Thursday, April 16, 2009

El Pato and El Gato

El Pato- the duck - is Angel Cabrera, the 2009 US Masters Champion and the 2007 US Open Champion

El Gato- the cat - is Eduardo Romero, the US Seniors Open champion 2008.

I was invited to play a ProAm with El Pato in the Cordoba Golf Club, Villa Allende, on 15 April as part of the Central Zone Championship of Argentina. But at the last minute, P was changed to G and I played with Gato instead of Pato.

Both El Pato and El Gato had started off as caddies in Villa Allende Cordoba Golf Club. Both are very modest and unpretentious, despite the incredible heights of their success. They display comradeship with their friends who continue as caddies in the club. El Pato, in fact was for sometime the caddy of El Gato, who became his mentor. Both live a few blocks from the Cordoba Golf Club.

Credit should be given to the Cordoba Golf club members who encouraged and supported the two caddies to become the Champions. The Club and the whole town cheered and celebrated the victory of El Pato, who had just returned on 14 April after receiving the Green Jacket. Villa Allende in Cordoba has now become the place of pilgrimage for golf tourists.

El Pato and El Gato are the pride of Argentina and Latin America. No golfer from the other Latin American countries have won any majors so far.

Of course, Roberto de Vicenzo of Argentina had won the British Open in 1967. He had a chance to win the US Masters in 1968. But a silly mistake in the score card and a sillier Golf rule deprived him of the honour. On the par 4 seventeenth hole, Roberto De Vicenzo made a birdie, but playing partner Tommy Aaron inadvertently entered a 4 instead of 3 on the scorecard. Roberto had signed the card without checking the score, and according to the Rules of Golf the higher score had to stand and be counted. If not for this mistake, Roberto would have tied for first place with Bob Goalby and the two would have met in an 18-hole playoff the next day. Golf rules could be worse than Government Rules !

El Pato Cabrera was born as the son of a handyman and a maid who split up when he was three or four, leaving him in the care of his paternal grandmother. He stayed with her until he was 16, when he moved in with his girlfriend, Silvia, 10 years his senior. When Cabrera was 10 he became a caddy at the Córdoba Country Club, which became his home. In sixth grade he quit school to take up the job full time. He learned golf playing against other caddies for money.

Cabrera used to smoke in the golf course and did so at the US Open in 2007. When he was asked about this by American journalists after he won the tournament, he responded ¨you guys go to the shrink but I take recourse to the cigarette.¨ He has now given up moking and has started chewing gum.

El Pato is here in this picture accepting my Taj Mahal gift and felicitations.

El Gato got his nickname from his grandmother when he was five because he was always climbing trees and sitting on roof tops. His father was the pro at the Cordoba Golf club. El Gato turned professional at a late age of 28 but has 77 career victories so far, from around the world.

El Gato is a lively person with a sense of humour. He has played in Calcutta and Delhi. He remembered the peacocks of Delhi Golf Club. He knows Jeev Milkha Singh, who was the playing partner of Tiger Woods on the first two days of Masters Open. El Gato practises yoga and is keen to visit India with his family.

I wanted to impress El Gato with my game. But I played like El Burro ( the donkey ). I had one of the worst rounds. Someone asked my score. I quoted to him from the book ¨the food of love¨ in which the Italian hero tells the American girl after seducing her with lot of wine ¨In Italy, we dont count three things: number of years of one´s age, number of glasses of wine imbibed and the number of lovers.¨

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