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After 30 months behind bars, the majority of which were spent in one of Argentina’s most infamous prisons, Ángel Cabrera is a free man once again.

The two-time major champion was released on parole yesterday after spending two-and-a-half years in custody following his conviction for multiple counts of assault against two ex-girlfriends.

“Cabrera has internalised the damaging mistakes he made,” said Judge Cristobal Laje Ros. “He regrets it and will return to his home with his family.”

In a statement provided to Golf Digest via his manager Manuel Tagle, Cabrera added: “I just want to go home, be with my family and start a new phase of my life.”

With that, a chapter closed on one of the most tragic tales in modern golf history, a story that incorporated everything from an Interpol manhunt to an Eva Perón face mask.

No sooner had Cabrera walked out of the minimum-security Monte Cristo jail – where he has spent the last few months – than speculation began as to how (indeed, if) he might re-involve himself with professional golf.

Of particular interest will be how Augusta National Golf Club responds. As the winner of The Masters in 2009, the 53-year-old would, under normal circumstances, be entitled to play in the first men’s major of the year for the remainder of his days. Indeed, the generosity it extends to Green Jacket winners is a point of pride for the club and one of its well-established traditions.

However, Cabrera’s are not normal circumstances. For all that he maintains his innocence, he was convicted of serious crimes against women. It was the determination of the justice system that he was guilty, therefore he is guilty.

As such, it’s appropriate that there should be consequences which extend beyond the prison gates. Some will argue he’s “served his time” and should be allowed to resume all aspects of his former life, but that’s a point of contention. Serving his time entitles Cabrera to be released from prison, nothing else. To what extent he is allowed to pick up from where he left off will be at the discretion of others.

Rightly or wrongly, golf and its constituent organisations will be judged on how they respond to Cabrera’s liberation and, fortunately or otherwise, there’s not a huge amount of precedent within the sport to lean on. Journeyman pro Jim Thorpe spent 12 months in jail in 2010, aged 61, for failure to pay income tax. Various other players have been charged with misdemeanours and other minor offences. But nothing on the scale of the fallen Ángel.

Any discussion about the Argentine must also pay consideration to his victims.

One of them, Cecilia Torres Mana, wrote a blog for a website in which she detailed the abuse she suffered at Cabrera’s hand

“During our relationship, he physically, psychologically, and sexually abused me,” she wrote. “What started as a normal relationship quickly turned into physical and psychological submission.”

She told how, within months of their relationship starting, Cabrera began following her when she went grocery shopping or to the gym, paranoid that she was meeting another man. He “forbade” her from seeing her family, including making visits to her mother, who was dying from cancer.

“Sometimes, Ángel would video call me when he was on tour and I had to show him where I was and who I was with,” added Torres Mana. “I began to feel very anxious and suffocated.”

She went on to accuse him of making her do “very kinky things” and said he hit her when she refused.

On another occasion, she said she was locked in a hotel room and made to sleep in the closet when she accompanied Cabrera to Texas for a golf tournament.

“Ángel always said that if I reported him, it would hurt his career and [he] told me about all the political contacts he had,” she added.

“During the interrogations, [investigators] asked me why I did not distance myself from Ángel. I explained that he threatened me and my family.”

Cabrera’s conviction and imprisonment brought Torres Mana “peace and relief” but she added: “I am still afraid. I cannot be completely free or calm, knowing what kind of person he is and the threats he made.

“I believe my family and I are still at risk.”

During trial, Cabrera admitted to battling alcohol addiction and has reportedly sought treatment. It has also been said that his conduct whilst in prison was exemplary and that he has engaged in regular therapy sessions with a psychologist in order to confront and correct his demons.

If so, that’s encouraging. But should he be allowed to resume his lucrative career and privileged existence as a professional sportsman?

For one thing, it’s unclear whether he harbours an ambition to play golf again. It’s possible he does not. For another, his conviction might make it extremely difficult for him to gain entry to the USA, for example, where the PGA Tour Champions is almost exclusively contested. In any event, the terms of release mean that he is under probation in Argentina until the end of 2024 and is not allowed to travel internationally until then.

Regardless, golf – a sport that continues to suffer from outdated misconceptions and ill-informed bias – can scarcely afford the disastrous PR that re-engaging with Cabrera would inevitably create.

It wants to be seen as an inclusive and safe environment for all, and blind to gender, age, ethnicity, wealth, race and more. By virtue of the crimes he has committed, it could be argued Cabrera has sacrificed the right to remain a part of this space. Suffice to say, the idea of him swapping prison togs for a Green Jacket makes many people especially uneasy.

Let’s hope he has indeed been reformed by his time in jail and that the behaviour that led him down that particular road to perdition has been permanently remedied. He deserves our well wishes in his ongoing battle with alcoholism, too. However, he not should simply be handed a free pass – or, for that matter, a tour card – to return to the game simply because he has completed his sentence.

That is a nothing more than a first step on the path of repentance. It’s not unreasonable to expect Ángel Cabrera to take many more.

Anything less would be an affront to both justice and his victims.

author headshot

Michael McEwan is the Deputy Editor of bunkered and has been part of the team since 2004. In that time, he has interviewed almost every major figure within the sport, from Jack Nicklaus, to Rory McIlroy, to Donald Trump. The host of the multi award-winning bunkered Podcast and a member of Balfron Golfing Society, Michael is the author of three books and is the 2023 PPA Scotland 'Writer of the Year' and 'Columnist of the Year'. Dislikes white belts, yellow balls and iron headcovers. Likes being drawn out of the media ballot to play Augusta National.

Deputy Editor

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