Sometimes, Camilo Villegas admits, he doesn’t look at his tattoos as often as he should.
The one on his left arm says “attitude” and the one on the right says “positive energy.” There’s a lot that can’t be controlled in life, but those things can be.
You can’t control the loss of a child at just 22 months. Villegas’ daughter Mia died in July 2020 after a four-month fight against tumors on her brain and spine.
You can’t control injuries and on-course struggles that very nearly sent Villegas back to Q-School. Until last week, he was signed up for Second Stage of PGA Tour Q-School presented by Korn Ferry. His runner-up result at the World Wide Technology Championship earned him a spot in Final Stage. But there were no guarantees he’d have a full TOUR schedule again.
But Villegas controlled the way he played Sunday at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. He controlled his emotions. He controlled the ball with pinpoint accuracy. And after a 6-under 65 – his second 65 in a row and tied for the second-lowest final-round score at Port Royal Golf Course – he returned to the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour.
Nine years – and one tragic loss – since his last Tour title.
“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 and in the process it kicks my butt, too,” Villegas said on the 18th green after his win. “I felt the energy. You know what, it kept building up. Everybody here on the island was great, they were just rooting me on. Got to believe in energy, man.
“I've got my little one up there watching it, smiling. She's where she needs to be after a long fight.”
Villegas and his wife Maria converted their existing charitable foundation into “Mia’s Miracles,” which supports children and families that are enduring similar medical struggles, after their daughter passed away just over three years ago. The couple had a son in December 2021, Mateo. He was born at 7:56 a.m.
Mia had been born at 7:56 p.m.
“I believe Mia sends me little messages from time to time and this was one of them,” Maria told Jupiter Magazine last year. “So, I knew everything was going to be OK.”
While Villegas was a four-time winner on the PGA TOUR – and while golf was the furthest thing on his mind through 2020 and early 2021 – there was still work to be done on the course to keep his Tour status. He had missed seven of 11 cuts this season and 13 of 26 cuts last season. He missed 10 cuts in 18 Korn Ferry Tour starts this season, as well.
He gave broadcasting a try, making his Golf Channel debut at the Wyndham Championship earlier this year. His desire to keep competing initially prompted him to turn down the offer from veteran broadcaster Steve Sands.
“The reality is that I am getting older,” he said at the time. “I'm 41, you don't see too many 40-somethings winning on the PGA Tour. I have been struggling first with an injury and then trying to get back into top form. And your reaction is – because you know, they are seeing your career wind down a little bit – but your heart doesn't want it that way; you want to keep competing. So that's the reason why my reaction was the way it was.”
This Sunday in Bermuda, however, you did see a 40-something win on the PGA TOUR – and it was Villegas himself. He was dialed in with his irons, leading the field in greens in regulation for the week. His Friday 63 got him firmly in the mix, and after a Saturday 65 he found himself in the final group on Sunday for the second week in a row.
Almost a decade ago, when he won the 2014 Wyndham Championship – his last Tour title before this week – Villegas was still in his early 30s. He was still trying to press and grow and take advantage of his prime. Things are much different now. And, mentally, he’s never felt more at peace.
“I never felt so comfortable being in contention like I did the last couple weeks, to be honest. It's kind of weird, it's kind of strange. Even when I was in contention back in the day, few years ago, 10 or more, I didn't have this calmness,” Villegas said. “The game of golf is about taking advantage of certain streaks and this one is one that started last week, played great this week.”
Villegas’ great play means he receives the usual winners’ perks. He jumped all the way to No. 75 in the FedExCup Fall standings, and another good week at The RSM Classic could mean a spot in The Next 10 and starts at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and The Genesis Invitational. He’s also set for his first start at THE PLAYERS Championship since 2016.
Villegas was a captain’s assistant for International Team Captain Trevor Immelman at the 2022 Presidents Cup, and while he admitted it was too early to think about potentially playing on next year’s Presidents Cup team, he said he wanted to “continue to be part of that International Team forever.”
Adam Scott, a long-time friend and fellow International Team staple, couldn’t be happier.
“The last couple weeks has been incredible, so I’m stoked for Camilo,” Scott said. “He’s such a positive guy. To see him playing well again is nice for an old mate.”
Positivity. Light from darkness. A win from great loss.
“You’ve got to have a good attitude in life,” Villegas said, “easier said than done at times.”
Villegas smiled and had a champagne-soaked celebration with a half-dozen Latin players on the 18th green at Port Royal Golf Club, then looked up at the sky. A win as a husband. A win as a father.
A win for Mia.