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Angel Cabrera fought his way from the barrio to the U.S. Open

Angel Cabrera
Michael Crouser/SI
At the Condor, Cabrera and the workingmen of Villa Allende - no women are allowed - spend a long and lively evening exchanging insults.

Amidst this raucous scene there is an unlikely grace note. After dinner the put-upon chef theatrically raises his hands, and the room falls silent. He then belts out an evocative tango with lyrics of lost love and regret. When the song ends, the men nod their approval, and then the low roar of braggadocio resumes.

Cabrera breathes it all in, just another Friday night with his boys. "Just because I won the U.S. Open doesn't mean that I'm going to change the way I live," he says. "I'm going to continue living in Villa Allende, eating asados [barbecued meats], drinking Fernet. I'm going to do what I've always done."

Fridays may belong to the roughnecks at the Condor, but any other night of the week Cabrera is likely to be parked at the elegant bar at Novecento, a new hot spot in Villa Allende. If Novecento sounds familiar, that's because the restaurant has high-profile outposts in Miami Beach and SoHo in New York City. Villa Allende's is an unlikely addition, but Cabrera is friends with the owner of the restaurants and persuaded him to put one at Cabrera's new driving range, which opened this spring thanks to the fi nancing of Cabrera and his friend and onetime sponsor Eduardo (El Gato) Romero, the Champions tour stalwart. The range is a spiffy facility, where Cabrera can hone his freewheeling game surrounded by photos and mementos of his career. But he is equally at home at Novecento, where he mingles with Villa Allende's ruling class as they daintily pick at cheese plates and enjoy the pan-seared, sesame crusted tuna with a ginger-soy glaze.

These are Cabrera's people too. It is from the upper crust of Villa Allende that he has chosen trusted friends to manage his career, look after his money and oversee the charities that benefit from his largesse. Over time, Cabrera has learned to imitate their country-club manners, transforming himself from a hardedged kid who survived on his wits and his fists into a golfing gentleman who wowed the galleries at the U.S. Open. The drive from the Condor to Novecento takes only a couple of minutes in Cabrera's black Jeep Cherokee. It is a familiar journey for a man who has spent a lifetime commuting between different worlds. Cabrera's boyhood home can be found on a quiet dirt road in Mendiolaza, on the edge of an arroyo strewn with garbage. Stray dogs wander about listlessly, ignoring the packs of children running through the streets. The simple, square house is held together by brick walls, a tin roof and a tangled family history.

Cabrera's father, Miguel, was a changarin (handyman) who is said to have shared his son's taste for spirits. His mother, Luisa, was a dark-haired beauty who worked as a maid. Angel was three or four when his parents split up. His mom took custody of his younger brother and sister, while Angel was left in the care of his paternal grandmother, Pura Concepcion, to sleep on a bunk bed in the living room of her tiny, tin-roofed house. He would live with her until he was 16, and it was a hand-to-mouth existence. Pura Concepcion was a housekeeper, and as a boy Cabrera would sometimes tag along with her to the homes of Villa Allende's elite. He did some work as a gardener for Juan Cruz Molina, a local real estate magnate. That gig ended the day Cabrera took a nap on Molina's porch. "His wife found me there and ran me off," says Cabrera with a hearty laugh. "She fired me."

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