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

Angel Cabrera
Michael Crouser/SI
Only a job caddying 10 blocks away from his home at Cordoba Country Club kep Cabrera off the unpaved streets of Mendiolaza, where he stopped for a refreshment on a recent trip back to his hometown.

When it is time to eat, not drink, Cabrera insists on doing the lion's share of the cooking, favoring a diet that seems to consist of red meat and little else. At the Scottish Open one year, Cabrera says, "we wanted to have an asado" — a cookout — "so we went to a butcher shop and persuaded the butcher to let us go into the freezer. We picked out a huge slab of rib to take with us. He wanted to cut it up, to prepare it for us, but we told him we wanted it whole, just the way it was. It was probably three feet by six feet, easily 15 kilos [33 pounds]. The butcher was stunned, but he went along with it. So we took the meat home in one chunk, but we didn't have anything to grill it on. We went to a supermarket and bought a bunch of stuff and took it to our car in the metal shopping baskets they had — the smaller ones you carry, not shopping carts. We shoved the baskets in the car and drove away. When we got home we cut up the baskets and made a grill out of them. We found bricks and rocks outside to prop up the grill. It was great, a bunch of Argentines eating and drinking beer and wine and Fernet."

It is a measure of how effectively Cabrera has exported his Villa Allende lifestyle that he has never bothered to learn English. "I'm not interested in learning," he says. "Anyway, do you know what [Roberto] De Vicenzo" — the patron saint of Argentine golf — "said to me about fi ve years ago? 'Don't worry — if you shoot in the 60s, everyone will understand you. If you shoot 72 or higher, you will starve to death.'"

At the U.S. Open, Cabrera was introduced to the world as a brooding character of few words and many cigarettes, an embodiment of the gauchos that populate Argentine folklore. Even Cabrera's game fit the image. His ball striking is as loud and startling as the crack of a whip. At his champion's press conference, conducted through an interpreter, he was reserved to the point of being sullen. Part of this was due to the language barrier, part of it was his old-school belief that the glory is in the achievement, not in the mythologizing of it.

Cabrera's standoffishness obscures a soft heart. He has donated money to build a facility for disabled children in Villa Allende — it is overseen by Maria Tagle, the mother of Cabrera's agent — and elsewhere in Mendiolaza he has funded a new municipal sports and arts center. At Cordoba Country Club there are numerous stories of Cabrera's helping a caddie who has fallen on hard times or paying the medical bills of a looper's sick child. Cabrera still venerates the caddie culture that shaped him, and he and Eduardo Romero, a fellow Cordoba native and member at the club, are helping pay for a deluxe new caddie shack. "I remember what that life was like," says Cabrera.

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