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Ángel Cabrera plays first U.S. tourney at AmFam Championship after serving prison sentence

Ángel Cabrera walks to the ninth green during the first round of the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge Golf Club on Friday in Madison, Wisconsin.
Ángel Cabrera walks to the ninth green during the first round of the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge Golf Club on Friday in Madison, Wisconsin.

MADISON – There was little fanfare Friday afternoon for Ángel Cabrera as he finished his first round at the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, as he shot 1-over 73 in his first professional round in the United States since September 2020.

Fewer than a hundred fans politely clapped as Cabrera ended his round with a birdie, but the day itself was an important one for the 54-year-old in that it was another step in resuming his golf career following a prison term for gender violence.

“Yes, yes, it’s a new beginning,” Cabrera said via interpreter and caddie Ruben Yorio. “It’s a great future ahead.”

Cabrera was released on Aug. 4, 2023, but did not secure a visa to play in the U.S. until late May. He entered the AmFam Championship and the Dick’s Open on June 21-23 on the strength of his status as a major champion, but it only allowed him a place on the alternate list.

His spot was guaranteed when the tournament offered him a sponsor’s exemption.

“I’m very thankful for American Family for inviting me,” Cabrera said, via Yorio. “I played with one of the (employees Thursday in the pro-am). I’m very thankful to all the people. Good course, good tournament. I can’t be more thankful to everyone.”

More: What to know about the AmFam Championship: Wisconsin players, TV schedule, ticket info

Cabrera, playing alongside Scott McCarron and Scott Dunlap, began the day on the back nine and made the turn at 2-over, balancing two birdies against two bogeys, a double bogey – and some nerves. After a bogey on No. 3 – his 12th hole – he settled in and closed his final seven holes at 2-under.

“I feel good,” Cabrera said, via Yorio. “I like to play golf. I hit some really good shots, I missed some easy shots, but in general I feel pretty good on the course and with the people I played with.”

Cabrera’s formal return Friday to the United States concluded a nearly four-year absence from professional golf that began with his arrest in Brazil in January 2021 after leaving Argentina without authorization while under investigation for domestic violence.

A trip to the U.S. in 2020 – when he last played on the PGA Tour Champions – was also unauthorized, which led to the filing of an Interpol warrant for his arrest.

Jailed for six months in Brazil, Cabrera was extradited back to Argentina on charges of assault, theft and legal intimidation of former partner Cecilia Torres Mana. He not only was convicted on those charges, but also on a separate 2022 assault charge on former partner Micaela Escudero as well.

In the December 2023 / January 2024 edition of Golf Digest, Cabrera said, "I refused to listen to anyone and did what I wanted, how I wanted and when I wanted. That was wrong. I ask Micaela for forgiveness. I ask Celia for forgiveness. They had the bad luck of being with me when I was at my worst. I wasn't the devil, but I did bad things.

"I am deeply embarrassed because I disappointed the people closest to me -- and everyone who loves me through golf," he said. "Golf gave me everything, and I know I will never be able to repay the debt I owe this sport.”

Inmates with good behavior were allowed visits with partners and Cabrera and Yamila Alvarez had a child while he was imprisoned. The couple married in October 2023 and the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions rescinded his suspension from tour events in December 2023.

Cabrera tried to return to the United States on a temporary visa in time to play in the Masters in April, but the 2009 champion was denied entry to the country.

Before this week’s competition in Madison, Cabrera has played in the PGA Tour Champions Trophy Hassan II in Morocco, Spain, the Korn Ferry Tour’s Argentine Open and the Barbados Legends Championship.

Cabrera won the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters Tournament.

More: Madison's Jerry Kelly on playing golf with rheumatoid arthritis: 'I'm not going to quit.'

Ángel Cabrera chips to the ninth green during the first round of the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge Golf Club in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday.
Ángel Cabrera chips to the ninth green during the first round of the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge Golf Club in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ángel Cabrera playing at AmFam Championship following prison sentence