Soccer is by far the major sport in this South American country. Golf is barely visible on the radar, only a blip far, far below soccer. Medellin is a city of more than 1.6 million, a large city by anyones standards - but it has four golf courses, and one of those is just nine holes.
Today, Camilo is a rookie on the PGA Tour, and what he has done is a great source of pride for all Colombians living in the U.S. He finished in a tie for second at Phoenix, and last week he finished just a shot behind Tiger Woods at Doral. He stands 14th on the money list with better than $820,000 in earnings.
Hes an incredible player, said Phil Mickelson, and that assessment was endorsed by Woods. Obviously, just a bunch of talent and playing great, agreed Tiger. He's got a bright future ahead of him.
Who is this guy who is reed-thin, wears the same bright clothes as Charles Howell, Jesper Parnevik or Ian Poulter, gets down nearly in a prone position to read putts, and who utilizes the simple putting philosophy of look at the hole, hit it? Its Camilo Villegas, 5-feet-9, 160 pounds. Its Villegas, who wore a pink shirt Saturday (makes packing fun, he said). Its Villegas, who was awakened one morning at Doral at 4:50 a.m. by a faulty fire alarm (throw on two pillows and stay there ' I aint getting up.)
And its Villegas, who thrilled the throngs at Doral when he stood around signing autographs as long as there were people who cared enough to want one.
You know what - I saw Phil one time signing a lot of autographs at TPC (Players Championship), Camilo said. I think the crowds like him a lot.
They were awesome out there (in support of Villegas in Miami.) They were awesome. They were yelling, they were screaming, and they were just motivating me and supporting me. I guess that's the least I can do to give them a little back.
Miami, of course, has a large international population, and the big Latino gallery was ecstatic at the play of the 24-year-old.
Oh, it was just unbelievable, said Villegas. It's hard to describe in words. I knew there were there Colombian people in Miami, but I didn't know there were that many. It was really fun and they motivated me.
I think I've learned to like big crowds. I played with Michelle Wie in Hawaii and that felt great, and FBR (Phoenix) - biggest crowds of the year, that felt awesome. This week, very exciting crowd and I felt good again and played well. So, I like it, I enjoy it.
Colombia ' and particularly Medellin - is unfortunately best known to Americans for its drug situation. Thats terribly unfair - I know several Colombian people who have immigrated to the U.S. and, without fail, all despise the drug traffickers. We in the U.S. have no shame for the millions of our fellow Americans who smoke, snort or swallow the garbage and who provide a ready market for the South American pushers.
But the people of Colombia are tarred with the same paintbrush as the minority of the population who deal the drugs. And the great majority find it to be a great source of embarrassment. They need someone to be role model for them in the America. Camilo Villegas, perhaps?
Villegas is a willing guinea pig, if the people from south of the border need a bright new face to be their idol. A television channel in Colombia has just secured rights to telecast the final round of 30 U.S. tournaments this year. Camilo may make sports fans in the country forget soccer for the moment and tune in to golf.
It's awesome, he said in near-perfect English last week. If there's anything I can do to grow the sport in Columbia and give some people some smiles, that's what I'm here for.
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