Will sponsor exemption open up a new career path for Tony Romo?

Tony Romo highlights

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – This week, it’s the amateur portion of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Next month, it’s a sponsor exemption, making him one of the 132 competitors at the first-year PGA TOUR event, the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.

And then? Difficult to say right now. At age 37, Tony Romo is a retired NFL quarterback, just finished his first year as lead analyst on CBS and is arguably the most accomplished golfer as any amateur in the field this week at Pebble Beach.

More important, for the first time in his life, he has the time, the health and the desire to make golf a daily part of his life. So maybe he gets more invites into TOUR events. Maybe he sees progress. Maybe the competitive juices flow just like they did when he quarterbacked the Dallas Cowboys.

And maybe one day, he chases membership onto a professional tour. Consider this: Romo has 13 years to fine-tune his game for the PGA TOUR Champions. He could follow the same path as another former NFL quarterback, John Brodie, who retired from the NFL at age 35 and eventually became a Champions member once he turned 50, even winning one event.

When asked if Romo might have pro golf aspirations, his good friend and practice partner Jordan Spieth said he could see it happening.

“He loves golf so much,” Spieth said. “He’s going to practice it all the time. That’s all he’s been doing. Yeah, I think that’s not out of the realm at all.”

Romo, of course, is not about to disclose such lofty intentions. He’s just grateful for the opportunity to play next month’s event in the Dominican Republic. The news of the sponsor exemption was made public on Wednesday, so let’s just digest that for now.

Even so, he wasn’t dismissing the idea.

“Well, you got to go play,” Romo said. “You never know how good you are until you go play and perform. Ultimately, obviously the odds going against these guys are not great. I think we all know that.

“But I think that’s what makes it really fun and enjoyable. I also think that the challenge that’s presented is what a competitor really wants. I think that’s what you always want to be around or be a part of. I know it’s about your own game and it’s about improving, that’s all you’re trying to do is consistently improve and get better. But you can learn a lot being around these guys and competing against them and I think that does make you better.”

Romo has chased golf opportunities before. He’s attempted to qualify for the U.S. Open three times, advancing to the sectional stage of qualifying in 2010. He’s made a few appearances in the AT&T Pebble Beach as an amateur, and last year he played in the Western Amateur.

But there are significant differences between those attempts and the present (and future) ones.

As the Cowboys quarterback, Romo’s window of playing a significant amount of golf was basically reduced to five months a year. And of course, late in his career, he battled lower back injuries, undergoing two surgeries. A compression fracture to the L1 vertebra prior to the 2016 season kept him sidelined for most of the season. He was supplanted as the starter, giving way to Dak Prescott, and eventually opted to retire in order to join Jim Nantz in the CBS broadcast booth for the 2017 season.

With a year of good health and a job that allows him plenty of time on the course, Romo finally has been able to focus his attention on golf for an extended period.

“I started off very rusty last spring and summer and then I started to see some good signs here over the last month or two that I feel good about with the game,” Romo said. “Hopefully it will show.”

At Pebble Beach, he will partner Will Zalatoris in the team competition. Romo carries an +0.3 handicap and is one of just three amateurs with a 0 handicap (the others are investment banker Kevin Baldwin and No Doubt drummer Adrian Young).

Evidently, Romo’s goals are lofty this week – at least according to Spieth.

“He wants to beat the pros that are in his group,” Spieth said, referring to Zalatoris and Hunter Mahan. “That’s kind of his goal. He thinks he can win this golf tournament if he played it with us.”

Romo smiled upon hearing the comments: “Jordan just set me up for failure a little bit.”

So how will Romo define success at Corales Puntacana? Just like his long-range future, it’s tough to say.

“I really don’t know, to be honest with you,” he replied. “I’ve never played golf for a year straight. I don’t know what constitutes (success). More than anything, I’m not putting any expectations as far as what’s going to make a successful week.

“You play and compete in tournaments to know what to practice. The tournament will show me a lot.”

However it turns out for Romo – not only in the Dominican Republic but also this week at Pebble Beach -- it should be fun to watch. Spieth often plays with Romo when the two are back home in Dallas. The 11-time TOUR winner is quite impressed with the former quarterback of his favorite NFL team.

“His short game is fantastic,” Spieth said. “He’s walking in putts from 15 feet at home. I mean, walking them in almost every hole. It’s really impressive. We’ll see if he walks them in out here. It’s harder to walk them in on poa annua.

“But he’s a guy that when he gets kind of a feeling, he sees a couple shots – he believes it like this. And then he can hit a hundred of them in a row. His muscle memory, his hand-eye coordination, is really special. So I have no doubt he’ll shoot under par every round out here from where they’re playing from.”


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