UF MEN'S GOLF

Villegas aiming at NCAA title


Published: Tuesday, June 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 31, 2004 at 8:12 p.m.
The list of former University of Florida golfing greats is a long one. The list of golfers who have won NCAA individual champions is an impressive one.
The two lists don't have a lot in common.
For all of the success that Florida has had in men's golf, only two Gators have ever managed to bring the individual trophy back to Gainesville - Bob Murphy in 1966 and Nick Gilliam in 2001.
Camilo Villegas wants to change that.
"It's my last amateur tournament," said Villegas, a senior who will turn pro after the NCAAs. "I really want to bring home both the individual trophy and the team trophy. But you can't put pressure on yourself. You have to control your emotions."
Villegas, ranked seventh in the country, is considered one of the favorites when play begins today in the four-round tournament at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va. Villegas will be dealing with double the pressure compared to No. 1 player Bill Haas of Wake Forest.
Haas, the son of PGA Tour player and former individual champion (1975) Jay Haas, qualified as an individual but his team didn't make it. Villegas knows that his score can set the pace for the week.
"I want to play well, and hopefully, every guy on the team will do the same thing," he said. "We'll do our best."
Villegas and Haas and a couple dozen other players in the tournament who have a legitimate chance to win the individual title are hoping to join an exclusive club that is star studded.
Start with Jack Nicklaus (1961). Throw in Tiger Woods (1996). How about Phil Mickelson (1989 and 1990)?
Hale Irwin won for Colorado in 1967. Ben Crenshaw won two in a row before sharing a third title with teammate Tom Kite in 1972.
Justin Leonard, Charles Howell III, Scott Verplank, Scott Simpson and John Mahaffey all won NCAAs before enjoying successful careers on the Tour.
But the individual championship has eluded some of Florida's best all-time golfers. Dudley Hart, Chris DiMarco, Mark Calcavecchia, Chris Couch, Brian Gay, David Jackson and Steve Scott are all among Florida's top 15 players ever in stroke average and combined to win 21 college tournaments, but the national championship was not one of them.
One player who could be Villegas' toughest competition is teammate Matt Every, ranked 10th in the nation.
"I want to win, and I want us to win," he said. "The thing is, all of the good players hit the ball really good. The guy who is putting the best is going to win. There are probably 25 guys who have a chance. They are all great ball strikers. It's going to come down to who makes the putts."
You can reach Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or dooleyp@gvillesun.com.

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