Romo withdraws from qualifier

THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Tony Romo's bid for a berth in the U.S. Open golf tournament is over.

The Dallas Cowboys quarterback withdrew from a U.S. Open sectional qualifier Monday after it was delayed for the second time due to bad weather. The delay at The Club at Carlton Woods sent players back to the clubhouse during the second 18-hole round of the 36-hole qualifier. Romo, who shot 71 and was tied for 10th after the first 18 holes, had a quadruple bogey on the first hole of his second round and was 7 over when play was halted.

Players were going to resume their unfinished second rounds on Tuesday, but Romo has an organized team activity with the Cowboys then and, at 7 over, was a long shot to be among the top two players in the 36-man event just outside of Houston.

"It was fun, it was enjoyable and I made a good run at it," Romo said. "It's exciting to be competing, it's fun to teach yourself lessons on the golf course about sports in general. I took away a few things that I'm going to use in football, so that's a positive in that respect."

Casey Clendenon, a former U.S. Amateur semifinalist, shot a 5 under 67 to lead the first round of qualifying. Craig Kanada and Roland Thatcher -- both of whom have spent time on the PGA Tour -- joined A.J. Elgert at 4 under, with Robert Gates, Bob Estes and Will Dodson at 3 under.

The 30-year-old Romo had to endure a weather delay early in the day as well. He was 2 over par after five holes when air horns halted play about 10:30 a.m. local time.

The star quarterback drew a crowd of about 20 fans as he hit balls on the practice range a half-hour before his tee time. A few of them wore Cowboys hats and shirts and one 11-year-old boy wore a blue Romo jersey.

Romo got polite applause when he was introduced by the starter on the first tee, waved to the fans and said, "Thanks, I appreciate it." He hooked his first drive toward a cluster of trees lining the No. 1 fairway, but scrambled for a par.

Romo took a triple bogey on the par-5 fourth after hooking his drive on the water-lined hole. He botched two pitch shots from deep rough along the edge of the pond, hit his approach into a greenside bunker and two-putted from about 20 feet for an 8.

Romo dropped his approach to the par-4 fifth hole about 10 feet away and sank the putt for his first birdie. A young fan said, "Nice birdie," as Romo walked off the green and the quarterback answered, "I appreciate you."

Air horns sounded off a few minutes later, and play was halted for two hours.

Romo changed into a red shirt and black shorts after the weather delay and played much better, making a birdie at the par-5 8th. He was proud of himself for bouncing back from the early disaster, one of the lessons he hopes to convey to his NFL teammates.

"On the football field, we're going and all of a sudden, we have two drives that stall," Romo said. "Everyone is saying, 'What's going on? Why haven't we done anything?' We'll talk about it, we'll learn from it, we'll go out and execute on the next one. No matter what happened in the past, it's about the next play and about going forward and I think that's what I tried to do today, and I was very proud of fighting back."

By the time he and playing partners Dustin Wigington and Thomas Hagler finished nine holes, the crowd around the group had swelled to about 100 people, many of them rabid Cowboys fans. A boy wearing a Romo jersey carried a football that he hoped Romo would sign after the round. Another follower had a Cowboys logo and star tattooed on his right calf.

Romo boarded a cart after nine holes and rode to the 10th tee. Troy Williams, 18, of The Woodlands, ran after the cart and got Romo to give him a signed golf glove.

Romo gave his fans something to cheer with birdie putts on Nos. 13 and 14. The quarterback pumped his fist after sinking both putts to move to 1-under par.

He parred his last four holes, missing a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.

"By not getting through, I didn't do what I had hoped to do," he said. "But it's still a lesson to take certain things and use them mentally. The ability to overcome adversity is a great lesson. I really didn't get emotionally down after I made a big number early. And to come up and post a score like that was very rewarding."

A dozen players, including Romo, broke par in the first 18 holes, including former PGA Championship winner Steve Elkington, who shot 70.

Romo survived a four-man playoff May 20 to advance to the sectional qualifier, a rare feat for a professional athlete from another sport. Romo passed up a qualifier for the Byron Nelson Championship that week because it conflicted with a Cowboys practice.

Romo said he's fully committed to football and isn't likely to ever take on golf as a second career.

"It's hard for me to think about doing something else at a high, high level," he said. "It's fun to go out here on a day and compete and try and win on a day. But I don't know if I could put in the time that would be needed to play or compete at that level, day in and day out. I don't have any feeling or need to right now."

The United States Golf Association said Romo would have become the fourth athlete from a professional team sport to qualify for the U.S. Open. He would have joined a group that includes former San Francisco 49ers quarterback John Brodie (1959, '81), former New York Yankees outfielder Sam Byrd (1938-41, 46-47, 1949-51) and former NHL player Bill Ezinicki (1947, '52, '56, '60-61, 63-64, 67-68).

NFL kickers Ryan Longwell and Josh Scobee and former major league pitcher John Smoltz failed to advance out of local qualifying this year, according to the USGA. Former NHL goalkeeper Grant Fuhr, retired tennis players Ivan Lendl and Michael Chang, and former Miami tight end Brian Kinchen have also fallen short in qualifying in recent years.

Wearing a light blue shirt, khaki shorts and a white baseball cap, Romo arrived at the practice range about 8 a.m. and hardly got a second glance from the players already hitting balls.

Romo munched on an energy bar and hit wedges with one hand as fans gradually gathered and clicked photos with their cell phones.

Tony Rodriguez, 61, a Cowboys season-ticket holder who lives in the Houston suburbs, had planned to walk with Romo all day.

"I wanted to come and see him. I'd never seen him play golf," Rodriguez said. "I'm just a fan of the Cowboys; I just came to cheer for him. I follow the Cowboys everywhere."

Josh Friedman, 11, wore a blue Romo jersey as he watched the quarterback with his father, Dan.

"It's kind of exciting; it's interesting," Dan Friedman said. "He's a pretty good athlete. Football is such a commitment, so you wouldn't think he'd be able to practice golf, at least not to the extent of other pro golfers."

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.