Tony Romo failed to make it through local qualifying for this year’s U.S. Open on Monday afternoon.
He finished with a 3-over-par 75 on a breezy day at Split Rail Links & Golf Club, but he certainly gained the appreciation of his fellow golfers. He was paired with David Lutterus, a Fort Worth resident who has played 48 PGA Tour events.
“As a pro you can see who can really hit the ball and who can’t, and he strikes it,” said Lutterus, who shot a 3-under 69 and earned the second alternate spot in a playoff.
“If he wanted to [become a pro], there’s no question about it — I think he could make it. You know what he’s got? He’s got the mind. We’re going down the 13th hole and he said something about two par-5s and eagling this and do that. I’m thinking, ‘Whatever.’ And then he goes and eagles the next hole. I’m like, ‘That’s the way you’ve got to think, right? So that was pretty cool. That taught me something. That’s how the best think.”
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Romo finished tied for 40th in the 107-man field. Seven advanced to sectional qualifying with two alternates after 18 holes of stroke play on a course that stretched 7,211 yards. A 3-under 69 was the cut line for the seventh spot, which was won through a four-man playoff.
Edward Loar of Rockwall posted the low round of the day, a 6-under 66. Frisco’s Derek Ernst, San Antonio’s Arnie Martinez, Flint’s Stetson McMillan and Frenchman Cyril Bouniol each shot 67. Garland’s Chris Brown earned the sixth spot with a 4-under 68, and Plano’s Joseph Abella won the playoff for the seventh spot.
Romo showed flashes of having his golf game in good enough shape to make a realistic run for a spot in the U.S. Open, which is being held in his home state of Wisconsin for the first time. The tournament is scheduled for June 15-18 at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis.
As a pro you can see who can really hit the ball and who can’t, and he strikes it. If he wanted to [become a pro], there’s no question about it — I think he could make it. You know what he’s got? He’s got the mind.
David Lutterus, Romo’s playing partner
“It was fun to be back out competing,” said Romo, who shot a 3-over 39 on the front nine and an even-par 36 on the back. “It’s been awhile since I felt the feeling of a competitive aspect in the golf world.
“There’s some good signs. I hit the ball pretty well today. Obviously had the big mistake on the one hole  … other than that, I played pretty well.”
Romo energized himself and a crowd of about 200 with an impressive showing on the par-5 14th to get him back in it. He used a downwind to his advantage with a 370-plus yard drive and knocking a 6-iron from 225 yards to a couple feet for a tap-in eagle.
That pulled Romo to 1-over on the day, but things fell apart on the next hole. Romo sprayed his drive right into the water on the par-4 15th and three-putted for a triple-bogey seven. It was his fourth three-putt on the day to go along with missed birdie chances from within 10 feet on Nos. 1, 12 and 13.
Romo lost any hope of advancing after the dreadful 15th, but finished strong with a birdie on the par-5 18th. He had a nifty third shot in which he punched his ball under a tree and then drained about a 10-footer.
Asked if golf could fill the competitive void he lost when he walked away from football and headed to the CBS Sports broadcast booth, Romo said: “It’s different. Competition in itself I enjoy and, for me, just improving and looking at something to get better at.
There’s some good signs. I hit the ball pretty well today. Obviously had the big mistake on the one hole  … other than that, I played pretty well.
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“That’s the same thing in broadcasting. I understand I’m coming in without any experience in that world. It’s exciting, it’s a little nerve-wracking, it’s all these things in one. That’s why you love to do things. You’re coming into the unknown and something I have to get better at and I like a challenge. I know I’ll probably stink for a while [in the broadcast booth]. Hopefully I’ll continue to improve at that and hopefully get better and be good.”
As far as competitive golf going forward, Romo could attempt to qualify for other USGA events such as the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur. He also mentioned the Western Amateur Championship.
Romo said as far as what’s next will come down to his schedule and how his back is feeling. He had to stretch his back on the 12th hole, doing crunches on the side of the green briefly.
“We’ll see if I’m able to practice as much as I want to,” Romo said.
Other things Romo touched on …
On advice he received from buddy Jordan Spieth: “Just copy [Spieth’s] swing.”
On advice from former Star-Telegram columnist and Split Rail member Randy Galloway: “I did. We had a lot of beers last night, went over the holes … [laughs] … I saw his daughter [during my practice round Thursday] and she was really nice.”
On buddy Tiger Woods’ latest back surgery: “He’s obviously gone through it for a long time, same as me with the back stuff. I just think he wants to get healthy. He wants to be able to play and just battling it over and over again has always been tough. He’s as passionate as he’s ever been. For him, he’s such a great guy and cares so much, but he loves his family and kids so he gets an opportunity to hang out with them and just be around them. He’s a great dad. So I know he’ll take the time to do that a little bit, then he’ll get back to work and do what he always does — put his head down and go back to work.”
On the crowd: “It was exciting. Some of the people are out there the entire day rooting you on. I wanted to give them stuff to get excited about. … Seeing how much people care about you and want you to succeed is humbling honestly. I look at them, wanted to make sure they got a picture and an autograph. To come out here, it’s special. I feel really great about that.”
By Drew Davison