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June 15, 2004

Oscar Alvarez

Camilo Villegas


RAND JERRIS: Pleasure to be joined in the interview area by Camilo Villegas and Oscar Alvarez. Both are playing in their first United States Open Championship. Maybe you could just start off, each of you, with a few words about what it means to be the first players from Columbia to play in a United States Open.

OSCAR ALVAREZ: Just the fact to be here it is awesome with all these good players. There's a lot of kids always watching the U.S. Open on TV, and now that I've got the chance to play it just feels awesome.

CAMILO VILLEGAS: It's pretty special, especially the fact that it's my first professional tournament. I'm really looking forward to it, a lot of great players, a lot of history, a great tournament, and hopefully we can get out there and shoot some good numbers and just have fun.

RAND JERRIS: Tell me a little bit about your decision to turn professional at this time.

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, I got my degree, so that was good, and it's time to get moving. Golf is what I love to do, and hopefully it will bring me some good stuff from here on.

RAND JERRIS: Both of you have had some experience playing in the World Amateur Championship and some other major national amateur events. How will those experiences contribute to what you're facing when you go out on the golf course this week?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I think that's one of the good things about Columbia, the fact that you get to play a lot of international tournaments, get to represent your country a lot and obviously get a feel for those type of tournaments. It's a good experience. I mean, it's getting to know different golf courses, different countries and different styles of golf. This is pretty special here, pretty different than what we're used to, but I'm sure we'll have fun.

OSCAR ALVAREZ: Well, I think playing this tournament representing Columbia definitely helps, but nothing like this. Playing the U.S. Open is something I always dream about, and now that I'm here, it's just really good.

RAND JERRIS: Can you tell us a little bit about golf in Columbia?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, we've got 50 golf courses, so soccer is the sport there. Not many people play golf, and we're fortunate enough to represent our country and we're thrilled to be right here with all the good players, the best players in the world, one of the best tournaments, and we're looking forward to it.

RAND JERRIS: Why don't you give us your background as to what made you decide to take up the game of golf in a soccer country like Columbia.

OSCAR ALVAREZ: I took it up when I was five years old just because my parents do. There's no public course in Columbia. There's only one but it's in the capital, and I'm from a city where there's only four clubs. Because both my parents play golf, that's the way I got into it.

CAMILO VILLEGAS: It's kind of the same with me. My dad started playing golf, and I just would go with him on the weekends and just started playing a couple junior tournaments, won a couple tournaments when I was young, and that helps. I mean, it's fun to win. That's why we are here.

Just playing the game, winning some international tournaments, representing my country. Then I decided to go to Florida and get my degree and play some golf, and it's been fun.

RAND JERRIS: Oscar, pretty good year this year. Your team finished Top 10 NCAA. You got better this year, then last year. You got everybody back. Any chance you might turn professional and not go back to BYU?

OSCAR ALVAREZ: I think I'm going to finish my school. I've got two more years. I mean, you never know, but right now I don't think so. I'm just going to get my degree and when I get out of school turn pro.

Q. When Mike Weir won The Masters, he kind of captivated the country of Canada and Se Ri Pak has had a similar effect on Korea. How is this being received at home and do both of you feel comfortable in the world being role models for the Columbian generations to come growing up playing golf?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: It's pretty special. The first time a Columbian plays in an Open and it's two of us. It's my first tournament as a professional, and the entire country is following us. I mean, it's good.

You know, Columbia, a lot of bad news for Columbia. It's a great country but you guys get all the bad news here. If we can do something to bring some good news, that's one of my main goals.

OSCAR ALVAREZ: When I play everybody is talking about it there, asking us is this the first time a Columbian is playing the U.S. Open. It's pretty special just to be here.

Q. Have either one of you heard from some significant people in Columbia congratulating you on your success so far in getting into the Open, say government people or sports personalities or entertainment people?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: The media has been pretty special. They've been following us, they've been tracking our progress. I've had a couple letters from some government people, not related to this tournament exactly, but I'm sure they know what's happening and they're rooting for us.

RAND JERRIS: Anything special or significant that happened in either the local or sectional qualifying, any good stories?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, finishing bogey, bogey, par didn't help. It made my wait a little bit longer.

OSCAR ALVAREZ: For me I played in the morning, I shot 68. I was leading by 4. Then in the afternoon I shot 77. I finished bogey, bogey my last two holes. Obviously I didn't think I would make it after shooting 77. But in the playoff I made par and he made bogey, so that was pretty exciting.

Q. How many practice rounds have you played so far and tell me who you've played with and what you observed from those professionals you played with.

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, I played with Oscar yesterday, and today I played with Dudley Hart, Chris DiMarco and the front nine with Briny Baird, and let me tell you, we laughed a lot. They're funny guys. We had a lot of fun. I obviously learned a lot, but we had a good time.

OSCAR ALVAREZ: I played today with Bill Haas, Jay Haas and Bob McKenzie. It was pretty good way to -- the way Jay Haas hit the ball was pretty good.

Q. Can you compare this golf course to any course that you've played in your short careers?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Not really. It's pretty special, pretty unique. It's funny, a lot of holes you just look at the green. You don't even look at the flag. On 11 you just get the ball on the green. On 7 you don't look at the flag, you just get the ball on the green. It's different golf.

I don't remember the last two days having a shot like 110 yards and playing it 110 yards. You're always trying to bounce your ball ten yards short, to the left, to the right. It's pretty different.

OSCAR ALVAREZ: We play tough golf courses at home but nothing like this. This is the toughest golf course I've ever played, just perfect, good shape. It's pretty different than anything else I've played before.

Q. What about the all the amenities that are around a golf championship like this, the locker room, people taking care of you? Can you compare this experience to anything else that you've received up to this point?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Not really, and let me.

OSCAR ALVAREZ: It only motivates me to work harder. It's pretty special and just what I want. I'll just work hard to be part of this thing more often.

CAMILO VILLEGAS: This is something I always wanted to be, and now that I'm here and have the chance to play the tournament, I'm just going to go there and do my best.

RAND JERRIS: Thanks for taking some time to join us today. We wish you both lots of luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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