfortable with.
Q. (Question regarding difficult holes.)
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Well, I think No. 14 usually gets the most press as being very difficult to hit. In terms of reading the greens, I'm not sure. I would have to think about that one for a while. Yeah, No. 14 is a very important one to control your spin and your trajectory coming in with that little wedge shot, because there's a lot of factors, including the wind, in that little bunker that really get in your way.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.