Camilo Villegas is carrying his daughter with him wherever he goes — and sometimes, nature steps in to make that reality even richer.
During a Thursday interview following his round at the RSM Classic on St. Simons Island, Georgia, the professional golfer recalled seeing a natural phenomenon that morning that reminded him of Mia, who died in July at 22 months old after a battle with brain and spine cancer.
"It was kind of nice this morning," said Villegas, 38. "I got on the range and see a little rainbow out there. I start thinking about Mia and said, 'Hey, let's have a good one.' Nice to have [my brother] Manny on the bag and yes, it was a good ball-striking round, it was a great putting round."
"I was pretty free all day," added the athlete, who is currently in second place in the tournament that lasts until Sunday. "It's tough to be free under these conditions, but I found a way to do it."
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Golfer Camilo Villegas Reveals His Daughter, 20 Months, Has Brain and Spine Tumors
Villegas went on to say he got "a little bit" emotional when he said his daughter's name during the interview — but when he's "out there" on the range, "I'm so focused, there's so much going on, especially under these conditions. I'm there with my brother and you just follow a process."
"I'm not going to say it doesn't distract me, but like I said, when I got on the range and I saw a rainbow [I thought], 'Hey, listen, here it is,' " he continued. "She loved colors and rainbows and my wife was all about it. And it was cool. It was a nice way to start the day."
"I can't change the past and since I can't change the past, I've got to focus on the present," Villegas said. "It's not about forgetting because you never forget your daughter, but it's about being in the moment, being in the now. and this is my now."
"It's not with her but it is with her at the same time, so you've just got to stick to the process," he added.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan issued a statement in July about the golfer's loss, confirming that Mia had died in Miami. "The PGA Tour is deeply saddened having lost a member of our family, Mia Villegas," said Monahan. "We grieve with Camilo and Maria and our thoughts and prayers are with the Villegas family."
Villegas revealed the previous month that his only child, whom he shared with wife Maria, had tumors on her brain and spine and would be receiving a second round of chemotherapy. The four-time PGA Tour winner shared that Mia was diagnosed in March and had a surgical procedure, followed by more treatments, and also opened up about noticing something was wrong earlier this year.
"She always went to the gym with me; it was one of our bonding spots," Villegas recalled at the time. "She was always like a little monkey, climbing on everything. But then one day, I noticed she had not been climbing on anything. She had also been crying a little more than normal at night. She had been teething, so we took her to the pediatrician, thinking it was that."
"After the surgery, when it was time to remove the stitches, they learned the growth had become pretty aggressive," he said. "We were told we needed to start treatment right away, so they kept us there. Physically, though, she wasn't ready to get the kind of chemo doctors were hoping for."
As Mia underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, Villegas said that she remained "really tough."
"It's not easy, but I have actually seen Mia playing while she's crying," he said. "She does want to play. She's a kid. She's young and naïve, but she's also really tough. We just don't know. The doctors explained that sometimes the tumors grow fast and disappear fast."
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