Meet the one-man WGC, Rafa Cabrera Bello
Spaniard and his team have connections to nine countries
February 19, 2020
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- Rafa Cabrera Bello finished T19 last season at Club de Golf Chapultapec. (Luke Walker/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY – Spain. United Arab Emirates. Ireland. South Africa. America.
Rafa Cabrera Bello’s highly international team (coaches, caddie, wife) has ties to all of the above countries, plus Sweden, Australia, Germany and Belgium. He should feel right at home with the global nature of this week’s World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, where 19 countries are represented, the United States leading the way with 23 players.
More than perhaps anyone else in the field and quite possibly anyone else in golf, Cabrera Bello, a veritable one-man WGC, represents the increasingly global nature of golf.
“I’m so fortunate for the opportunity golf has given me to travel the world,” says the 35-year-old Spaniard, who has won three times on the European Tour but is still looking for his breakthrough victory on the PGA TOUR. “And to meet people from all over the world, as well.”
The latest addition to Team Rafa: daughter Alva Margareta, born last August. Rafa and his Swedish wife, Sofia Lundstedt, chose a Scandinavian name that would be pronounced and read the same way in Spanish. In other words, she’s the perfect addition to the melting pot.
“It’s really a United Nations,” says his coach David Leadbetter (Zimbabwe, England, Florida).
Cabrera Bello, who is coming off a T17 at The Genesis Invitational last week, was born in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, an island in the Atlantic that is part of Spain but geographically closer to Northwest Africa. He won the Spanish National Championship each year from Under-7 to Under-18, and turned pro at 22 in 2005. Among his career highlights are his 2016 Ryder Cup appearance for Europe – he went 2-0-1 and was the only European without a loss at Hazeltine – and his historic albatross on the 16th hole at TPC Sawgrass at the 2017 PLAYERS Championship, the first-ever 2 on 16 at THE PLAYERS.
Rafa Cabrera Bello reflects on his albatross at THE PLAYERS
His well-traveled support team have celebrated with him every step of the way.
Leadbetter, of Zimbabwe, was one of the first members of Team Rafa, having initially happened upon the Spanish star in a junior golf tournament. The coach was there in the capacity of a junior-golf dad, but wound up befriending Cabrera Bello and his family.
Rafa’s mom is a doctor, his dad an engineer. Rafa, it should be noted, is hardly the only golfer; his sister, Emma, has played on the Ladies European Tour, and his brother, Miguel, has played on the European Challenge Tour. All of them are skiers. It is Rafa, though, who has hit some of the highest highs in golf, and with easily the most diverse supporting cast.
Wife: Sofia Lundstedt of Sweden.
Manager: Richard Rayment of Australia, Germany and Dubai.
Fitness trainer: David Donatucci of America.
Caddie: Colin Byrne of Ireland.
And on and on it goes. How does it all work? What do they eat? “Each one can eat whatever they want,” Cabrera Bello says, “and if someone wants to cook, then they decide.”
Says caddie Byrne, whose bosses have also included Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, “Any time we stay in a house, it’s usually myself and Sofia in the kitchen. So, it’s a Swedish-Irish fusion, if you’ve ever heard of that.” He laughs at the zaniness of it.
“Yeah,” Byrne adds, “and Rafa likes his steaks, so there’s an awful lot of steak involved.”
Fusion is the name of the game for many European players – think Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland marrying an American and settling down in South Florida. It’s just that Cabrera Bello, who married Sofia in December, 2017, takes it to another level.
“It’s becoming such a global game,” says Rayment, who lives in the same building in Dubai as Rafa and Sofia. “And the PGA TOUR is such an iconic – what can I say, it’s a global brand. And it’s reaching out at all corners of the market.”
On his off-weeks, Cabrera Bello can be found at his place in Dubai, his apartment in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, or, if the spirit moves him, surfing with friends in Bali, Indonesia. Oh, and he and Sofia bought an apartment in Stockholm last year.
He speaks five languages.
“My personal trainer has an Italian name but lives in Florida,” he says of his vast and varied support team. He runs through the provenance of Lundstedt, Rayment, Byrne, Leadbetter, making sure to breathe. He smiles. “So, all over the world, really,” he says.
Lundstedt says the diversity of Team Rafa is its strength; that they all get along, she adds, has a lot to do with the man himself. “He’s a very grounded person,” she says of her husband. “He’s the most humble person I know. … We are a very drama-free team.”
Fans in America remember Cabrera Bello’s dramatic albatross on 16 at THE PLAYERS in 2017.
“He went suitably berserk and threw the 8-iron kinda halfway into the water,” Byrne says. “And I’m thinking, Oh, you maybe wanna go try and retrieve that before it floats off.”
Says Cabrera Bello, who finished T4, “I’m like, ‘Where’s my ball? What the hell just happened?’ And then I heard the roar from the crowd, so, then, obviously, I saw that it was in, and I just went crazy. I threw the club up in the air, ended up throwing it to the corner of the lake. I had to fish it out. It was pretty fun. It was a really, really cool thing.”
Cool, like when Cabrera Bello went surfing with Adam Scott and Kelly Slater at Slater’s Northern California surf ranch during an off-week.
A breakthrough TOUR win would be especially cool, and manager Rayment is optimistic.
“The way Rafa’s developed over the years is that he reaches a level and plateaus a little bit and learns, then goes to the next level,” he says. “He’s a deep thinker, very intelligent, a hard worker. … I think we’ll see Rafa for a long time to come, and hopefully soon in the winner’s circle.”
That will surely be a proud moment for Spain – and a lot of other countries, as well.
Inside the PGA TOUR
Adam Scott and Rafa Cabrera Bello surf with Kelly Slater