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Tony Romo takes on amateur golf before teeing off new career

GLENCOE, Ill. -- Ever the quarterback, Tony Romo quickly assessed the obstacles in front of him.

However, Romo wasn't looking at an opposing defense Monday. Instead, he peered out at the sloped, kitchen floor-fast 18th green at Skokie Country Club in Glencoe, Ill.

"Better have a good short game this week," Romo said.

The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback is fully immersed in the next phase of his athletic life as a competitive golfer. On Tuesday, he will play in the first round of the Western Amateur. The invitation-only tournament, featuring the top young players from all over the world, is considered the Masters of amateur golf. The honor roll of winners includes Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

Romo said he would like to add his name to the list. "The goal is to win," he said. "If I finish second, I'll be a little disappointed."

Clearly, Romo, 37, was joking. He received a special invite for his ability to draw some media attention for the event, and not necessarily for his golf talents. It would be a huge accomplishment if he made the 36-hole cut.

Romo, though, is serious about becoming an elite-level player. In his first year away from football, he has been consumed by playing golf and getting ready to join Jim Nantz as an analyst on CBS' lead team for the NFL.

Romo said he is "grinding" at both. On the broadcast side, he has gone through what he termed a three-month boot camp to get ready for his big assignment.

"Operationally, I had no idea how to do it," Romo said. "Do you look at the field? Do you look at the monitor? You really don't know anything when you start out. Now I feel a lot more comfortable."

As a golfer, Romo does have some game. He advanced to sectional qualifying for the 2010 U.S. Open; weather and Cowboys commitments precluded him from finishing the sectional rounds. However, Romo's focus has been on football in recent years. He pointed to his 2007 TaylorMade irons as a sign of how little he had been playing prior to this year.

"I think I'm going to upgrade after this tournament," Romo said.

Without football on the agenda, Romo has dedicated the last four months to working on his game. While he failed to advance in U.S. Open qualifying in May, he said he has been posting good scores in leading up to the Western Amateur.

However, Romo knows there is a big difference between playing golf at his home course and playing against the future stars of the game. He anticipates he will feel some nerves at the first tee Tuesday for what he terms his "major."

"You want to be anxious," Romo said. "There's golf and then there's tournament golf. Everything just gets a little bit more important. All of a sudden, you don't want to hit it over the green. You don't hit it quite as aggressively as you would back home. All those things kind of play a role into getting to a point where you feel like it's just natural. Hopefully I can get there this week."

Romo will try to utilize some of the lessons he learned while watching his friend Jordan Spieth win the British Open. He was impressed with the way the Dallas native battled back from a terrible start to prevail in the final round. Much like football, Romo says golf is about overcoming adversity.

"I do think that there's a sense of your ability to let a bogey go, let a bad shot go, let an interception go," Romo said. "When you do throw two interceptions in the first quarter or you bogey three of the first four holes, you mentally just say it's part of the process. You're like, 'I've just got to fight tooth and nail and get back in it and have a chance to win it at the end.' If you do, you're almost lauded for it."

For as long as he could remember, Romo would be focused on offensive drills and the playbook during this time of year. He insists it doesn't feel strange for him to not being in training camp.

"Not yet," Romo said. "I think it'll hit me as it gets a little [closer to the start of the season]."

Romo, though, is excited about the new opportunities in his post-football life. Now that he is able to work on his game, he is looking forward to seeing how much he can do in golf.

"I want to start playing good enough [to compete in tournaments]," Romo said. "This really was the first time I've started to play golf again and practice. We'll see how it goes this week. But I'm excited. It's going to be great."

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