Villegas surprises young fans in Colombia
February 08, 2020
By Sean Wildhack, PGATOUR.COM
- February 08, 2020
Camilo Villegas surprises 15-year old to play Bogota Championship pro-am
For one week a year, the golf fans of Colombia descend upon the Country Club de Bogotá to see the next generation of PGA TOUR stars compete at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Country Club de Bogotá Championship. The tournament, playing for the 11th time this season, is the pinnacle of professional golf in the country.
For the first time in tournament history, Colombia native and four-time PGA TOUR winner, Camilo Villegas, is in the field at the Country Club de Bogotá Championship. The 38-year-old is returning from a shoulder injury that sidelined him from the game for nearly two years. With their fellow countryman in the field, golf fans were awarded the opportunity to watch Villegas compete in Colombia.
After opening rounds of 64 and 65, Villegas held a share of the 36-hole lead. Thousands of fans lined the fairways at the Country Club de Bogotá throughout the week to watch their hero compete.
Watching the greatest golfer from Colombia was a special moment for most, but for one fan this week, the experience was different.
When Villegas committed to the Country Club de Bogotá Championship, sponsors and members reached out with hopes of playing the Pro-Am with their hometown hero. Despite countless calls and emails, Tournament Officials decided to take a different approach. The staff paired Villegas with three Colombian children for the tournament’s Wednesday Pro-Am. Three kids were going to play 18 holes with their idol.
“Three kids from different walks of life had the opportunity to play with Camilo Villegas,” said Tournament Director Eileen Vargas. “It’s something we want to reinforce; we want to have juniors playing tournaments and experiencing our event. We want to show kids that there are opportunities for them here in Colombia.”
One of those kids to play Villegas was Shelsea Vera. An aspiring junior golfer who calls Bucaramanga, Colombia home.
Growing up from humble means, Vera did not always have the resources to actively pursue a career in golf. She taught herself English by watching TV shows and listening to music. The teenager keeps up to date with the PGA TOUR through online outlets such as YouTube and Facebook. Unfortunately, a cable subscription is not an option for her or her family.
Vera has always had appreciation for the game of golf. With some persuasion from her a childhood friend, she played for the first time at a public course in her hometown years ago. From there, she fell in love with sport and could not get enough of it.
Vera would arrive at the course at 6:00 a.m. to practice and play throughout the day. When she wasn’t playing, she was practicing her swing at home by watching YouTube videos of PGA TOUR stars.
Last year, Vera competed in a national junior tournament in Bogotá with the support and funding of her local community.
“Shelsea’s a great girl, a great player too and a great human being,” Villegas said. “Some are more fortunate when it comes to life, but she’s getting a great opportunity here. It’s awesome, what a great day for her.”
Vera knew she would be playing in the Country Club de Bogotá Pro-Am but was unaware she’d be playing with Villegas. The club arranged for Vera and two other junior golfers to come to Bogotá for the experience of a lifetime.
“My experience was just like, ‘wow’,” Vera said. “Camilo Villegas is a very very good golfer and I never thought he would play with me. I was thoroughly, surprised.”
After the tournament, life will continue for Vera and her family. Despite a stellar junior golf career so far, Veras aspires to be a photographer and study languages in college.
“My message is don’t give up, never give up,” Vera said on Wednesday after the Pro-Am. “Your dreams will come true one day if you try and show people you can and want to.”