RUMFORD, R.I. – For Joseph Bramlett, it’s been a long time coming.
One of the top junior players in the country – he qualified for the U.S. Amateur at age 14 – Bramlett went to Stanford and won the Puerto Rico Classic during his freshman year, and later that spring helped the Cardinal capture the 2007 NCAA Championship.
Since then, though, it has been a battle overcoming a pair of wrist injuries that kept him sidelined off and on for close to two years.
“It’s been a long couple of years for me,” Bramlett said. “I feel my game has been there, but it just hasn’t come together, as far as results.”
That all changed Saturday in the 49th Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club.
With a 2-under 67 in the final round – highlighted by an 8-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole – Bramlett won this prestigious event with a 6-under 270.
“It’s so good to finally start seeing good results,” said Bramlett, 22, of Saratoga, Calif. “I think I was back in full health at the end of January of this year. I felt my game was still there. It was just a matter of finding it.”
Bramlett was the only player to post all four rounds in the 60s.
His final-hole birdie secured a two-stroke victory over Brad Benjamin, the 2009 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion.
Benjamin, who was the leader after the first and second rounds, was three shots back of co-leaders Bramlett and Mike Ballo going into the final round, but made a strong challenge with his closing 66. After a bogey at No. 15 seemed to knock him out of contention, Benjamin birdied 16 and 18 and was the clubhouse leader at 4-under 272.
Ballo, a recent St. John’s graduate, had his best finish in a major amateur event, closing with a 71 for 2-under 274 and third place.
Sihwan Kim, Hudson Swafford and Andrew Yun were the only other players to finish in red numbers, tying for fifth at 275.
Todd White, who won this championship in 1990 before turning pro and then later regaining his amateur status, was the event’s low mid-amateur, tying for ninth at 1-over 277.
After his solid freshman season and sophomore fall campaign, Bramlett injured his right wrist after slipping while doing wind sprints in the rain in January 2008. He was out of action for seven months.
Then, in December 2008, he re-injured the same wrist in a bicycle mishap and was unable to play for 13 months.
“It definitely got frustrating at times,” Bramlett said. “I just tried to stay patient and upbeat. I knew my game was still good, and it was going to be just a matter of time.”
And it was patience and time that carried Bramlett to the Northeast Amateur title.
Starting the day at 4 under, he three-putted Nos. 2 and 3 for bogeys and found himself two shots out of the lead.
“I told myself to put it behind me and stay patient, and I did,” said Bramlett, who plans to remain amateur through the U.S. Amateur at the end of August and then turn pro and begin the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament process. “I knew if I made some putts, I’d be right back in there.”
He made birdie at No. 6, and when he and Ballo made the turn, they shared the lead at 3 under. Bramlett birdied 11 and Ballo 12 to stay tied. Bramlett took the lead for good with another birdie at 13, where Ballo made bogey.
“It just feels so good to finally win again - and especially to win at this level, against such a great field,” Bramlett said. “I really have to believe this is going to go a long way in boosting my confidence for the rest of the summer.”
The low round of the day – and the tournament – came from J.T. Griffin of Georgia Tech. He shot a 5-under 64, jumping from a tie for 60th into a tie for 23rd.