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February 1, 2006

Camilo Villegas


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Camilo, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the FBR Open. First time here in Phoenix. You had an opportunity to play yesterday. Talk about coming here and how exciting it is to be beginning your rookie career out here.

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, very great things about this tournament. I've watched it on TV many times, and I'm happy to be here. I thank them for giving me a chance to be out here and get the year started with this event. Like I said, I've heard great things about it. I'm really looking forward to it, and hopefully we'll have a good one.

Q. Talk a little bit about how you got your sponsor's exemption and how you found out about it and where you were when you got the call?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I was actually in Colombia, and I was happy. Like I said, I've heard great things about the event, and I've watched it on TV many times. It's nice from the sponsors to give me a chance to be out here, and hopefully have a good week, hopefully help the tournament in some way and have a fun week.

Q. Do you remember what you were doing when you found out? Were you out fishing or playing golf or did you get it on your cell phone?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I was taking it easy back in Colombia, nice time off. I just got an email, and I saw it. It was a good moment.

Q. Do you expect to play in more of these, or do you have an idea to make a few of these exemptions through the year, play in some PGA events?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Hopefully I don't need too many. Hopefully I can play well and get a good spot in the shuffle, good in many events. If not, hopefully I can get some spots, too, and prove something, play well, and we'll be all right at the end of the year.

Q. Where else do you know that you have a good chance to get in the field? What else is on your schedule so far?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: With invites, I don't know. I've just got to take it one day at a time. I know IMG is working on those, and I know I'll go ahead and make some calls. But like I said, hopefully I'll play well and I don't need to rely on too many sponsor invites.

Q. Any idea where your status will get you in, like Honda or

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Next few weeks I'm going to get into AT & T next week, probably won't get into Nissan. I'll get into Tucson. And then there's the reshuffle. I've just got to play a couple good weeks and hopefully take care of that.

Q. Do you have any lucky charms that you have or any superstitions that you picked up real early in your career?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: No, not really, just there's something. I just don't like playing with Titleist No. 1s. I use 2s, 3s, 4s or something but not 1s.

Q. Did you have a bad experience with a 1 or what happened?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I don't know. I used to love them. That's all I used to hit. And one day I go, like, I don't like that number anymore. Little things, I don't know. You know, golfers are crazy.

Q. You played with Michelle Wie at the Sony. Can you describe what that was like?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: It was awesome. I had lots of fun. She was a great girl and it was a great experience for me. Crowds were unbelievable. Like I said, we had fun.

Q. Is that the biggest gallery you've ever played in front of?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Yeah, definitely.

Q. Any nerves?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, on the 1st tee, and I told my caddie, we've got a little strategy, we're going to look at the ground, tee it up, look at the target and hit it. That's what I did. About three holes later I looked around and I saw it was packed, a lot of cameras, a lot of TV, a lot of media. I was excited. I kind of kicked in, in a very positive way, and I think I took advantage of the opportunity and played some good golf the second round. And like I said, had fun.

Q. A big gallery here. You've got huge numbers of people here. They tend to be loud. What do you think about playing in that kind of an atmosphere?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I've heard many stories, and I'm looking forward to getting to that 16th tee. Hopefully I'll hit it on the green. I don't want any boos (laughter).

Q. Have you ever been booed playing golf?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I don't know. I don't remember, but we'll see. I've heard great things about the gallery here. It's different, loud, crazy, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it is.

Q. Have you played any golf in Arizona at all before this?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I played last year in a Nationwide event in I don't know how to pronounce it Gila River.

Q. Talk about golf as a sport in Colombia. There are probably half a dozen Colombian players who have some status on any of the tours here. I think you and Carlos Alvarez were the first two to play in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock.

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Golf in Colombia is very small. It's growing slowly. We've got about 50 golf courses. We were the first ones to play the U.S. Open. That was awesome. We had Eddie Herrera, who played in Japan and played a year on the PGA TOUR, played the Nationwide. Other than that, we've got some good talents that are working their way and trying to be out here, and hopefully they'll be out here soon. But it's a small sport. It's all about soccer down there, and that's just the reality of it.

Q. How were you able to rise above the smallness of the sport in that country and make it to this level?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Well, my dad joined a club when he was about 35 and I had a chance to get started. Then when I was about 13, I had a chance to represent my country for the first time, and I just loved traveling and meeting new people and playing golf and just competing. I started taking advantage of some opportunities I had. And then I ended up in Florida (smiling), where I spent really fun years learning a lot, and now we're here.

Q. How's your soccer?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Soccer? I played a little bit when I was young but not much after that. Golf takes a lot of time, and that's what I stick with.

Q. A little safer, too? You don't get hurt as easily in golf.


Q. Do you have a brother that also golfs?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I do. My parents are still in Colombia, and I have a brother that goes to the University of Florida. He's got about two more years there. That's who I live with.

Q. How's his game?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: He's working on it. He likes it. He enjoys being in Florida and competing and everything. We'll see what happens. Two more years to get better and make a decision what he's going to do.

Q. Does he want to try to pursue what you're trying to do?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I have no idea.

Q. Are you recognized in Colombia? Have you become kind of a celebrity there?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: The reaction from the people in the media have been very positive. I'm happy with that. I just try to play golf and just spread a good image about my country and do some good stuff, and hopefully take good news there and make some people happy.

Q. You're not hounded for autographs when you're out in the street?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Not yet (smiling). Hopefully we don't get there, either.

Q. You had to play pretty well to get what you got this year. Were you exempt on Nationwide last year?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I got a sponsor invite to Panama, the first Nationwide event last year, and I finished 2nd there, which set my goals for the year. I played two Nationwide events in Australia and New Zealand and played well, and just decided to stick with doing some Monday qualifyings and making tough money to become a temporary member. I finally did that in, I think it was Richmond, and from there on it was nice to be able to set your schedule and pick and choose. I was fortunate enough to play some good golf coming in, finished 13th on the Money List and now we're here.

Q. How hard was it to qualify your way onto the Nationwide Tour?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: It was tough. Weeks are long. I mean, you've got to find a way to check in at the Monday qualifying golf course. Monday is just a grind. You've got to go low. And then once you finally get in, then the week has just started. Go check the other golf course, get all the details and get it going and be ready for the week. It was long, it was tough, but it's whatever it takes. Here's where we want to be, and that was one way to get here. I was fortunate enough to play well and take advantage of that.

Q. The Nationwide Tour Monday qualifying is like out here, that Monday qualifier is at a different golf course than the tournament is at.


Q. So you've got to scout out two courses every week?


Q. I have a question based on something you just said about representing your country. Colombia in various images, we all think of Colombia, do you think maybe that's something you can do through your career, is let people know, hey, that's a stereotype and I come from a good country and good people?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Just like every country, we have our problems and maybe they're overblown a little bit from the media. A lot of friends that have been down there love it. I actually went to a bilingual school where some of my professors were from here and they couldn't believe it once they got there.

Like I said, like every country, we've got our problems and I think they're overblown. But we've got a lot of great stuff down there, too.

Q. Weren't you a real good student at Florida? Did you have a good grade point? Were you an academic all American?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: That's right.

Q. How did you do that when you were playing a sport? That's tough.

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I don't know. I just set my priorities and I was blessed to be able to have an education and play golf at the same time, something we're not able to do down in Colombia. It's either school or sport. I was just happy to be able to combine both and do both. If I was going to do one good, why not do the other one good? I just had fun and put some time in. It's all about just being organized.

Q. How long was your break? How long were you back home over the winter?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: I was there for about five and a half weeks total. I went for two and a half, went to Australia, played three events and then went back for three, and it was good (smiling).

Q. It flipped around, right? Great weather during our winter?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: You know, temperature is pretty stable year round. We have a rainy season and a dry season. It's 65 to 80 year round.

Q. Can you give me the one single highlight from your break while you were at home?

CAMILO VILLEGAS: Just relaxed. That was fun, just relaxing.

End of FastScripts.

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