When former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current NFL on CBS A-team color man Tony Romo made his fourth career PGA Tour start last week in the Safeway Open, he did so with a familiar face on the bag.
Romo’s caddie was longtime friend, Chad Wilks.
Wilks, a PGA Professional, who is the GM/Director of Golf at WestRidge Golf Course in McKinney, Texas, has a relationship with Romo that goes back nearly 30 years.
“I used to be part owner of a golf management company up in Wisconsin,” Wilks told The Caddie Network. “One of the courses we managed was the course that Tony grew up playing on. I’ve known him and his family since he was a kid.”
And now, all these years later, Wilks and Romo both call the Dallas area home.
Wilks had caddied for Romo a couple of times in Korn Ferry Tour starts, but last week’s trip to the Silverado Resort was his first turn on the PGA Tour.
And what a turn it was, as Romo fired a PGA Tour career-best, 2-under 70 in the first round – a round in which he finished inside the top-10 in the field in the “strokes gained putting” category.
Impressive stuff to say the least.
“It’s a very small percentage of people who actually realize what he did with that round,” Wilks said of Romo’s 70. “He really… I’d almost go so far as to say he didn’t miss more than 2-3 shots that first round. He drove it well, had a game plan and stuck to it. He hit a lot of fairways and greens. We were trying to take off sides of greens we couldn’t hit it to. He can work it both ways and hit it high or low. Some shots the first day were well-rewarded because he knew what he had to do. The second day, ball-striking was solid, but putting wasn’t where it was the first day. You miss some putts and that confidence slips a little, I think. Then you kind of go into defense mode. It just couldn’t happen anymore.”
To Wilks’ point, it’s one thing for a solid amateur player to shoot an under-par round anywhere. It’s an entirely different thing to do what Romo did – under all the scrutiny – to put together such an impressive round in a PGA Tour event with the kind of tournament conditions the above-average amateur rarely sees.
Even with all the scrutiny and the crowds watching, Wilks said being out there with Romo was easy.
“The one good thing is, because I’m comfortable with Tony, that part was easy,” Wilks said. “I feel like he and I talk about golf a lot when we’re playing together or hanging out. So, we did that last week and it just happened to be inside the ropes at a Tour event. The Thursday round was a nice, peaceful round. Lots of people out there, but the caddies with Tony’s playing partners Michael Gellerman (Jace Walker) and Beau Hossler (Jordan Guilford) were phenomenal. They covered my tracks a couple of different times. It was fun. They were tossed into the mess, but we all enjoyed it. Most of the crowd was awesome.”
Wilks estimates that he’s played hundreds of rounds with Romo. Combine that familiarity with Wilks’ day job as a PGA Professional and it’s easy to understand why they were a good fit for one another.
Since Wilks is so familiar with Romo’s game, he said there wasn’t much to discuss in terms of shot selection since they were pretty much always on the same page. And if they weren’t, Wilks would defer to Romo – especially in Round 1 when everything seemed to be clicking.
“Don’t mess with what’s working,” Wilks laughed. “He had a couple of drives Thursday that he got quick on. He knows what that is. Get it back here and do this. I’m almost mimicking what he’s saying and understanding it to provide reinforcement. Everyone has a different verbiage to get to the end game. Knowing his is a help.”
The highlight of the week for Wilks, he said, was being along for the ride as Romo posted that 2-under score.
“It was great to be involved with his low round on Tour,” Wilks said. “He beat a lot of guys on Thursday. Just being a part of him kind of proving to a lot of people that he can play with those guys was really cool. You’ll always get the haters and you can’t pay attention to them… The guys who shoot 78 at their home course on the weekends with countless gimmes comparing that score to what Tony did Friday on the PGA Tour is ludicrous.
“It’s hard to believe, but I don’t think Tony is ever nervous out there,” Wilks said. “The way he showed up both days with a great opening tee shot tells you a little about him. He’s incredibly comfortable with his game and who he is. Keep in mind – when he’s home in Dallas, he’s playing a bunch of golf with some of the best players in the world regularly – literally the Jordan Spieths of the world. Tony’s confident, but not in a cocky way. He knows he can play with those guys.”
There’s no telling when Romo’s next Tour start will be, but when it does come, making the 36-hole cut is a realistic goal, Wilks said.
“It’s going to mean a lot when he makes that first cut,” Wilks said. “It solidifies what he knows – he can play out there. If he was out there every week or every other, he’d make a cut pretty darn quick. The problem is, it’s few and far between. He needs to keep the passion and drive up. It’s a matter of time. He takes every – dare I call it ‘failure’ – and makes sure he learns from it. We weren’t even in the scorer’s tent on Friday and we were already talking about what to tighten up. Whatever he puts his mind to, he’ll get done. But he develops a passion for what he’s doing and that motivates him to just get better.”
That passion has been clear on the football field, in the booth and – now – on the golf course.