WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — In Friday’s second round at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, Kevin Chappell stole the show with an 11-under par 59. It was the 11th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history and second at the Old White TPC Course.
Last year, Chappell battled major back pain and was unsure whether he’d ever play golf again. He was forced to undergo a microdiscectomy and laminectomy in his lower back, making his round all the more rewarding.
“I just couldn’t feel more lucky to be here right now. Ten months ago, I was laying on my couch and couldn’t get up,” Chappell said. “So many people sacrificed to get me here, especially my family. A lot of people believed in me and put in a lot of hard work.”
Yet Chappell’s performance isn’t the only feel-good story of a player overcoming a major back injury this week in White Sulphur Springs.
Joseph Bramlett is in contention after completing Saturday’s third round with a 5-under par 65 that leaves him 11-under entering Sunday.
The 31-year-old ex-Stanford standout carded a 67 in each of his first two rounds before catapulting his way up the leaderboard by tying for the lowest third-round score of any player.
Not bad for someone who waited more than four years to return to playing after his back gave out during a range session in the summer of 2013.
Bramlett suffered an annular tear to his L4 and L5 discs. He sought the advice of 15 spine surgeons and the consenus was surgery would end Brameltt’s golf career.
“Thankfully I got a great coach and therapist,” Bramlett said. “I discovered them about three years into the injury and was actually able to make some progress.”
Bramlett credits therapist Cody Fowler and John Scott Rattan, a teaching instructor at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., for helping to revive his game.
“We completely rebuilt my golf swing,” Bramlett said. “I used to have really poor footwork. I was the guy that jumped off the ground and was on his toes at impact, and my hips were rotated way too fast. I was in a lot of side bend. I was just cracking the low right side of my back.”
Upon returning to golf, Bramlett nearly secured his PGA Tour card through the Korn Ferry Tour in 2018. He instead had to wait another year and recently got to this stage by finishing 22nd in the Korn Ferry finals.
“It’s been my dream since kindergarten to play out here,” Bramlett said. “I’ve had a one-track mind. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. From when I first started playing golf I fell in love with the game and the PGA Tour. That was my dream my whole life.”
Bramlett enters Sunday’s final round in a two-way tie for seventh place and four shots back of leader Joaquin Niemann.
He made four birdies against one bogey Saturday, while the highlight of his round was a 45-foot eagle putt on the par-5 12th hole.
“I wouldn’t say I did anything out of the ordinary,” Bramlett said. “I played very nicely and made about a 50-footer or so for eagle which was a bonus.
“I missed a couple from ten feet I thought I could have made. Just one of those days. Some went in, some didn’t. I kept the mistakes to a minimum and it was nice.”