Some tournament victories just feel different.
Camilo Villegas’ triumph Sunday in the Bermuda Butterfield Championship, more than nine years and a life’s story full of personal events since his last PGA Tour win, is one of those.
When it was over and he had given a long look to the sky, Villegas stood with his arms open and let friends give him a champagne shower on the 18th green before he enjoyed a drink from the bottle that had sprayed him.
“What a ride, man,” Villegas said. “You know what? I love this game. 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 closed with a final-round 6-under 65 at Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, Bermuda, to finish at 24-under-par 260, two strokes better than Alex Noren.
The Bermuda event precedes this week’s RSM Classic on St. Simons Island, Georgia, the last of seven stops in the FedEx Cup Fall that will finalize the top 125 in eligibility for the 2024 PGA Tour season.
More than a decade ago, Villegas was one of the game’s stars. With his style, his aggressiveness and his Spiderman style of lining up putts, Villegas operated in a rare orbit for a time.
Then the golf got hard, life intruded and the story of Villegas the golfer felt as if it were written in past tense.
Villegas’ previous victory came at the 2014 Wyndham Championship, and he had not finished inside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup points race since 2016-17.
There were, however, bigger things happening in his life.
In 2020, Villegas and wife Maria’s 22-month-old daughter, Mia, died from brain cancer. The Villegases shared their story over their daughter’s final weeks, and the loss was felt beyond their family, resonating through the game.
It led to the creation of Mia’s Miracles, the Villegases’ foundation, which supports children and their families in Florida and his native Colombia who face unforeseen circumstances.
“My wife has been so busy with Mia's Miracles, working on the foundation, doing all this great stuff to change our kind of sad story to a positive to help others,” he said.
“So, I'm very, very happy for him and the way he played and the way he's handled his life after. It's remarkable.”
Though disappointed that he didn’t pick up his first PGA Tour victory, Noren appreciated what the victory meant for Villegas.
“I know what he's been through, and it's terrible what happened to him and his family, so I'm so happy for him. I've got kids of my own, and I know how – I can't imagine.
The satisfied smile on Villegas’ face when he finished his victory in Bermuda spoke to the work he’s put in as a 41-year-old to regain what he had years ago. He began working with swing coach Jose Campra in early 2023, and the payoff has come in the past two weeks.
Before winning in Bermuda, Villegas tied for second at the World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico.
“He was very honest with me,” Villegas said. “He said, ‘I need a year.’ I was like, ‘Wow, man, I've got to play.’ He said, ‘I don't care what kind of status you have at the end of the year. We're going to grind, and hopefully golf becomes a little bit easier than it's been the last few years,’” Villegas said.
The victory, his sixth on the PGA Tour, gives Villegas full tour status through 2025 with various other perks including a spot in the Masters next year.
“I’ve never felt so comfortable playing in the heat than the last couple weeks,” Villegas said. “When we started, he said I believe you can win again on the PGA Tour. I’m not sure I believed him, to be honest, but here we are.”
Ron Green Jr.