Camilo Villegas plays with a heavy heart and 3 other stories you might’ve missed
While a star-packed field battled at Colonial as the PGA Tour returned, there were other intriguing storylines playing out elsewhere in the golf world. Here are four stories you might’ve missed.
Shad Tuten delivers a career-best finish at Sawgrass
Shad Tuten birdied four out of his final five holes at Dye’s Valley course at TPC Sawgrass as he recorded his career-best T2 finish at the Korn Ferry Challenge. If you don’t know who Tuten is, you’re forgiven, but the Korn Ferry Tour rookie has an interesting career arc thus far culminating in last week’s finish.
As golfers navigate the intricacies of this coronavirus pandemic, it’s interesting to note that Tuten, arguably, is only a professional golfer because of a different pandemic. Tuten was a star high school basketball player a decade ago when he became infected with the H1N1 virus — swine flu — during his senior year. He lost 25 pounds battling the disease and missed out on a majority of his senior season. So he shifted his focus to golf. Collegiate golf at Darton College and Armstrong State followed before Tuten turned pro and worked his way up to the Korn Ferry Tour this year.
Then, another pandemic hit and paused the 27-year-old’s rookie season. In his long-awaited return to play, Tuten capitalized.
Joseph Bramlett speaks on social injustice, finishes runner up
Golf can be a homogenous sport — especially on the PGA Tour — but there is still some minority representation in the game’s upper ranks. Harold Varner III got most of the spotlight this week in that regard as he contended at Colonial as the country experiences civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s death. But Joseph Bramlett is another Black PGA Tour member who used his platform this week to speak on the country’s current events.
“Honestly, it was a ticking time bomb,” Bramlett said after his first round at the Korn Ferry Challenge. “And I think that brought what people would chalk up to being black urban legends, it brought it right into their living rooms, and people were forced to see it, to face it and to think about it … And it pissed a lot of us off.”
Bramlett, who is biracial, went on to explain that he’s been reflecting on his heritage in the past few weeks.
“I’m in a unique place where I’m mixed — I’m white and I’m black,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve been raised with. I’ve grown up to and was taught a lot about some of the challenges the black community faces in this country. For me, I thought unfortunately the murder wasn’t really that surprising. I really just kind of sat and thought about how grateful I was to be in the position I’m in, in this world.”
The thoughtful commentary on the current state of affairs were a huge plus on the week for Bramlett as he took his strength to the course and posted a T2 finish at Dye’s Valley course.
Camillo Villegas plays with a heavy heart
Even as the return to golf was marked by celebration and jubilee, there was some somber news from the Korn Ferry Tour. Camilo Villegas announced early in the week that his 20-month-old daughter Mia has been battling brain and spine tumors over the past several months. The battle has been difficult for the Villegas family, but he decided to play the Korn Ferry Challenge anyway in a effort to find peace during this difficult time.
“We’ve got no other option than to be strong and to support (Mia) and to send her good energy,” Villegas said. “This is not about feeling sorry for the Villegas family, this is about sending the Villegas family good energy, support and inspiration. That’s what Mia has been doing for me the last couple months.”
Villegas shaved his head in solidarity with his daughter during the week. The 38-year-old started strong on Dye’s Valley course with an opening-round 67, but he faded into the weekend and settled for a T33 finish.
Canadian Tour cancels season amid coronavirus pandemic
This news came several weeks ago, but it deserves a note in this column nonetheless. The Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, one of the PGA Tour’s development tours, announced they have canceled their season as a result of travel restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic.
“With growing uncertainty surrounding the border and the 14-day quarantine regulations, among other factors, we’ve weighed all of our options and concluded that it is not feasible to play this summer,” Mackenzie Tour executive director Scott Pritchard said in a release.
However, another PGA Tour development circuit, PGA Tour Latinoamérica, informed their players in an email that the decision to cancel play north of the border will not affect its season, and they plan to release their schedule in June.