Tony Romo went from being an undrafted free agent from a small college in the Midwest to a record-setting starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
He went from no television commentary experience to one of the most lauded new NFL commentators on TV and helping to broadcast the last year’s Super Bowl last from Atlanta.
Now, he’s gone from an avid recreational golfer to advancing past the first stage of PGA Tour qualifying in an unlikely bid to make it as a member of the PGA Tour, playing with the most accomplished professional golfers in the world. He’s been given multiple chances to tee it up with best, including he’s recent round at the Safeway Classic where he fired and impressive 70 in the first round before missing the cut with a nervous 78 in round two.
While it’s too early to tell how his latest endeavor will pan out, it’s also far too early to bet against Romo the golfer.
Especially after he has hired a PGA Tour golf instructor, Plano’s Chris O’Connell, who has worked with some of golf’s best professional players, including Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan, to aid his long-shot quest of earning a living in a sport he has loved his entire life.
Romo achieved his biggest golfing success last fall when he advanced to the first stage of a PGA Tour Web.com qualifying tournament by finishing in the top 30 in the field against 86 professional golfers at Lewisville’s Lantana Golf Club.
“I think it’s incredible that he wants to do this and is willing to put in the time to do it,” said multiple PGA Tour winner Rickie Fowler. “One thing about pro golf and qualifying school is that there are no exemptions, you have to earn your way in and that’s what Tony did in the first stage.”
“I’m a huge Tony Romo and NFL fan and it’s awesome that he would want to compete at the highest level,” said PGA Championship winner and 2017 Player of the Year Justin Thomas. “You have to remember he’s an elite, trained athlete and if he puts in the work and competition there is no reason that he can’t do it.”
Romo won his second nationally-televised Celebrity Pro-Am at Lake Tahoe, Nevada in July, considered the top celebrity Pro-Am in the country with a host of top current and retiring golfing athletes and movie stars. He played on a sponsor’s exemption at the PGA Tour Fall Series event this fall in Northern California.
Here, Romo discusses his love for golf, competition and football, plus TV on where he sees his golf career going:
OTL: You have been hugely successful as an NFL starting quarterback, earned big praise as an NFL commentator, what’s the attraction for being so serious about a possible golfing career?
Tony Romo: When I’ve out playing golf by myself it just me and the game and that’s what I like. I’m always trying to get better trying to improve my game and not worrying about others.
OTL: Most athletes enjoy golf or some other activity as a fun diversion or off day activity, when did you really get serious about it?
TR: I’ve always been interested in golf, seeing the competition, seeing if I can better. It’s day to day, week to week, exciting about playing the challenge. To me it’s about improvement, you know it’s going to be difficult. Against everybody.
OTL: So far, you have played in four professional tournaments, two on the Nationwide Tour (now Korn Ferry) and one on the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Championship and lastly at a Fall Series PGA Tour event in California. Are you discouraged by the results, encouraged or taking a wait and see attitude?
TR: Playing against the PGA tour I know I’m not very good, but I want to get better and get out on the practice field and hopefully I will continue to get better. I think expectations are there are all of us, but for me and golf I just wanted to get better. I think my ceiling is high, and tenacity and continued improvement will give me a chance with my agility and ability
OTL: Now you’re in the middle of the NFL season with top games every week with Jim Nantz, does that affect your golf practice and playing schedule?
TR: Now, I get out of bed, I have a routine, and I grind it out to get better. I just want to see how good I can be. I think we could work something out (with CBS). Its competition, I’m a competitor and it’s the closest thing to football.
OTL: I know you’ve played a lot of golf with Dallas PGA Tour superstar Jordan Spieth at your home course Trinity Forest and are working with Tour teacher Chris O’Connell, how does that help you?
TR: You have to commit yourself to do the work. I just enjoy the competition of being on the course. I love the fact I can try to produce something and the fact people don’t think I can do it.
OTL: Is there some player or some other sports star which influenced you to continue to perfect your golf game?
TR: I just enjoy competing. I’ve seen what (NBA Star) Step (Curry) has done and what I’ve done in the Web.com Tour and it’s competing, just wanting to get better. That’s what I’m about.”
OTL: How would you describe your game?
TR: I’m a feel player. I try to practice while I play and just try to improve from one nine holes to another nine. Then I head to the practice tee to work on my mistakes and try to always get better.
OTL: Were there things in football which can help you in golf now?
TR: Sure. Part of what allows me to be successful in everything is my competitive nature to do my best and try to lead others. Some guys go backwards when they get towards the lead. I go forward no matter what sport I’m playing.
OTL: So a birdie putt can be like a touchdown pass?
TR: The more you’re under pressure situations, the better you respond. I have an understanding of the game and what it takes to win and be successful. Like on the golf course, when it is and is not the time to be more aggressive.
OTL: Now that you are on CBS, how does that mix with your golf?
TR: I’m an (TV) analyst so I always have to be ready and prepared to do the games, but this is competition for me. I’ve had some very good summers and have just gotten better and better. I want to see how this goes and how good I can do.”
OTL: Do you wish you could take it more seriously earlier on in your career so you could have more success? Maybe after you retire (from football), and play on the Champions Tour?
TR: No, not really. I just know I enjoy the competition and I’ll always play in something like this. I never really put in the effort to get really good when it was playing football, but now I do.
OTL: What about other sports?
TR: Hockey guys can rip it forever, but in golf you have to get up and down and you’ve got to hit it and put it in the hole. That’s the difference. It’s fascinating to see the inside of another sport and see what they do. You can always try to do what they do, they don’t try what I do.
OTL: Have you played with a lot of PGA Tour Players in the PGA’s Tour Byron Nelson along with some fall series events and nationwide tour, what did you notice?
TR: They are more consistent, they don’t miss a shot. This is a game where one shot can be a huge difference. I’ve played with some Nationwide Tour guys and they are good, but for some reason, they are not at the PGA Tour level yet.
OTL: Are you concerned about playing in the Texas State Open or other events and about coming out here with little or no success in front of a gallery?
TR: It’ s great to see people out to watch me, they may not always been there, but they are here now. I’m done caring about how people perceive me, I just want to be the best I can be. I quit caring about what people thought about me a long time ago in golf, football and now TV.
OTL: You played in the Sonoma Fall Series Event during a CBS football televising week, are you concerned the two new careers might conflict?
TR: I think we could work something out. It’s competition, I’m a competitor and it’s the closest thing to football. The great thing about my new (golf) career is golf is a game where you can suck today, but you’ll try again tomorrow.
By Art Stricklin