‘I got my little one up there’: Camilo Villegas gets emotional win in Bermuda
He lagged his birdie putt on the finishing hole at Port Royal Golf Course to just a foot below the cup and when he realized what it meant, Villegas closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
It was a sigh of relief.
He tapped in the final putt for a six-under 65 to win the Bermuda Championship by two and looked to the sky. Time was standing still. This win meant a whole lot more.
This win was for Mia.
“Tough to put into words right now,” Villegas told Golf Channel. “I love this game. This game has given me so many great things, but in the process, it kicks your butt. Life has given me so many great things, but in the process, it kicks my butt too.”
The win is the first in nine years for the 41-year-old Colombian, however, that time passed far slower for Villegas.
The first two of his now five PGA Tour wins came in back-to-back weeks at the end of the 2008 season when he won both the BMW Championship and Tour Championship. He reached a career-best 7th in the Official World Golf Ranking and even added a follow-up win at the 2010 Honda Classic.
Then his game fell on harder times. He logged a fourth win at the 2014 Wyndham, but between 2012 and 2018, he missed 62 out of 170 cuts on the PGA Tour and then had major shoulder surgery that sidelined him from golf until 2020.
But none of that compared to what happened in his personal life.
While at the Honda Classic in 2020, Villegas, who lives in Florida but was playing a season on the Korn Ferry Tour, noticed something was wrong with Mia. He and his wife Maria took Mia to the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami for scans to see why the 18-month-old was crying more at night and even when she was playing.
A team of doctors told them the news no parents ever want to hear: Mia had cancerous tumors on her brain and spine.
They started treatment, but by July, at just 22 months old, Mia was gone.
However, Villegas didn’t quit, after Mia’s passing. He made several starts on the Korn Ferry Tour in the remainder of 2020 and then returned to the PGA Tour in 2021 on a major medical extension.
After two disappointing seasons, he was relegated to the Korn Ferry Tour for this season. He managed to get in 11 PGA Tour events this season before this week, but until last week’s World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico, he made just three cuts, failing to place better than a tie for 48th in either.
But then in Cabo, the old Villegas returned. The swagger, the stingers, the shot-making. Had Erik van Royen not made his 25-footer for eagle on the last at El Cardonal to slam the door shut, Villegas would have had an eagle try of his own to force a playoff.
It was his best finish on the PGA Tour since 2016 and he arrived in Bermuda with more of the same.
After three rounds, he was one back of Alex Noren at 18 under. Then he took the lead early in the final round with four birdies in five holes. He coasted through the middle of the round as Noren and other chasers failed to stay at 22 under.
But on 15, Villegas stepped up. With Noren knocking his approach within five feet at the par 4, Villegas dropped his second inside the Swede to stay a shot ahead. On 17, he put the tournament on ice when he got up and down from the short-sided bunker for birdie on the par 5 as Noren could only muster a par.
“I never felt so comfortable being in contention like I did the last couple weeks, to be honest,” Villegas said. “It’s kind of weird, it’s kind of strange. Even when I was in contention back in the day, yeah, a few years ago, 10 or more, I didn’t have this calmness. I’ve got to really analyze what happened the last couple weeks, try to replicate more often.
Now, after finishing the regular season outside the top 200 in the FedEx Cup and playing much of the season on the Korn Ferry Tour, Villegas’s PGA Tour card is secure for the next two seasons. Before last week, he was set to fly out Monday for the second stage of Q-School. Now he doesn’t need to compete for his card at all.
That’s sure to be popular in the golf world as he has always been a fan favorite, stemming from his signature “Spider-Man” pose to read putts. That support never waivered over the years.
“The support has been unbelievable,” Villegas said. “I must have got 500 text messages [last week]. I didn’t even win the golf tournament. I felt the energy, it kept building up.
After Villegas holed out on 18, his friends rushed to shower him in champagne. He put his arms out and let it happen.
Maria and their almost two-year-old son Mateo weren’t there, but Villegas said he knew Mateo was jumping up and down with excitement watching from home. He wasn’t the only one.
“I got my little one up there,” he said, again looking to the sky, “watching it, smiling. She’s where she needs to be after a long fight.”
After a long fight of his own, Villegas is where he needs to be too.