Tony Romo’s birdie on 15 sealed the 2018 American Century Championship on Sunday at Edgewood Tahoe, as fans set an attendance record at the popular celebrity golf tournament.
It was Romo’s first ACC title in eight appearances after finishing second three times. With 71 points, Romo came from behind to defeat defending three-time champ Mark Mulder, who finished second with 68 points.
The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback posted scores of 18, 26 and 27 points on the Modified Stableford Scoring system. It was a four-man race to the finish line between Romo, Mulder, Joe Pavelski and Ray Allen.
Romo did not accept the $125,000 first prize purse and remains an amateur. The prize money will be donated to the tournament’s charities. Last weekend, he won the Racine Tri-Course Amateur Championship by nine strokes. Romo will play another 36 holes Monday during the U.S. Amateur qualifier in Berlin, Wisconsin.
“I’m looking forward to another early morning,” Romo said.
Holding a first-place bid for two-straight days, San Jose Sharks forward Pavelski fell to a third-place tie with retired NBA great Ray Allen at 66 points. A streaky outside shooter, Allen was hot during the last two days. He shot 4 under par on Sunday and 2 under on Saturday. Pavelski nearly tied it on the 18th hole, but he missed a 17-foot eagle attempt. Then his birdie attempt lipped out of the hole and he had to settle for a par.
“I couldn’t ask for more to have a shot for eagle on 18 to force a playoff,” he said. “But it didn’t go in. That’s golf for you. But I had a blast and learned a ton about my game over these last three days.”
Romo’s steady play kept him in front as Mulder and Pavelski missed some putts and Allen landed in a sand trap and missed a putt. Romo finished par, birdie, birdie, par, par over his last five holes.
“Tony (Romo) played better than the two of us,” Mulder said. “In the end, he shot really well and deserved to win.”
Romo entered the 18th tee with a five-point lead and he knew someone needed an eagle to catch him.
“It was a no brainer to hit an iron off the tee,” Romo said. “The other aspect was that I could be as aggressive as I want on the third shot and put the pressure on the rest of the guys. Somehow, Joe (Pavelski) had a chance for eagle and it all came down to making a putt.”
A bogey on the 16th was critical for Mulder.
“(Hole) 16 got me once again,” he said. “It’s disappointing considering what I put together those last 15 holes. In the end, I put myself in a chance to win and 16 has just been a tough tee shot for me.”
Mulder started the tourney Friday with, for him, a poor round. Regarding his overall struggles, he said, “Looking back at it, I should have just tried to lay something up like I was doing all tournament. But today, I steered away from that and went for the big one and it cost me.”
The ACC set an all-time attendance record of 57,097 during the three-day competition at Stateline, Nevada. Last year, the tourney drew 55,801.
“I think all of us feel like it’s one of our favorite weeks of the year,” Romo said. “The fans pack the course every day and they bring a ton of energy we try to feed off of. It’s really fun to play here.”
Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer and tennis pro Mardy Fish tied for fifth at 62. Hockey great Jeremy Roenick was seventh at 58 and two-time champion Mark Rypien was eighth at 56.
Camaraderie is the theme of the ACC, which will be held for the 30th time next summer.
“It’s a privilege to be able to play in this event,” Romo said. “The day felt really good. I played a good round of golf but I was able to compete with two outstanding guys. Mark (Mulder) and Joe (Pavelski) have a ton of game and it was an honor to play with them.”
— Isaiah Burrows