Rafael Cabrera-Bello is another of the talents to come out of the Iberian Peninsula. Born just two months before his countryman Seve Ballesteros won his second Open Championship and a fourth of five career majors, Cabrera-Bello is hoping to be the fourth Spaniard to win one of golf’s key events.
However, to follow in the footsteps of Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal and the aforementioned Ballesteros, Cabrera-Bello is hoping to step up his game, which has been operating at quite a consistently high-level for some time, without picking up the victories it may have deserved.
That is the task for the man who turns 36 in May this year, and who has only seen his name inscribed three times onto any professional trophy as champion. The challenge is to put all of his hard work, all of the guidance from elite swing coach David Leadbetter, and in his own words, “stay calm and composed for when it matters…”
Away from golf, Cabrera-Bello has houses in Maspalomas in Gran Canaria and Bali, where he loves to undertake his beloved pastime of surfing. If he can put everything together and pick up a major title, he’ll be catching a different kind of wave as he reveals to RSNG…
RSNG Golf is a huge thing for your family – was that the main reason you decided to focus on turning professional? RAFAEL CABRERA-BELLO, THE SURF AND TURF GOLFER ‘I loved the game when I was growing up, but maybe that was due to me being so exposed to the sport by my family. We all played when I was younger, and I began to learn the game a lot in a short space of time. My sister Emma is a professional on the Ladies European Tour.’
‘I was also very fortunate to have the brilliant coach David Leadbetter as a friend of our family and he began to show me even more about golf. When I was in my early teens, I was introduced to David and that was when I was playing golf at Doral in Miami and I was paired with Andy, his son.’
‘The great thing about David is that he identifies the parts of your game he feels are your own and makes sure you keep those working parts in check. Then, he helps you improve the other components in your game and swing, and assists you in being able to understand how to get the best out of yourself.’
RSNG For someone who has perhaps not had the success your game deserves, how do you come to terms with that? RCB ‘It can be frustrating to play well and not get the rewards, but that is the life of a golfer.’
‘To prove yourself a talented golfer you have to hold it together for an entire round, then hope someone else doesn’t come and better you. That is very difficult, because you know at any part of the process things may unravel.’
‘I trust my game though and I trust the fact that if I keep on playing the way I have been since my last win – which was in 2017 at the Scottish Open – the next victory can be just around the corner.’
I’m much more mature about how things happen and what it takes to win a game – you can take solace in losing if you have lost the right way!
RSNG Does trust come with practice? RCB ‘Well, these days, I am much more mature about how things happen and what it takes to win a game. You can take solace in losing if you have lost the right way!’
‘And mostly, yes, I am happy with the way I have been playing and with the amount of times I have been able to finish in the top 10 since that last victory – even sometimes without even hitting the ball the way I want to.’
‘The only way that you can give yourself a better chance of winning an event is to keep on playing with some sort of consistency and then, you may get a bit of fortune come your way.’
RSNG How difficult is it to have your game where you want it for as long as you can during any given year? RCB ‘Well, I would say that it is very difficult because to be totally assured with your swing, be completely trusting that everything is going to be perfect with your game, as well as making sure that the decisions you make and the execution of those is nigh on impossible every time. Otherwise, there would be no competition.’
‘However, that is always the aim of learning the game every day, every week and with every passing event and you know that every other player is battling against that, also.’
‘They live with that every time they play or pick up a club, so that’s a good thing for me! We are all here together, battling against each other, but mainly, against ourselves.’
If I get a chance to have a week off, I always try to get to have a bit of time hitting the waves surfing in Bali
RSNG Away from the golf course, how do you like to relax? RCB ‘There is absolutely no competition. When I am able to spend time away from golf, I always love to surf. So, if I get a chance to have a week off in between the events that I am competing in, I always try to get to have a bit of time hitting the waves in Bali.’
‘I have been fortunate enough to be able to earn enough money from playing golf that I have bought a house in Bali and I have a couple of surfboards there. I also have an apartment in Gran Canaria, in Maspalomas, where I have more boards and I love it.’
‘Waking up as early as I can and catching the waves before everything gets busy out on the beach and just going out and having some fun, is my favourite thing to do.’
‘Of course, it can be a little dangerous and you always have to make sure that you time everything right. The margin of error in surfing has far more drastic consequences than in golf!’
‘I have been injured more than a couple of times, but nothing too serious at all… more just cuts and bruises. The same with golf, it is all about learning and trying to minimise your pain and injury. I make sure I only go into the water when the waves are good for me – I will never try anything too big.’
WHAT NEXT? Find out how England cricketer Joe Root beats stress with his golf club…
Then, watch Cabrera-Bello hole an eagle from the bunker.