Notebook: Rookie Holley Nearly Pulls off Remarkable Rally; Romo Comes up Short September 27, 2015 | Egg Harbor Township, N.J. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Ramiro Romo made a late comeback, but the father of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo came up a stroke short of the playoff. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Senior Amateur Home

Joey Holley finished the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur at a disappointing 11 over par, but he was proud of the way he closed out his first USGA individual championship.

Holley, 55, of Troy, Ala., had been aiming toward this championship for the past few years, ever since he returned to competitive golf. He turned 55 just 15 days before the championship, but he was discouraged by the first four holes he played at Hidden Creek Golf Club: double bogey, bogey, double bogey, bogey.

“I was 6 over after four holes, but it wasn’t nerves,” he said. “It was just silly mistakes – not thinking very well. The wind was also very tough. I’ve played in wind before, but it seemed like we were into it on every hole.”

The resulting round of 84 left the two-time Alabama Golf Association Player of the Year (1999, 2000) with slim hopes of making the 36-hole cut for match play. But he turned things around on Sunday, improving by 15 strokes with a round of 2-under-par 69. His two-round total of 153 left him two strokes shy of the playoff for match play, but feeling much better about how he acquitted himself.

“I told my wife this morning that I was just going to go out and have fun and enjoy my time,” said Holley, who has represented Alabama in two USGA Men’s State Team Championships (1999, 2003). “I knew I would have to shoot 3 or 4 under to have any chance of making the cut. I putted really well, made some 6-to-8-footers for par, and felt a lot better after yesterday. That just wasn’t my normal kind of round.”

Holley had attempted to qualify for the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Mid-Amateur “a couple of times,” but stopped playing tournament golf when his children were younger.

“I got back into it four or five years ago, and this was a target, to try to play in something like this,” said Holley.

And on Sunday, he played the kind of round that he is accustomed to playing.  

Romo Slips Back, But Relishes Opportunity

Another player who rallied with a strong finish knows something about strong finishes, since he has watched his son provide many of them as the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys.

Ramiro Romo played the final four holes of his first USGA championship in 2 under par, but missed out on the match-play playoff by one stroke with rounds of 74-78–152, 10 over par. The near miss on getting into the 64-player match play bracket only heightened Romo’s interest in attempting to return to the championship.

“I would do it 100 times over again – no problem,” said Romo, 58, of Burlington, Wis., who got into the field late last week as an alternate and played with USGA champions Tim Jackson and Michael Podolak. “It was a great pleasure to play with those guys, to find out what their games are like. They’re the benchmark – if I can keep up with them in any way, shape or form, I think it’s a credit.”

“I remember how nervous I was for my first USGA championship,” said Jackson, 56, who shot rounds of 68-73 to finish among the top qualifiers for the second straight year. “I’m still nervous for all of them. He did great.”

Romo shot a 3-over 74 on Saturday, and he started on the inward nine on Sunday.

“My third hole, I hit one to the right and had a squirrelly lie,” said Romo, who won the Wisconsin Senior Amateur title in 2013. “I couldn’t get it out, and before you know it, it’s a double bogey. Fortunately, I was able to right the ship on the back side.”

Romo spent some time last night on Facetime with Tony, who shares Ramiro’s passion for golf and followed his father’s round online and by texting constantly with his mother, Joan, who was walking the fairways at Hidden Creek.

“We had a long talk yesterday and did some [practice] range time last night,” said Romo with a laugh. “He was trying to give me some stuff to work on and I told him he was crazy, I’m not doing that. He just wanted to make sure I was at my best.”

Local Heroes Make Match Play

Raymond Thompson, of Drexel Hill, Pa., finished eagle-birdie on holes 17 and 18 to complete a round of 70 and finish at 4-over 146, five strokes inside the cut line for the 64-player field for match play. Thompson was one of seven Philadelphia-area players to make match play, which begins Monday at 8:10 a.m. EDT with the Round of 64. Also making the match-play bracket from the Greater Philadelphia area are Chip Lutz, of Reading, Pa. (144); 2008 champion Buddy Marucci, of Villanova, Pa. (144); Brian Rothaus, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa. (145); Thomas Hyland, of Marlton, N.J. (147); Kenneth Phillips, of Lancaster, Pa. (150); and Glenn Smeraglio, of Newtown, Pa. (150).

Another eagle on No. 17, a 512-yard par 5, helped Smeraglio sneak inside the cut line and avoid the playoff for the final berth in match play. Twelve players who finished at 9-over 151 will play off for one spot, starting at 7:10 a.m. from hole No. 10.

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.