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Angel Cabrera 2009 PGA Grand Slam of Golf

Angel Cabrera -- Masters Champion

PGA Grand Slam of Golf Appearances: 2007, '09
Major Championship Wins: 2007 U.S. Open, 2009 Masters
Worldwide Victories: 19
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 210
Birthdate: Sept. 12, 1969
Birthplace: Cordoba, Argentina
Residence: Cordoba, Argentina
Family: Wife, Silvia; Children: Federico (6/5/89), Angel (3/10/91)
Special Interests: Soccer
Turned Professional: 1989

By Bob Denney, The PGA of America

Now that Angel Cabrera has officially erased the 41-year disappointment of any Argentine winning a Masters, a bizarre chapter is finally put to rest.

Following the legacy of beloved fellow countryman Roberto De Vicenzo, Cabrera is now a two-time major champion and South America's newest heralded sportsman.

The man nicknamed El Pato ("The Duck") has emerged as perhaps the best "grinder" in major championship golf in many years. In 2007, he survived rugged Oakmont to win the U.S. Open and then last April outlasted Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell to win a three-way playoff at the Masters.

The first South American to capture the Green Jacket, Cabrera held on with uncanny putting and clutch shotmaking while all those around him were crumbling.

Cabrera has found a way to bottle his emotions and harness the vital inner strength that De Vicenzo finds indispensable in golf.

Two years ago, Cabrera became the only player in the history of Argentina golf to earn a top-10 spot in the Official World Ranking. This year, he was ranked 69th before his trip to Augusta National.

It was once said that the golf ball doesn't know how old you are. In Cabrera's case, the ball also doesn't know or care how you are ranked. But can he play?

By his Augusta heroics, Cabrera added yet another rung to his growing résumé. He joins Gary Player as the only foreign-born players to win the Masters and the U.S. Open.

"When they put the green jacket on, I had goose bumps," says Cabrera. "I was shaking. I can't even explain what was going through my body." De Vicenzo, the winner of the 1967 British Open, once gave this observation of Cabrera's game. "He seems to make the big mistake. He has to make what he has inside stronger."

Now, in the heat of the final stretch of a major championship, it is Cabrera who has found the inner strength and made the most of his "breaks."

On Sunday, with the light fading at Augusta National, Cabrera made a "big break" pay dividends. His approach shot on the 18th hole caromed off a tree and back to the center of the fairway. From 70 yards, he converted one of the most memorable up and downs in major championship history that earned him a berth into a three-way playoff.

He followed that with a par at 18 to open the playoff and continued to the 10th tee. A short time later, he made a routine par to pass Perry, who bogeyed after missing the green to the left. The Masters was in Cabrera's pocket.

Cabrera's climb to the upper echelon of golf began in his hardscrabble youth, having been raised since he was 3 years old by his paternal grandmother. His boyhood home was on a quiet dirt road in Mendiolaza, a barrio near Cordoba, Argentina.

When he was 10 years old, Cabrera found his life's vocation. Just 10 blocks uphill from his grandmother's home was Cordoba Country Club. He began caddying, making 25 pesos per loop, which translates today to nearly two dollars.

It was a wage that sustained him. He dropped out of school in the sixth grade to caddie full-time.

"I was very lucky because hanging out at a golf course was much better than being on the streets," says Cabrera. "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, and dress. I had nothing at home. The club was my home."

Every Monday, when the club closed, the caddies took over and had their own competitions. This is when Cabrera learned to play golf. His talent grew steadily, as did his fierce competitiveness and ingrained penchant to work relentlessly to achieve success.

Cordoba Country Club members financed Cabrera's debut into competitive golf, and at age 19 he turned professional. The first dividends began with victories in the 1995 Paraguay and Colombia Opens.

In 1999, Cabrera joined the European Tour and won his first title on the circuit with the 2001 Argentina Open and added two more Tour titles. His golf stature as a ball-striker grew, and there were the noted near-misses in major championships.

He finished one stroke out of the 1999 British Open playoff at Carnoustie. He held the lead during the second and third rounds of the 2001 Masters, and he led the 2004 U.S. Open.

He grew from those experiences and applied the lessons to make major impacts at Oakmont and then at Augusta National.

As he became more successful, Cabrera gave back to those less fortunate -- youth whose lives resembled his. Cabrera supported the youth at the club that continues to be his home away from home. He has helped caddies who have fallen on hard times and paid the medical bills of a caddie's sick child. He joined his longtime friend and mentor, Champions Tour star Eduardo Romero, to help fund a new caddie shack.

His passion to excel at his own game carries over into his drive to elevate the next generation of Argentine golfers. He has lobbied the provincial government to aid in access for junior golfers; has sponsored a group of youths; and has donated to build a facility for disabled children in Villa Allende. A man of few words, Cabrera's actions speak volumes.
 

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