Former major champion Angel Cabrera, who spent 30 months in jail in Brazil and Argentina and last played PGA Tour Champions in 2020, shot under par last week in his last five rounds at home in Córdoba, Argentina, and is preparing to mount a comeback, said his longtime coach and friend Charlie Epps.
“He wants to play, he’s learned his lesson, he wants to get on with his life. I think he’s in a great frame of mind for what he’s been through,” Epps told Golfweek via phone. “He’s got to go through the mechanics of getting his Visa back and then approach the PGA Tour and I think it’s going to end up being good.”
Cabrera, the 2007 U.S. Open champion and 2009 Masters winner, was released from jail on Aug. 4, after he completed more than two years in custody over gender violence cases against two of his ex-girlfriends. (Editor’s Note: Read previous Q&A with Charlie Epps when Cabrera was in jail here.) Brazil’s federal police arrested him on an Interpol warrant in January 2021. Cabrera was sentenced in July 2021 to two years in prison for threats and harassment of Cecilia Torres Mana, his partner between 2016 and 2018.
In November 2022, he was also on trial for similar charges against Micaela Escudero, another ex-girlfriend. Cabrera pleaded guilty and the court made the two sentences concurrent, extending his sentence to three years and 10 months in prison.
“Many say prison is bad, but it’s not the case, prison has done me good,” Cabrera said at the trial.
Prior to his release, he spent his final seven months at Monte Cristo, a minimum-security prison 10 miles east of Córdoba.
Epps said that Cabrera, who last competed on the Champions Tour at the Pure Insurance Open in September 2020, still dreams of playing golf professionally. He is seeking a Visa so he can travel to the U.S. and then will need to apply for reinstatement to PGA Tour Champions, which according to Epps, suspended him, and inquire whether Augusta National will honor his lifetime invitation as a past champion to the Masters in April.
A spokesperson for the PGA Tour released the following statement on Cabrera: “The Tour is aware that Angel Cabrera has been released on parole. While we do not have any update on his status as a PGA Tour member at this time, the Tour may consider new and relevant information to determine if any change to his status is appropriate in the future.”
An inquiry seeking clarification on his status – and the length of his suspension, if any – wasn’t answered at this time. (The 2024 Argentine Open, of which Cabrera is a past champion, is part of the Korn Ferry Tour for the first time in January, and thus runs under the auspices of the Tour. It’s unclear if he would be allowed to participate in his national championship.)
Friends in Córdoba who have seen Cabrera say he lost weight, is in good spirits and also practicing at El Terron Golf Club. Epps visited Cabrera for the first time since he was granted parole last week, flying to Argentina with a set of the latest Ping golf clubs, Cabrera’s longtime clubmaker, made to his specifications and six dozen Titleist balls and a bunch of gloves from the Acushnet Co.
“He demonstrated his talent and drive is still there,” Epps said. “We played five rounds of golf at Córdoba Golf Club, where we both grew up playing, and he was always under par. Right now, he’s just trying to get his life in shape and practice and stuff like that and get here to the United States. He’s been humbled and says, ‘It’s all up to him.’ He knows what he needs to do and he said he’s ready for a second chance. He prays to God he doesn’t take another drink. And he’s so headstrong. When he puts his mind to doing something, he’ll do it just like that. The day he won the Masters he was walking from the 10th green after making a bogey and going three behind. I asked him, ‘What were you thinking about?’ He said, ‘I told myself I just have to make three birdies because 12 under is going to be a good score.’ ”
Cabrera did just that and won in a playoff over Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell. Instead of being hailed for a borderline Hall of Fame career, Cabrera has missed what usually are the best years for a senior golfer. Epps noted that veteran pro Jim Thorpe was allowed to return to the senior circuit in 2009 after completing a one-year prison term for tax evasion. Shortly before his arrest, Cabrera had undergone surgery to repair an injury to his wrist and elbow, which hindered his performance on the senior tour, and Epps says he’s fully recovered. The Houston-based pro said he’s ready to begin training Cabrera for a Rocky Balboa-like resurgence.
“The way Angel plays on hard courses, I think he can still win the U.S. Senior Open,” Epps said. “I want him to be the comeback player of the year.”