Camilo Villegas, born and raised in Medellin, Columbia, is one of the more colorful characters on the Nationwide Tour. Hes not afraid to get noticed. Hes not afraid to be himself. And hes not afraid to win.
Just one year out of college, Villegas swooped down on the Nationwide Tour as a Monday qualifier and since has lingered solidly in the center of the money list.
Hot out of the gates, he tied for second in his first Nationwide event at the BellSouth Panama Championship, but since has had his share of disappointments.
He held a share of the 54-hole lead at the Henrico County Open in Virginia but ultimately fell four shots short to Chad Collins. He bounced back to co-lead at the Rheem Classic in Arkansas, but again lost by 6 strokes to Chris Couchs final-round 60.
Thats tough to beat, shrugs Villegas.
But ever positive, he fiercely dedicates hours each day after his round to practice shots: We believe in ourselves, just be patient, keep trying, and keep working.
Camilo grew up playing golf with his dad in Columbia, where there are only 50 courses in the whole country. But thats more than Paraguay; it only has three courses, he says.
Golf is so small in Columbia, we dont have hardly any Columbian golfers, says Villegas. I feel so fortunate. It is such an amazing feeling to represent my country.
Medellin, for many people, is the capital of cocaine trafficking, Pablo Escobar and kidnappings.
There are social problems but nothing like people hear about on the news, says Villegas. People think that once I get off the plane, there is going to be a kidnapper waiting for me. People say, 'do you guys have cars there?' Its kind of funny what you hear.
Villegas just wishes he could get his fellow players down for a visit; they would fall in love with it, he insists.
At the root of Camilos strategy, and perhaps because of his cultural background, is an immovable belief that he will succeed. Its simply a matter of time and patience for this young hot-pants-wearing hot shot, who considers himself on the fast track to the PGA Tour.
Golf Channel analyst and PGA Tour winner Curt Byrum has kept an eye on Villegas all year. Byrum sees a self-taught feel player with amazing ball-striking ability, unique from the cookie-cutter players in the rest of the field.
I think he looks at himself, and believes deep down that hes good enough to play on the PGA Tour,' Byrum says.
Villegas got a taste of the big tour when he played in the U.S. Open last year, and he whole-heartedly agrees with Byrum. It may sound cocky but if youre not out here to win, why are you playing? says Villegas.
For University of Florida head coach Buddy Alexander, Villegas wasnt immediately a stand out. When he started the Florida golf program he was small, short off the tee and nothing special.
What I learned about Camilo was that he was the most dedicated, the most disciplined player that I have had in 25 years of coaching, says Alexander. He identified his weaknesses, he made himself stronger and bigger. He is one of the most competitive people Ive met in my life, whether it be in the class room or on the golf course or on a motor scooter.
According to Alexander, Camilos success will depend on how well he putts and above all, how he controls his emotions. Many see Villegas as a strong mental player who doesnt seem to be bothered by the little things, like the oft-missed 4-foot putts.
I think there are definitely things that get to him. His failures, or what he perceives as his failures, bother the hell out of him, says Alexander. That ultimately will be the factor in his success. Hes a perfectionist, make no mistake about it. That could be the one thing that drives him crazy.
Byrum noticed it as well: The thing thats holding him back is his poor putting when it really matters. He could have won twice this year if he had putted on Sunday.
Villegas retorts that he has worked hard on his putting and is not missing those short putts anymore.
And the media just needs to get over it. I look at my stats and I do need to improve my putting but the number of putts doesnt concern me. I just want to keep rolling putts and keep being patient,' he says.
Regardless of his battle with the game, Villegas is incredibly entertaining to watch. Whether its the Columbian crouch, where he practically lays on the ground to line up a putt, or his animated reactions to shots, good or bad.
Everybody loves Camilo, says Alexander. Theres a lot of little boy in Camilo. Hes mischievous, enjoys himself at appropriate times, he has a terrific sense of humor, likes to laugh and laughs all the time.
And what about the pants?
It makes packing fun! claims Villegas.
I dont think I ever show up to the golf course without a comment. If I wear black and black then Im too conservative; if I wear bright orange and yellow Im too loud, he laughs. Today I was wearing white and khaki, my caddie says I dont know how to find you with white and khaki. It makes things fun.