ALEDO, Texas (TNS) — Staging what amounted to a fourth-quarter rally, Tony Romo blasted a 386-yard drive on the 611-yard par 5 14th hole, then hit a majestic 6-iron from 225 yards out.
“Come on! Be right! Go in!” Romo said.
The ball settled three feet from the cup, setting up an eagle that briefly propelled Romo to 1-over in Monday’s 18-hole U.S. Open local qualifier at Split Rail Links & Golf Club.
A triple-bogey on the next hole, No. 15, combined with four three-putts ruined 37-year-old ex-Cowboy quarterback Romo’s chances of advancing to the sectional stage of U.S. Open qualifying.
Romo’s 3-over-par 75 left him in a tie for 40th among the 107 players who were competing for seven sectional qualifying spots. Rockwall’s Edward Loar shot the day’s low round, 66. Romo would have had to shoot 69 to get into a playoff for one of the last two spots.
“It was fun to be back out competing,” Romo said. “It’s been a while, really, since I felt the feeling of the competitive aspect in the golf world.”
This was the third time Romo has attempted U.S. Open qualifying. In 2010, he advanced through a local qualifier at Carrollton’s Honors Club.
But after shooting 71 in the first round of that year’s 36-hole sectional qualifier at the Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Romo started the second round 8-over through three holes. Rain delays and a Cowboys mini-camp conflict forced him to withdraw from the rest of the sectional.
In 2011, Romo shot 81 and tied for 44th in a U.S. Open local qualifier at Stonebridge Ranch.
Those previous U.S. Open qualifying attempts, though, occurred during Romo’s previous life, as the Cowboys’ quarterback.
Now he’s a retired NFL player about to embark on a career as CBS’s No. 1 NFL analyst, but to hear the excitement in Romo’s voice Monday, there also will be time for more tournament golf. He said he is mulling trying to qualify for the August 14-20 U.S. Amateur at Rivera and playing in the Western Amateur in late July.
“For me, this is really the beginning of the season,” he said. “This is when it starts if you’re playing a lot. Now, I’ve never had the opportunity to play as much as I will be able to hopefully going forward.”
From tee-to-green, Romo was solid and at times brilliant. The only greens he missed in regulation were Nos. 5, 15, 16 and 17.
But he missed birdie putts of 15 feet on No. 1, 18 feet on No. 8, 6 feet on No. 12 and 10 feet on No. 13. He made the turn at 3-over and didn’t post his first birdie of the day until No. 10, when he made a 5-footer.
One of Romo’s playing partners, David Lutterus, a North Texas transplant by way of Australia, came away impressed. Lutterus, who has played on the PGA and Web.com tours, shot 69 Monday but was edged out in the playoff for a sectional qualifying spot.
“As a pro, you can really see who can really hit the ball and who can’t,” Lutterus said of Romo. “And he strikes it. Every shot is kind of flush and he compresses the golf ball and drives it nicely. Good short game. He was a pleasure to play with.”
How good does Lutterus think Romo could be? Lutterus said he told Romo his game, if he had time to hone it, is PGA Tour-caliber.
“If he wanted to, there’s no question about it, I think he could make it,” Lutterus said. “You know what he’s got? He’s got the mind. We were going down the 13th hole and he was talking about the two par fives, he was going to ‘eagle this and do that.’ I’m thinking, ‘OK. Whatever.’ Then he goes and eagles the next hole.
“I’m like, that’s the way you’ve got to think. That was pretty cool. It taught me something. That’s how the best think.”
About 300 fans, plus two deputies from the Parker County Sheriff Department, followed Romo at the start of his round, which began at 1:30. Some fans wore No. 9 Romo Cowboys jerseys. There also were Romo signs on fences of homes neighboring the course.
Romo took time to sign autographs and pose for photos afterward. He seemed genuinely touched that fans would take five hours out of their day to watch him play golf.
Clearly, Romo remains competitive, as evidenced by his fist-pump after the eagle on No. 14 and his look of dismay when he saw that his tee shot on No. 15 had rolled into the water. Romo called that a mistake of not scouting the course well enough.
Golf gives Romo a competitive outlet.
“It’s different,” he said. “Competition in itself, I enjoy, and for me just improving and looking at something to get better at. But that’s going to be the same thing for me in broadcasting. I understand that I’m coming in without any experience in that world. It’s exciting. It’s a little nerve-wracking.
“That’s why you love to do things. You’re coming in to the unknown and it’s something I have to get better at. I like a challenge. I also know that I’ll probably stink for a while. But hopefully I’ll continue to improve at that.”
©2017 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.