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Spider-Man returns: Camilo Villegas victorious at 2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship, first win as a father and first PGA Tour win since 2014
Just over three years after his 22-month-old daughter died from cancer, Camilo Villegas won for the first time on the PGA Tour in more than nine years.
“My little one up there, she’s watching,” he said during a post-round interview on Golf Channel. “She’s where she needs to be after a long fight.”
The 41-year-old native of Colombia closed in 6-under 65 at Port Royal Golf Course on Sunday to clip Sweden’s Alex Noren by two strokes and win the Butterfield Bermuda Championship in Southampton, Bermuda, his first victory in 3,374 days at the 2014 Wyndham Championship.
Villegas, who once reached as high as No. 7 in the world and had dipped to No. 752 at the beginning of this month, had not recorded a top-10 finish since the 2021 Honda Classic before receiving a sponsor exemption into the World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico and finishing T-2 to earn his way into this week’s event.
Prior to last week, he had planned to compete at second stage of Q-School, a tournament he hadn’t needed to play since 2004. Villegas had struggled with injuries, including shoulder surgeries, in recent years and ranked 223rd in the FedEx Cup standings before his strong performance in Mexico. In August, he did a tryout as a TV commentator on the Golf Channel.
“As a competitor, as a golfer, you never want to be done,” he told Golfweek ahead of his debut.
In February, he began working with instructor Jose Campra, who also caddies for pro Sebastian Munoz, on a major swing overhaul and Villegas had seen signs of progress.
“He told me when we started, you know what, I think you’re going to win again on the PGA Tour,” Villegas recalled. “I’m not sure I believed him, to be honest, but here we are.”
He added: “Nine years, where you kind of stop believing at times, but I never stopped waking up early and putting in the work.”
Of all the adversity he faced, nothing compared to dealing with the death of young Mia, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2020.
“She was always a little monkey around the gym, and I noticed she wasn’t being the little monkey she always was,” he said in June 2020. “I don’t know why, I just kind of got a bad feeling…You don’t need 10 doctors to tell you the good news.”
Since Mia’s death, he and wife Maria have devoted their energy into Mia’s Miracles, a foundation they formed to help other families dealing with pediatric cancer.
“My wife has been so busy with Mia’s Miracles – it’s become her mission in life – doing all this great stuff to change our kind of sad story to a positive to help others,” Villegas said last week.
The Villegas’s welcomed son Mateo in late 2021. Father and son dressed up for Halloween as police officers and mom was a bank robber. Young Mateo also wore a Spider-Man costume to a Halloween party, an homage to his father who frequently stretched out on all fours to study his putts near grass-level and earned the Spider-Man nickname.
Despite his prolonged slump, Villegas enjoyed the challenge of Spider-Man’s return, tattooing the words ‘positive energy’ on his right wrist and ‘attitude’ on his left.
“There’s a lot of things you can’t control in life, but I guess these two you can,” he said. “The game comes and bites you, so, I’ve been trying to let the game be the game and let my mind be calm and at peace. It’s been pretty good the last couple weeks, so let’s keep it going.”
On Sunday, the wind, which is the main defense at Port Royal, shifted directions and blew the hardest it had all week out of the west but it didn’t bother Villegas. He reeled off three birdies in a row starting at the third, including a 25-footer at No. 4. Noren, the overnight leader, kept pace with a birdie at No. 6 but made bogeys at nine and 10, his first since the fifth hole of the first round on Thursday and just his second and third bogeys all week. He shot 68 and finished second for the third time on Tour. Villegas clung to the lead, answering with birdies at 15 and 17, to finish with a 72-hole total of 24-under 260. It marked his fifth career Tour title and his ninth consecutive round in the 60s, the most in his career. He had played a total of 8,496 holes since his previous victory.
“I felt the energy building up,” he said. “To everyone who has supported me on my journey, I just want to say thanks.”
Source: Golf Week