Senior Romo Takes Turn in the Spotlight September 26, 2015 | Egg Harbor Township, N.J. By Tom Mackin

Ramiro Romo, the father of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, gets his chance in the national spotlight this week. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Senior Amateur Home

When Ramiro Romo plays golf with his son, Tony, there is more than a bit of competition between the quarterback for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and the man who introduced him to the game at age 6.

“Oh, it’s a fight,” said Ramiro, 58, of negotiating the parameters of their matches. “We will not leave the tee unless we have all the rules worked out right there.”

Ramiro, who opened play on Saturday in his first USGA championship, the U.S. Senior Amateur at Hidden Creek Golf Club, struggles mightily to retain the honor of the best golfer in the family.

“He’s too good of a player for that,” said Tony on the question of whether he cedes strokes to his father. “I root for him regardless if I’m playing him or not. I’m OK with losing to him or my sons [Hawkins, 3½ , and Rivers, 18 months]. But those are the only people on the planet I’m comfortable with losing to.”

“I could beat him early on,” said Ramiro of his son, who has made four Pro Bowls in his 12 seasons in Dallas. “But when he got to be a senior in high school and then in college, it was really hard. You can’t teach distance, and he can pound the ball.”

The younger Romo, 35, who is currently sidelined for several weeks after sustaining a broken left collarbone in last Sunday’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles, advanced to sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open in 2010. A balky back has curtailed Tony’s opportunities to play, but he occasionally joins his father on the driving range, where they rekindle memories, such as Tony putting a ball through a neighbor’s window after receiving a set of clubs for Christmas at age 8. 

Ramiro Romo (left) and his son, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, have long enjoyed a fierce competitive rivalry on the golf course.

“Our bonding thing was always to play golf,” said Ramiro, who posted a 3-over 74 on Saturday. “He hasn’t been playing much, so when I’m in Dallas our bonding time is when we go to the range. I ask him questions about why my ball is going a certain way. It’s hilarious sometimes, because he can do stuff that I can’t do.”

Without his father’s influence, Tony likely wouldn’t have taken up golf.  “I tell parents all the time, whether or not you play golf, go figure out a way to play with your kids when they’re young. You’ll be shocked at the time you will be able to spend with your kids. Golf is the one game where dads and sons, or daughters, can go spend four or five hours talking and you both enjoy it tremendously. Golf rewards people with that opportunity.”

Last Thursday, Ramiro’s phone rang while he was running errands in his hometown of Burlington, Wis. He had already booked a trip to Charleston, S.C., to play in the Senior Azalea Invitational, starting Sept. 29. When he saw the call was from the USGA, he immediately pulled his car over.

“It was like Christmas had come,” said Romo, who said he would have jumped up and down if he could have when he found that he had earned entry into the field at Hidden Creek as a first alternate out of the Kenosha, Wis., qualifier. He immediately texted his son. “He was in a meeting but he called me 20 minutes later and was excited as I was. Then I called my wife, Joan, who said, ‘You’re not going to play in Charleston, are you?’”

Romo didn’t start playing golf until he was 29 years old, when his late brother-in law took him to Shoop Park, a nine-hole municipal course in Racine, Wis. “I’ll never forget the first shot I hit,” he recalled. “I just laced a beautiful shot right down the middle. That’s when the bug hit me, just because of that one shot. I ended up shooting 74 for those nine holes.”

He took his first lesson two years later at Browns Lake Golf Course in his hometown. “I had enough length from the start, but I had to find out how to keep the ball from curving left and right,” he said. “Once you start having success you just want to get better. I think Tony is the same way, too. You want to see how far you can push yourself to succeed.”

After retiring from his job as a construction superintendent in 2007, Romo and his wife, who also have two daughters, took on their current roles handling Tony’s business interests. The flexible schedule has provided him with more time to work on his game, an effort that paid off in 2013 when he won the Wisconsin Senior Amateur at West Bend Country Club. His rounds of 71-73 defeated a strong field that included 2004 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Mark Bemowski.

“That even made it more gratifying because he is a great player and has the resume to prove it,” said Ramiro. “Tony asked me what I was thinking about during that round. You’re really not thinking about anything. You’re just seeing the spot where the ball has to be. He says the same thing to me lots of times when I ask him about his games.”

The golf bug bit Romo so hard that he has become a part owner of Meadowbrook Country Club in Racine. That led to his involvement as a board member of the Caddie and Leadership Academy of Southeast Wisconsin, a fledgling program that introduces teenagers to the game.

“We wanted to bring caddies to our club, and this is a great program,” Romo said of the initiative that was launched by Phil Poletti, a Wisconsin State Golf Association vice president. “The kids are like sponges. It’s a win-win situation. They learn how to work hard, how to listen, to keep pace and to show up on time. And let’s not kid ourselves – the youth are our future. If we don’t harvest that now, and feed it and germinate it, you’re only hurting yourself.”

Romo’s goal this week at Hidden Creek is to advance to match play, starting on Monday. “Anything can happen then. You’re not worried about numbers anymore. You’re just playing an opponent.”

His son will be paying close attention to stroke-play scores on Saturday and Sunday.

“You get a little nervous for him and you want him to do so well because it means so much,” said Tony. “But these are the kind of rewards you can give your family members when you play in events like this. Everyone else gets to feel it with him. That’s the greatness of sports.”

And if Ramiro qualifies for match play?

“I wouldn’t say no chance [of his son attending], but it’s slim,” said Ramiro. “Now if I get to the finals, then we might see the Romo contingent out here.”

New Jersey native Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at temackinjr@gmail.com

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