Camilo Villegas: Gator Golfer is PGA Tour's Mr. Two-Bits
Following him for some holes, thoughts went through my mind as to how I might attract his glance.
Playing with K.J. Choi only increased the size of the gallery even though it was only a practice round.
But surely he'd know. We shared something in common. Would he notice? Or was I just looking for a way to get some attention.
These and more raced through my head on that day in 2005.
The PGA Championship was being played at Baltusrol Country Club in Springfield, New Jersey. The Yankee Stadium (Old) of the tour has hosted one major after another over its long and storied history.
As a teacher who caddies during the summer months, a parent of one of my students had given me some passes for the Wednesday practice round.
We saw Tiger warming up at the range during rooster calling time. Saw all the big names, but settled on following Camilo Villegas and K.J.
Mostly Villegas though.
I had something to say to him. To ask. To see if a connection could be made. To see how far its tentacles reached. Maybe even a language barrier could be broken.
When I told my friend of my plan, he didn't think I had the guts to pull it off. Not that I'm some gunslinger. Wasn't like I was asking Megan Fox for an autograph or anything.
Didn't matter to me, though; it was more.
As the holes mounted, my chances began to slim.
Then we came to hole No. 3.
Both Villegas and Choi hit their tee shots into the major tournament rough. And both wanted to try to hit out in order to familiarize themselves for the other rough shots that were inevitable in a tournament of this magnitude.
As my friend and I scrambled to get as close to their shots as possible, I was amazed at the length and dampness of the long Baltusrol grass.
How in the world are they going to advance their next shots.
First came Choi whose mighty side-way slash with some wedge moved the ball about 50 yards.
Satisfied enough, he gave way to Villegas.
On his way to his lie, he waved off his caddy who tried to follow along.
"Sand wedge," was the only thing I could distinguish.
And then, "Whack."
Nothing but a weak pop as the ball squirted straight up, the wedge sliding underneath the ball in the bushy rough.
"Now, Mike." Tommy implored me. We were only a few feet away. Just a gallery rope and an arm length.
"Camilio?" I called. "Mr. Two-Bits!"
At that he stopped in his tracks. He had been had. Been found out. Someone knew.
And that someone was me, calling to him to recall his days in Gainesville as a Florida Gator. The same call that would help him to approach that shot with a bit more vim and vigor, extricating the ball out in a way that would make any Swamp Thing proud to call him one of our own?
Afterward, as he walked down the fairway, I thought I noticed a bit more of a swagger in his step.
He looked my way later as he approached the green, pointed, and gave me a little knowing wink.
I thought of that day today as I read the news of his victory yesterday at the Honda Classic.
Because he's a Gator first and a golfer second.