Bramlett not a pioneer just wants to be player

By Doug FergusonJanuary 13, 2011, 7:05 pm

2007 Sony OpenHONOLULU – Joseph Bramlett waited for room to open up on the tiny practice range at Waialae Country Club, just like any other PGA Tour player. Typical of most rookies, he felt most comfortable being around players he knew from college and amateur days.

“Every kid like myself grows up wanting to play on the PGA Tour, playing on the biggest stage,” Bramlett said. “This is what I’ve trained for and prepared for my whole life. It’s very exciting for me. I’ve got a lot of opportunities.”

Whatever he gets out of golf, the Stanford graduate already is putting back in before he even turns in a scorecard. In a sport desperate for diversity, he is the first PGA Tour member of black heritage since Tiger Woods turned pro in 1996.

Bramlett doesn’t see himself differently from any other rookie, much less any other player.

Even so, he is willing to embrace the questions that are sure to follow. He had more media duties than any other player on a rain-soaked Wednesday at the Sony Open. And though he is more interested in the scores on his card than the color of his skin, Bramlett believes he can help make a difference.

“I certainly think numbers will help,” Bramlett said. “If you have more fresh and different faces out there … in terms of the public eye, I don’t know how significantly it will change. But I think when you can have little kids growing up and seeing that there is such a diverse group of people on the PGA Tour, it can truly inspire kids to think that, ‘I can do it, too.”’

Bramlett is among 26 rookies who are part of the 144-man field at the Sony Open, which is to begin Thursday depending on the weather. The course was closed Wednesday on the eve of the first full-field event of the PGA Tour season, and with more rain in the forecast, the question was whether the course will drain well enough to play.

Bramlett signed an endorsement deal with Nike. His caddie is A.J. Montecinos, who was on the bag for Y.E. Yang when the South Korean took down Woods at the PGA Championship in 2009 and became the first Asian to win a major.

And he can always lean on Woods, whom he already sees as a mentor.

Bramlett competed in the Junior World Championship with a team sponsored by the Tiger Woods Foundation. As a freshman, he sat in Woods’ living room and listened to stories with the rest of the Stanford golf team when the Cardinal played a tournament at Isleworth. They hooked up again when Woods came to Stanford during the Presidents Cup at Harding Park.

And when Bramlett qualified for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he arranged for a practice round with Woods.

“He’s been awesome for me,” Bramlett said. “He’s really just kind of mentored me in ways that truly helped my game and just growing up as a young person.”

Like Woods, Bramlett comes from a multiracial family – his father is black, his mother is white. He was attracted to golf not through social inspiration, but just like so many other players on tour: His father introduced him to the game while growing up in San Jose, Calif.

“I fell in love with the game before I knew who Tiger Woods was,” Bramlett said.

Woods was an influence by winning the Masters in 1997, and Bramlett’s father used to take him to watch Woods at Stanford. And when they finally met, he credits Woods for motivating him to work through injuries.

After he helped Stanford to an NCAA title as a freshman, Bramlett endured two injuries that nearly derailed his career – his right wrist when he slipped on a wet mat in the weight room as a sophomore, and ligament and tendon damage in the same wrist when he fell over the handle bars on his bike as a junior.

“He really just told me that you really just do whatever you have to do to get through it,” Bramlett said. “I think that applies not only to injuries, but to a lot of things in your life.”

Bramlett made it through Q-school on his first try, passing all three stages.

Now comes the hard part.

He finished high enough to make the field at the Sony Open, and he expects to be at Torrey Pines later this month and Pebble Beach. He is still waiting to see if can get in Phoenix and Riviera. Like other rookies, he needs places to play, and he needs to perform well quickly to help his chances the rest of the year.

Along the way, he expects to get plenty of questions about his heritage.

“Do I hope it wouldn’t be an issue? Yes. Will it be? I don’t know,” Bramlett said. “Hopefully, I can leave an impact on the game that can help change things. Tiger had a huge impact, and I’m just one of several kids coming up right now. I think that by the time I’m done and sitting in a rocking chair, that hopefully this game will look a little different.”

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Elway to play in U.S. Senior Open qualifier

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 23, 2018, 10:25 pm

Tony Romo is not the only ex-QB teeing it up against the pros.

Denver Broncos general manager and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open next week, according to the Denver Post.

And why not? The qualifier and the senior major will be held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. Elway is scheduled to tee off May 28 at 12:10 p.m. ET. The top two finishers will earn a spot in the U.S. Senior Open, June 27 to July 1.

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Jutanugarn sisters: Different styles, similar results

By Associated PressMay 23, 2018, 10:20 pm

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn play golf and live life differently.

The sisters from Thailand do have the same goal in the LPGA, hoping their shot-to-shot focus leads to titles.

The Jutanugarns are two of six women with a shot at the Volvik Championship to become the circuit's first two-time winner this year. The first round begins Thursday at Travis Pointe Country Club, a course six winners are skipping to prepare elsewhere for next week's U.S. Women's Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama.

''Everybody has a chance to win every weekend,'' Moriya said. ''That's how hard it is on tour right now.''

Ariya competes with a grip-it-and-rip-it approach, usually hammering a 3-wood off the tee.

Moriya takes a more calculated approach, analyzing each shot patiently.

That's perhaps fitting because she's 16 months older than her sister.

''It's funny because when we think about something, it's always the different,'' she said. ''But we pretty much end up with the same idea.''

Off the course, they're also different.

The 22-year-old Ariya appears careful and guarded when having conversations with people she doesn't know well. The 23-year-old Moriya, meanwhile, enjoys engaging in interesting discussions with those who cross her path.

Their mother, Narumon, was with her daughters Wednesday and the three of them always stay together as a family. They don't cook during tournament weeks and opt to eat out, searching for good places like the sushi restaurant they've discovered near Travis Pointe.

Their father, Somboon, does not watch them play in person. They sisters say he has retired from owning a golf shop in Thailand.

''He doesn't travel anymore,'' Moriya Jutanugarn said.

Even if he is relegating to watching from the other side of the world, Somboon Jutanugarn must be proud of the way his daughters are playing.

Ariya became the first Thai winner in LPGA history in 2016, the same year she went on to win the inaugural Volvik Championship. She earned her eighth career victory last week in Virginia and is one of two players, along with Brooke Henderson, to have LPGA victories this year and the previous two years.

Moriya won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles, joining Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam as the two pairs of sisters to have LPGA victories.

On the money list, Ariya is No. 1 and her sister is third.

In terms of playing regularly, no one is ahead of them.

Ariya is the only LPGA player to start and make the cut in all 12 events this year. Moriya Jutanugarn has also appeared in each tournament this year and failed to make the cut only once.

Instead of working in breaks to practice without competing or simply relax, they have entered every tournament so far and shrug their shoulders at the feat.

''It's not that bad, like 10 week in a row,'' Moriya said.

The LPGA is hosting an event about five miles from Michigan Stadium for a third straight year and hopes to keep coming back even though it doesn't have a title sponsor secured for 2019. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan told reporters he's confident Ann Arbor will be a long-term home for the circuit.

''I can't tell you the specifics about how we're going to do that,'' Whan acknowledged.

LPGA and tournament officials are hosting some prospective sponsors this week, trying to persuade them to put their name on the tournament.

Volvik, which makes golf balls, is preparing to scale back its support of the tournament.

''We're coming back,'' said Don Shin, president of Volvik USA. ''We just don't know in what capacity.''

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Wise: 'No hard feelings' over Nelson missed kiss

By Will GrayMay 23, 2018, 10:18 pm

Aaron Wise left the AT&T Byron Nelson with his first PGA Tour trophy and a seven-figure paycheck. But lost in the shuffle of closing out his breakthrough victory in near-darkness was his failed attempt for a celebratory kiss with his girlfriend on the 18th green.

Wise appeared to go in for a peck after his family joined him on the putting surface, but instead he and his girlfriend simply laughed and hugged. After the moment gained a bit of online notoriety, Wise told reporters at the Fort Worth Invitational that the young couple simply laughed it off.

"Yeah, I have been giving her some s--- about that," Wise said. "A lot has been made about it. It's really nothing. Like I was saying, she was just so excited to surprise me. I was kind of ruining the surprise a little bit that she was shocked, and she didn't even see me going in for the kiss."

At age 21, Wise is now one of the youngest winners on Tour. He explained that while both his girlfriend and mother flew in to watch the final round at Trinity Forest Golf Club, where he shared the 54-hole lead and eventually won by three shots, he took some of the surprise out of their arrival in true millennial fashion - by looking up his girlfriend's location earlier in the day.

Still getting used to his newfound status on Tour, Wise downplayed any controversy surrounding the kiss that wasn't.

"No hard feelings at all," Wise said. "We love each other a ton and we're great. It was a funny moment that I think we'll always be able to look back at, but that's all it really was."

Mmm Visuals / Lancaster Country Club

Giving back: Chun creates education fund at site of Open win

By Randall MellMay 23, 2018, 8:04 pm

South Korea’s In Gee Chun is investing in American youth.

Chun broke through on the largest stage in women’s golf, winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago, and she’s making sure Lancaster, Pa., continues to share in what that brought her.

Chun is preparing for next week’s U.S. Women’s Open at Shoal Creek outside Birmingham, Ala., but she made a special stop this week. She returned to the site of her breakthrough in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Wednesday, launching the In Gee Chun Lancaster Country Club Education Fund. She announced Tuesday that she’s donating $10,000 to seed the fund. She’s expected to raise more than $20,000 for the cause in a fundraising dinner at the club Wednesday evening. The fund will annually award scholarships to Lancaster youth applicants, including Lancaster Country Club caddies and children of club employees.

“I’m excited to be back here,” said Chun, who put on a junior clinic during her stay and also played an outing with club members. “Winning the U.S. Women’s Open here in Lancaster gave me the opportunity to play on the LPGA and make one of my dreams come true.”

Chun also supports a fund in her name at Korea University, where she graduated, a fund for various “social responsibility” projects and for the educational needs of the youth who create them.

“Education is very important to me,” Chun said. “I would like to help others reach their goals.”

Chun made donations to the Lancaster General Health Foundation in 2015 and ’16 and to Pennsylvania’s J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust last year. Lancaster Country Club officials estimate she has now made donations in excess of $40,000 to the community.

“We are grateful In Gee’s made such a wonderful connection to our community and club,” said Rory Connaughton, a member of Lancaster Country Club’s board of governors. “She’s a special person.”