Camilo Villegas fights back tears as he opens up about daughter’s heart-wrenching battle with cancer

Camilo Villegas wipes away tears while speaking to the press on Wednesday.

Camilo Villegas wipes away tears while speaking to the press on Wednesday.

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Fighting back tears and with a heavy heart on Wednesday at TPC Sawgrass, four-time PGA Tour winner Camilo Villegas opened up about his 20-month-old daughter’s battle with cancer, which the family hadn’t made public until now. Mia was diagnosed in early March and has tumors on her brain and spine.

“My wife wanted me to come here and swing the club, get my mind away,” Villegas said. “She has been really strong during this whole situation, and Mia has been very inspiring. To be honest, to see a little one fight for their life like this, it’s cool man. It’s our reality. It’s what I tell my wife, we have no option but to be strong and support her and send her good energy.”

Villegas told the media assembled in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. — home to this week’s Korn Ferry Tour Challenge — about what the last few months have been like for his family. Villegas and his wife, Maria, first noticed something might be wrong three months ago during the Honda Classic. He said Mia was crying more at night and also when she was playing.

On March 14, the Villegas’ took Mia to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. That’s when they found the tumors. She had surgery, and more treatment — including chemotherapy — is coming.

“I remember the first thing the doctor said was, ‘Hey, listen man, if we give you the chemo we’re going to give her, you don’t make it.’ So they can take a lot,” Villegas said. “And I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it over the last 2 1/2 months. Is she feeling pain? Yeah, she is. She keeps waking up the next day and looking at the TV, and she wants me to put some cartoons or something there. She’s feeling pain; she’s playing with her toys. I remember at the beginning she kept crying and playing. I didn’t really get that. I was like, How can you cry and play? But she wanted to play. So they are strong. They are strong. And it’s inspiring to watch. Tough, but inspiring.”

Villegas is playing this week on a medical extension. Asked what made him discuss the matter publicly, he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to. But when his agent called him to tell him he was giving his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday, he decided to address it.

“You’ve got to follow your instincts,” he said. “Honestly I don’t know if my instincts are to come play this week. It’s been weird. I don’t really know where my mind is. I know where my heart is, but you also have to listen to the people that love you. And that’s what my wife said, ‘Go out there and enjoy. Golf is what you’ve done over all these years and golf has given you so many great things,’ and little Mia has been inspiring these last few months to keep doing what we’re doing. That’s why I’m here.”

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