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Bramlett plays his way onto Tour

Joseph Bramlett is making his PGA Tour debut this week in the Sony Open in Hawaii and if you're not familiar with him, he joins Tiger Woods as the only golfers of African-American heritage on the PGA Tour in 2011. Bramlett, who attended Stanford, as did Woods, played his way through all three stages of qualifying school last fall to earn a spot on tour.

His college career was interrupted by wrist injuries but his grind through tour school speaks to his skill level. Bramlett qualified for the 2002 U.S. Amateur as a 14-year-old, was part of Stanford's national championship team as a freshman and became the first African-American since Adrian Stills 25 years ago to play his way on tour via qualifying school.

The son of a black father and white mother, Bramlett is prepared for the attention sure to come his way.

"When you can have little kids growing up and seeing that there is such a diverse group of people on the PGA Tour, I think it can truly inspire kids to think that I can do it too," Bramlett said at a press conference in Hawaii.

It's time for a rules change, at least when it comes to having television viewers calling in penalties on players.

The latest case came last week at Kapalua when Camilo Villegas was disqualified from the Hyundai Tournament of Champions after being assessed a two-stroke penalty for moving a divot out of the path of his rolling golf ball. Villegas made a bone-headed mistake but he wasn't assessed the penalty until a day later, long after he had signed his scorecard, it had been accepted by tour officials and a viewer called to point out the violation.

Villegas was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard but the card was correct when he turned it in because no penalty had been assessed. Penalize him two strokes after the fact, but a DQ is harsh considering no one was aware of the violation. Viewers can't change missed calls in other sports but they can in golf. What about all the other players on the course who aren't being watched by television cameras? They may be guilty of inadvertent violations also, but no one was watching them so they go unpunished. It's an uneven playing field in that regard.

Other sports have video replay officials. Maybe golf needs to consider one.

The 2011 Charlotte City Amateur championship will be played Aug. 12-14 at Carolina Golf Club, Myers Park Country Club and Charlotte Country Club, the rotation played in 1958 when Bill Williamson won the inaugural event. Entries open May 9 at www.charlottecityam.com.

LPGA commissioner Mike Whan probably made the right call by denying 15-year-old Alexis Thompson's petition to be granted 12 sponsor exemptions and limited tour membership this year, saying she can only have the six exemption tour rules allow. Part of the problem is that the tour schedule is so small now that Thompson would essentially be able to play a full schedule just like a player who went through Q-school. Considering the LPGA Championship, U.S. Women's Open and Women's British Open don't count toward her six events, Thompson will have plenty of opportunities.

It's a tough call because the LPGA Tour, or what's left of it, needs all the attractions it can get and Thompson is definitely an attraction. .

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