CROMWELL, Conn. – The Houston Open was under way, and Joseph Bramlett watched, waited and wondered. As a rookie with limited status on the PGA Tour, Bramlett often is an alternate for tournaments and must wait to see if a spot opens up.
At the last moment – about five minutes before a scheduled tee time – a player withdrew and Bramlett was in. He ended up finishing T42, his best finish so far on the PGA Tour.
Bramlett didn’t have to wait for a spot to open up at The Travelers Championship. With several players taking the week off following the U.S. Open, Bramlett knew well in advance that he’d be playing at TPC River Highlands.
He tees off at 8:51 Eastern time today (Thursday) with Fabian Gomez and Jerod Turner. It marks his 14th start of the season; he has made six cuts.
For Bramlett, however, having that sort of “relief pitcher’s mentality” of needing to be ready at a moment’s notice isn’t the issue.
“This is a lot more playing and more traveling than I’m used to because I’m coming straight out of college,” said Bramlett, who attended Stanford. “I’ve already played as many events this year as I would have played over almost a full year last year.”
Bramlett made headlines when he made the tour out of Qualifying School because he is part African-American. He’s one of only two African-Americans on tour along with Tiger Woods, who, like Bramlett, went to Stanford.
Bramlett has used Woods as somewhat of a mentor during his rookie season on tour, picking up bits of advice here and there. With the leg injury limiting Woods’ play this season, Bramlett hasn’t had as many chances to talk to him as he’d like.
Still, he’s been able to pick up on a few things from other veterans.
“There have been several people who have been helpful,” said Bramlett. “I’ve tried to play with some veteran guys. Charles Howell (III) has been very helpful … just trying to pick different people’s brains.”
Bramlett comes to the PGA Tour after solid amateur and collegiate careers. He was the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Amateur at age 14 and was a member of Stanford’s 2007 NCAA title team.
He made his pro debut at last year’s Frys.com Open, missing the cut. In his opening event of 2011, he made the cut at the Sony Open but finished near the bottom of the pack. Since then, the results have been sporadic: He followed that with three missed cuts followed by two made, one missed then three straight made.
But coming into The Travelers Championship, he has missed his last three cuts.
“Up and down,” said Bramlett about his season. “It’s been very exciting getting to play out here. This has been my dream.
“I’ve done a lot of good, traveling a lot, seeing a lot of cool places, and it’s definitely forced me to get better as a competitor. I haven’t played quite my best yet, so hopefully there’s more positive to come.”
Bramlett is optimistic about the rest of his season. Now that he’s more in tune with the routine of being a touring pro, he believes his results will improve.
Even if he finds out he’s playing five minutes before his tee time.
“I have a half a year’s experience under my belt. It’s nothing compared to some of the guys out here, but it was a lot more than what I had at the start of the year,” he said. “I’m really excited to get going, hopefully get a good groove going, a lot of events. I have some experience to lean on now.”
– Chuck Curti