PGA Professional Charlie Epps has watched Angel Cabrera grow from an unpolished caddie in Argentina to a two-time major champion. Epps, who has been working as Cabrera's instructor since 2007, spoke with PGA.com on Monday about his years teaching Cabrera.
PGA.com: You lived in Argentina from 1954-1967. How did you first meet Angel Cabrera?
Epps: I first met Angel playing in the Argentine Open. We played practice rounds together. Plus, I grew up on the same golf course where he grew up, but 20 years apart. I really met him when he was about 18 years old as a young caddie. Then, over the years, the relationship grew because we played together. I never helped him with his game early on. But then in 2007, his manager called me and wanted to know if I would be interested in helping him with his putting, mainly just putting. That’s when it all started.
PGA.com: From a teaching standpoint, what is something that you and Angel had to overcome in order for him to have such a successful career?
Epps: He’s a perfectionist, and sometimes a missed shot bothers him more than it should. He has a hard time letting go of a bad shot and bouncing back. Even today, I told him a couple months ago, I said, ‘Angel, you’re letting things get to you too much. Your anger is hurting you.’ He said, ‘Listen, I won two majors with this attitude.’ And I said, ‘yeah, but you could have won eight more.’ So I’m always trying to teach him to be more patient with himself. And, especially now, at the age of 44, when some shots happen just because you’re 44, not because of your motor skills. He’s still really demanding of himself.
PGA.com: What element of Cabrera’s game do you believe has improved the most since you’ve been working with him?
Epps: All I can help Angel with is practice, training more, spending more time putting. We were able to use a couple of teaching aids that accomplished what I want him to do without having him have to think. See, he grew up as young caddie, who No. 1) he wasn’t allowed on the golf course, so he’d sneak on the golf course. And No. 2) there was no driving range, so they were just players. They never hit balls. They saw each other’s swing, and this area where he comes from there were some great golfers. And so he learned with his eyes and not with his thoughts.
The one people who don’t put up to their expectations. They go to the practice green, and if they don’t make some putts, they leave out of frustration. Well, there’s a teaching device called "Inside Down the Line" by Momentus. And in 2009, I got that and I was able to get him in a training cycle, where he could make 100 putts in a row. The training device helped me control his path more. Like most people, he liked right-to-left putts. But left-to-right putts were very difficult for him. This allowed me to get him to aim correctly, control the path and have the face square to the direction the ball needed to go. It’s worked quite well.
PGA.com: How did you celebrate after Cabrera’s win at The Greenbrier Classic?
Epps: We flew home to Houston late last night, because on Friday we go to the British Open. It was just he and I on a private plane, having a few adult beverages and reminiscing of all the hard work he’s put in over the last few months. There were a few months there where we weren’t getting a lot out of a round, shooting some 72s, 73s, missing the cut by one. But we both knew that it was close. It was close at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. He went on to the Travelers (Championship) and finished 11th, and then he went to Congressional and finished in the top 20. Golf is so much about momentum and making the par putts at the right time is what really keeps round going. Yesterday afternoon (Sunday), he hit his worst drive of the tournament on No. 2, but ended up making a great 4. That really, really was the turning point of that round, and he just went on to play an incredible round of golf.
PGA.com: How does Cabrera’s game set up for Hoylake?
Epps: He can flight the ball as well as anyone, and he’s healthy. In 2010, we went to St. Andrews, and he had tendonitis in his thumb so bad that he didn’t play for three months in the fall of 2010. Last year, he had some problems with his shoulder and really didn’t play for four months. You really put some wear and tear on your body, playing as much golf as he has over the years. But now he’s pretty healthy.
You can follow Epps on Twitter @TheGolf_Doctor