WINTER GARDEN, Fla. -- Veteran Billy Mayfair won the PGA Tour's Qualifying Tournament Monday. That's good. Joseph Bramlett finished seven shots back and tied for 16th. Maybe, even better.
That's how Q School, golf's six-day, 108-hole coming-of-age event, works. Nobody really wins qualifying. Success is achieved by surviving -- that means finishing among the top 25 and ties -- to play in next season's PGA Tour.
"Yeah, this is about as good as it can get right now," Bramlett said. "You always play to win, but just getting that tour card is winning."
For more reasons than the obvious.
Bramlett, 22 and fresh out of Stanford, will bring more than a promising game and high hopes to the 2011 PGA Tour season. He'll bring a little more color.
Billy Horschel Doing it All Over Again at Q School
Billy Mayfair Back to Future at Q-School
Like another former Stanford Cardinal, Bramlett comes from a multiracial family and learned the game from a devoted and disciplined African-American father. Also, Bramlett has defined his age group, in 2002 becoming the youngest player, 14, to qualify for the U.S. Amateur. He signed with Stanford (sound familiar?) and as a freshman helped the Cardinal win an NCAA championship -- something Tiger Woods never did.
Now, he's the first golfer of African-American descent to earn full exempt status on the PGA Tour since Woods qualified in 1996. He'll embrace the responsibility.
"I'm just fine with it," he said. "It's an honor. It truly is an honor. Like I've said before, it has been a long time. I'm just thrilled to see it start to change."
Bramlett's accomplishment has been an extended work in progress. He was attracted to the game as a young child because his dad, Marlo, played. He watched and tried to copy his father's swing.
At 8 years old Joseph remembers accompanying Marlo around Stanford Golf Course to watch Woods play college events. He grew up with posters of Woods on his bedroom wall, including one from the 1997 Masters.
"I never doubted it would happen," he said. "This has been my dream since I was a little kid. You never let go of your dream, that's pretty serious.
"But to be honest, I never thought past Q school this year. I haven't even thought about next year. I was only giving all I had to this."
Bramlett was asked what he thinks the accomplishment means to his father. A long pause and smile followed.
"I think it mean a whole lot," he finally said. "I think it really does. He got me started when I was a little baby.
"Not only for my old man, but for a lot of people who have been there for me throughout the years, I think it's going to mean a whole lot."
Bramlett says his favorite TV show is "Wheel of Fortune." Mexican is his favorite food. A dream foursome would include his father, Tiger Woods and Barack Obama. "Graduating Stanford" is his biggest thrill outside of golf.
"He's really somebody special," said caddie Don Allio, a club professional and a long-time friend of the family.
The qualifying process began with 1,389 players sending in applications. Six pre-qualifiers were followed by 13 first- and six second-stage regionals, advancing 166 gofers to the 108-hole final stage event.
Bramlett began with the first stage.
"We've been playing 'one shot at a time' for about the last month and a half," Allio said.
No stretch during that time, however, was any better than what the 6-foot-4, 195-pounder did over Monday's back nine to make his accomplishment possible.
Beginning the sixth and final round in a three-way tie for 33rd place, Bramlett quickly bogeyed the second and third hole. He was falling like a rock. The dream that he cherished was definitely facing a detour.
But a birdie at the fourth stopped the slide. Then he birdied No. 8. And 9. And 10, 11 and 12. Another at 17 helped fashion a final-day 4-under 72 for an 11-under week.
"I mean you are on edge," Bramlett said of the early slide. "That's when the training really has to kick in. Fortunately, I've put myself in some pressure situations before. So you stop thinking about what it's worth and it becomes just another one of those situations that's make or break."
Now he's PGA Tour bound, joining a group of 29 players who earned their card -- under some difficult conditions.
Not only did the week's challenge include 108 holes, it featured steady winds that gusted to more than 35 mph and Monday temperatures that began in the mid 30s and never climbed out of the 50s.
Nobody said it was supposed to be fun.
"Phhhhh. No. Absolutely nothing about it is fun," said Australian Jerrod Lyle, who finished 15 under and in fifth place. "It's one of those things that you never want to make a habit of turning up at."
Unless it's to write a little history.
Q School Learnings
Twenty-two year veteran and five-time PGA Tour winner Billy Mayfair birdied his next-to-last hole to break a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard and claim medalist honors this week. Mayfair shot a 2-under 70 in the final round and finished at 18 under, one shot better than William McGirt (68) and Ben Martin (71).
Mayfair, 44, was making only his second career trip to the Qualifying Tournament and his first since successfully navigating Q School in his first attempt back in 1988, when he finished T21.
He finished No. 142 on the 2010 PGA Tour money list to lose full exempt status, so he returned to Q School.
"A win is a win," Mayfair said. "I don't care if you win this or if you win your match play back at home -- a W is a W and I'll take the feather in my cap. But watching these young kids, watching Ben (Martin) and Bio (Kim) play today under the pressure, I mean they had a lot more pressure riding on this than I did.
"Basically I was playing all week to be able to play through April. After April, I was going to be able to play pretty much everywhere I wanted to anyway with my status. It was good to win, but man, there are some good young players and fearless." ...
A total of 29 PGA Tour cards were handed out. Twenty-six players finished 10-under or better, but two (Michael Putnam and Justin Hicks) had already earned their cards by virtue of finishing among the 25 leading money winners on the 2010 Nationwide Tour and did not count toward the total of 25. Therefore, the cut-off fell to 9-under par and allowed Scott Gordon, Billy Horschel, Will Strickler to qualify.
Editor's note: The previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Bramlett was the first American minority since Tiger Woods to earn full exempt status. We regret the error.