Cabrera had a knack for making mischief. Villa Allende is horse country, and one of Cabrera's favorite boyhood diversions was riding horses that he and his best friend, Daniel Salibi, had liberated from the unsuspecting owners. (Another unlikely success story: Salibi is now mayor of Mendiolaza.)
When Cabrera was 10 he found a calling that would change the course of his life: He began caddying at Cordoba Country Club, an exclusive enclave that dates to 1922. Cabrera could make 25 pesos per loop, what today is the equivalent of about eight dollars. To him this was a living wage. "I didn't become a caddie because I wanted to be a caddie," he says. "I was a caddie because that was how I could make money and feed myself. It was work. It was a dignified job." Still, it took him a while to get serious about his new calling. One club member recalls a tournament at which Cabrera put down the bag he was carrying so he could chase butterflies across the fairway.
When he was in sixth grade Cabrera dropped out of school to caddie full time. As a member of the club, Molina liked to use Cabrera as a looper, but concerned for the boy's future, he offered to pay Cabrera to stay in school, to no avail. "Why should I study?" Cabrera says. "In order to carry clubs?" (It has long been whispered among the golf press that Cabrera is illiterate, but he shrugs this off. "I can read and write," he says flatly. "I went to school for six years. I just couldn't continue.")
The walk from his grandmother's house to the club is only 10 blocks uphill, but for Cabrera the journey was transforming. "I was very lucky because hanging out at a golf course was much better than being on the streets," he says. "Golf taught me a great deal. I grew up surrounded by people who were professionals — lawyers, doctors, engineers. Around them I learned how to behave, speak, eat, dress. I had nothing at home. The club was my home."