Why PGA Tour pros are wearing rainbow ribbons at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational
At its very best the PGA Tour community is a tight-knit group that can rally around a common cause for the greater good. This week, that means coming together to support one of its own and showing solidarity in wake of a heartbreaking loss.
Nearly every Tour player — plus caddies and tournament staff members — has been wearing a rainbow ribbon on his hat at this week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational to honor the daughter of longtime Tour pro Camilo Villegas. His daughter passed away last weekend at 22 months old after fighting tumors on her brain and spine.
The ribbons were available on the first tee for players to pin on, according to a photo tweeted out by the PGA Tour.
“Camillo Villegas’ daughter Mia tragically passed from cancer on Sunday. These ribbons are available to all players, caddies and staff to honor Mia, who loved rainbows,” read the note posted by the Tour.
Ben An was among those wearing a ribbon and spoke to it after his round.
“I’ve got a boy in my house that’s six months old and it’s heartbreaking. It’s so hard to imagine what they’re going through, myself as a father of my son. Hope they stay strong and then hopefully we’ll see him back soon. But I feel so sorry for them.”
When they noticed Mia wasn’t playing as she normally did, the Villegas’ took Mía to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami for scans, which is when doctors discovered the tumors. The next months were a combination of surgeries and chemotherapy.
Villegas opened up about his daughter’s battle when he returned to competition at the Korn Ferry Tour Challenge at TPC Sawgrass in June. He had mixed feelings about competing, he said, but was inspired by his daughter.
“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 at the time. “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.”
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan released a statement on Monday grieving the loss.
“The PGA Tour is deeply saddened having lost a member of our family, Mia Villegas,” he said. “We grieve with Camilo and Maria and our thoughts and prayers are with the Villegas family.”