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Deutsche Bank Notebook

Villegas & Co. get a five-star rating

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / September 4, 2009

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NORTON - There likely won’t be a more heartwarming story all week at TPC Boston than the one that played out early last evening, when Camilo Villegas and his four amateur partners won the Deutsche Bank Championship pro-am. What’s so special about that? Well, Team Villegas included 11-year-olds Megan Khang and Steven Dilisio, 15-year-old Isabel Southard, and 17-year-old Cameron Wilson.

The unlikely fivesome shot a 20-under-par 51 to win by two shots, then capped the day on the 18th green by striking the Spider-Man pose that Villegas is famous for.

“I’ve actually never played with a PGA Tour professional, so I was really happy,’’ said Khang, who lives in Rockland. “It was fun, a great experience.’’

The four juniors, who were selected by State Street Corp., also will participate this weekend in the John D. Mineck Deutsche Bank Championship Junior Cup, held at Boston Golf Club.

Dilisio lives in Swampscott, Southard is from Sharon, and Wilson is from Rowayton, Conn., and has verbally committed to attend Stanford next fall.

“It can’t get much better than that,’’ said Dilisio. “I was really excited we got to play with Camilo. He’s a great guy.

“I was a little bit nervous when I came off the first tee, but after I made a few birdies and shot 33 on the front nine, I was OK.’’

Three birdies and a 33? Again, that was an 11-year-old talking, not Villegas, although the two-time Tour winner was awestruck by the proceedings.

“I can tell you, it was one of the most fun pro-ams I’ve ever played in,’’ Villegas said. “I wasn’t carrying them, I’ll tell you that. It reminded me of myself when I was a kid: Not much thinking, just get over the ball, pick a target, and hit it. Sometimes we overthink it out here.’’

How did Villegas react when he learned he’d be playing with two teenagers and two 11-year-olds?

“Even before we teed off, I went to Rick George of the PGA Tour and said, ‘We need to do this more often,’ ’’ Villegas said. “It was an unbelievable experience, for the kids and for me.’’

Inspiring performer
Just as heartwarming was seeing Staff Sergeant Dale Beatty playing in the pro-am. Beatty, who lives in North Carolina, had both of his legs amputated just below the knee after the Humvee he was in struck an explosive device in Iraq five years ago. An avid golfer before the accident, Beatty has used the game as therapy.

“I have both of my knees,’’ said Beatty. “Higher-extremity amputees look at guys like me and they’re like, ‘Aw, you just have a sprained ankle.’ So we’re mildly inconvenienced.

“Mainly it’s like having a tough lie. There’s a lot of balancing issues, trying not to fall down while still hitting the ball well.’’

Beatty, 31, who is married with two children, has learned to walk on prosthetic legs, and has completed the Marine Corps Marathon.

Els is going places
Ernie Els had a hectic stretch since the conclusion of The Barclays. He flew to Canada Sunday night, played in an outing there on Monday, then flew to the Bahamas Monday night, spent three nights there, and flew up to this tournament yesterday morning. Els, who tied for eighth at the British Open, tied for sixth at the PGA, and tied for second last week, said he’s as confident about his game as he’s been in a long time. “It’s been coming, and I still haven’t won this year, which I’m looking forward to,’’ said Els said. “I’d love to win a tournament before the end of the year. But at least I’m moving in the right direction, and it feels like things are coming around nicely.’’ . . . Els helped congratulate Brent Edelman, the recipient of a $10,000 FedEx First Tee scholarship. Edelman, a freshman at MIT from Summerland, Calif., can sweeten the deal if he performs well in the classroom. If he attains a GPA of 3.5 or better, he’ll be given a new set of Callaway clubs. “That’s pretty good motivation,’’ said Edelman, who played high school golf and plans to focus on aerospace studies.

Make a new plan
It’s not often that Tiger Woods says anything publicly critical of another player, but his answer yesterday in response to a question about Els might be viewed that way. Woods was asked about Els’s late 2006 declaration of a three-year plan that he hatched to supplant Woods as the world’s No. 1-ranked player. “After he came off that knee surgery, it takes time,’’ Woods said of Els, who also had reconstructive knee surgery. “Ernie is not a big worker physically, and that’s one of the things that you have to do with an ACL repair is you’ve got to really do a lot of work. I feel pretty good with what I’ve done, and I think Ernie, he could have worked a little bit harder.’’ Woods followed up by noting that Els plays a more global golf schedule, and praised the South African’s recent strong performances.