By: Brendan Quinn
Joe and Sam sat side by side at a Texas Roadhouse somewhere in Newburgh. The tournament’s final round flickered on a TV above the bar as Joe pulled his thumb down across his iPhone again and again, updating the tournament scoreboard. He left Victoria National crushed but knowing, in the back of his mind, if a few players dropped some strokes (and other moved up, thereby taking precious points away from other contenders), he would secure enough points to grab one of the last spots in the playoff’s top 25.
One unfortunate soul was Blayne Barber. The 29-year-old who once disqualified himself from PGA Tour Qualifying School after accidentally brushing a leaf in a bunker and failing to assess a penalty on himself, bogeyed three of his final five holes. He spilled down to No. 31, bumping Bramlett from 26th to a projected 25th.
Joe only made it halfway through a cocktail. He was too nervous to finish it, waiting to see if the scoreboard would hold.
Heads arched up toward the TV, Joe, Sam and Fred then watched Lanto Griffin and Grayson Murray, both already comfortably in the top 25, befall to a few over-par holes down the stretch. Bramlett moved from No. 24 to No. 23.
The realization began to set in. This would be the day the golf gods put their thumbs back on the scales for Joseph Bramlett.
His phone started buzzing. One message came from a rep with the Korn Ferry Tour, wondering if Joe would be able to make it back to the course to accept his PGA Tour card during an awards ceremony on the 18th green. The three bolted out of the bar, laughing, and hopped back in their car.
At 5:06 p.m., a black Nissan Rogue pulled down the long driveway into Victoria National. Joseph Bramlett’s frame unfolded out of it. He looked high into the sky and smiled. It felt like an ending but was actually a beginning. Joe pulled Sam close and asked Fred to take a picture. Joe put his arm around Sam’s shoulder. Sam put her arm upon Joe’s lower back.
An hour later, flipping his brass PGA Tour card between his fingers, Joe was asked if he feels like a veteran or like a rookie again. He drew his eyes downward, like he was looking in a crystal ball and seeing the past, and said, “That’s the beauty of where I am and the beauty of the game of golf. I’m very lucky. Yeah, injuries took a chunk of my career, but if I was in the NBA or the NFL, every team would have moved on for me by now. I still have a chance to do this.”