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Bramlett Ready for Tour Debut
After fulfilling his goal of qualifying for the PGA Tour, Joseph Bramlett is set to play in his very first tournament on the circuit. The 22-year-old Stanford grad will tee off in the year's first full-field event, the Sony Open in Hawaii on Thursday.
Bramlett, whose father is black and mother white, became the first golfer of African-American heritage to graduate from Q-School since Adrian Stills 25 years ago, firing a final-round, 4-under-par 68 at Orange County National in Orlando last month to finish in a tie for 16th in the six-round final qualifying stage.
"It truly is an honor for me, and I hope this can start to change things," the 6'4" Bramlett told reporters following his final round. "It's been too long. To finally end that 25-year drought means the world to me, my family and everyone who has helped me along the way. It's an honor. It truly is an honor.
"I'm not always the most common-looking person on the golf course, so hopefully if I can play well this year, I can inspire kids to know that if I can do it, they can do it. Hopefully we can change the demographic out there."
Tiger Woods has been the lone black on the PGA Tour for the past 14 years. Bramlett, who attended Stanford just like Woods, is thankful for the support he's gotten from a fellow Cardinal. "Tiger's been very supportive of me," Bramlett said.
"He congratulated me on getting through (Q School), and he said he was very excited and pumped that I was able to turn it around and get the job done. Yeah, he said he looked forward to playing together a lot next year. So, hopefully, we'll keep our relationship growing."
During a Wednesday session with reporters from the site of the Sony Open, Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Bramlett discussed his ascendancy to the PGA Tour, along with his chances for victory in his rookie season.
Here's what the native of Saratoga, Calif., who helped Stanford win the NCAA Championship in 2007, had to say to the media.
MODERATOR: We're joined today by Joseph Bramlett, Stanford graduate from 2010. Joseph joins us here in the media center. He's making his second career start as a professional having successfully made his way through Q-school, the first African-American to do so in 25 years, and the first to join the Tiger era, as such. So at this time, Joseph, I'll turn it over to you, and if we could get some opening comments on the excitement and enthusiasm as you start your year off here at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Yeah, thank you for having me. I'm very excited to get going. Any time you can start any professional career in Hawaii is pretty good. So, no, I'm very excited to get going. I've got a great opportunity in front of me, and I'm trying to make the most of it.
Q. I wanted to get a sense of what this week's been like. Any moments where it kind of hit you, hey, wow, it it's really here, I really am on the Tour? Any stories you can share from the couple days of the practice rounds?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Yeah, the whole experience so far has been really cool. I got in Saturday night, got to walk a little bit on the course Sunday, and played some practice rounds Monday and Tuesday. Yesterday we actually got a Tour-sponsored tour of Pearl Harbor, which was really cool. So I'm just trying to take in the experience and it's been pretty cool.
Q. Who have you played practice rounds with, if you don't mind me asking?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Yeah, I played with Zach Johnson or Zach Miller yesterday, and Matt Bettencourt joined us for the front nine. Then, let's see, I played nine holes with Shane Bertsch who has been out here for a little while as well. So it's been pretty cool.
Q. Obviously, your story is bigger than just a player joining the Tour. How do you feel about that? Do you see yourself having a larger role than just the guy who is trying to win golf tournaments? What is your perspective?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Well, yeah. I think that any time you're able to break down some kind of barrier, I think it is something that will create attention, and, hopefully, I can use it as good attention. I think when it comes down to it, I'm still a golfer. I'm on the PGA Tour, and I play to win tournaments. So on the golf course, I'll definitely be focused on what I'm trying to do and everything I've dreamed of since I was a little kid. But, off the golf course, I think there is definitely a great opportunity for me to hopefully inspire some younger kids and try to keep changing the game.
Q. You probably have more people paying attention to you than an ordinary rookie. Are you prepared for that extra scrutiny, and telling your story almost every week probably?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: I think I'm prepared for it. I've been lucky. Because I've had a great set of parents who have grounded me and made me comfortable with who I am. So I think it's, you know, something I'll have to talk about. I hope to use in a good way.
Q. Lot of newcomers on the Tour, first time guys out there say there is a process of the time that it takes to become familiar with all the courses that they see. And how do you plan to handle the learning curve with all the venues?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: That is definitely a learning curve that a rookie has to face out here. And I've taken that into consideration with getting a caddie. My caddy has been around to see all the courses we've played. And I've played Pebble Beach and Spy Glass so I know two of the three used in the rotation of the Pebble Beach tournament. I've played Torrey Pines South a couple of times, so I've seen a couple of them. I think it's something that I'll definitely have to pay a lot of attention in my practice rounds and talk to some of the older guys if I can, and try to figure it out.
Q. Are there other hurdles you think you're going to have to jump through your rookie season?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Yeah, it's definitely a tough balance to find. So I think there will be a learning curve with that for me. How often do I need to play? And there is a lot to go into it between traveling and everything. I'm certainly not down about any of it. It's all very exciting and a great opportunity for me, but I'll probably have to get a feel for it this year.
Q. You mentioned A.J. Montecito as your caddy. He was the caddy for Y.E. Yang for the PGA?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Yeah, he caddied for Y.E. for a two-year spell out there. Won the PGA and the Honda, so they did pretty well together.
Q. How did you guys hook up? You played a lot of big Amateur events as we talked about. But to have someone who has been in that situation on the Tour a couple times, how much will that help?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: I think it will help a lot. He's someone that's definitely got some experience that I don't have. I'm still trying to learn the golf courses and get a feel for it. I was fortunate enough to have a close family friend of ours who knows A.J. really well too who kind of hooked us up. I'm very excited to get working with him. Our personalities match really well. He's very down to earth guy, so I think it will be a good year for us.
Q. Joseph, can you give us a little scouting report on yourself, kind of what you think your strengths are, what your weaknesses are? Just a scouting report.
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Okay. Yeah, I think one of my biggest strengths is my mental game. I think I'm able to think my way around the course pretty well and keep a good attitude throughout the ups and downs of a tournament. In terms of weaknesses, I feel that probably it will just be the experience aspect of playing on Tour out here I think that any rookie would face. That's something that I'm going to have to look for and figure out just like everybody else.
Q. Part of your story is that you missed so much of your college experience with the injuries. What impact did Tiger have on you? Is there something that you learned about yourself going through that?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Yeah, there is a whole lot that you learn about yourself. There were definitely some pretty dark, down evenings where I was sitting in my room, not very happy with life and where I was. It really puts the game in perspective for you. Fortunately, for me, I was able to capitalize academically. I was able to push myself a little bit and finish Stanford a little early. I think it definitely forces you to grow as a person. When you can't do what you love, it's frustrating and difficult. It's very cliche. I'm a huge believer in that that doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. So I'm trying to use all that experience for the better now.
MODERATOR: In closing, I'm sure the question begs, Joseph. What kind of response did you receive from Tiger, obviously, with the Stanford connection and so forth? Have you been in contact? Has he given you any support and so forth?
JOSEPH BRAMLETT: Yeah, Tiger's been very supportive of me. He congratulated me on getting through, and he said he was very excited and pumped that I was able to turn it around and get the job done. Yeah, he said he looked forward to playing together a lot next year. So, hopefully, we'll keep our relationship growing.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.