May 1, 2014 10:18 pm

Stephen Ames’ Canadian status never in doubt

Stephen Ames, of Canada, tees off the 14th hole in the first round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open golf tournament, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, in Las Vegas.


Stephen Ames was never accepted by sports fans as fully Canadian.

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Never mind that he’s lived most of his adult life in the country. Ignore that he’s spent more time in Canada than his higher profile peers—golfers like Mike Weir—whom has spent more time outside Canada than inside its borders. Heck, Weir hasn’t lived in Canada full-time since he was a teenager, and Graham DeLaet, Canada’s most notable golfer currently, has called Boise, and more recently Arizona, home since he left for college a decade ago. Even Brad Fritsch, from the Ottawa area, has spent most of his time as a pro in the Carolinas.

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Despite the fact Ames has lived in Calgary for more than two decades (and has been a Canadian citizen for some time) and even though he was recently announced as a member of Canada’s golf hall of fame, some can’t get past his place of birth. Yes, Ames was born in Trinidad. Yes, he’s remained connected to the country of his birth. But, at the same time he’s done a lot for Canadian golf, including heavily involving himself in junior golf development in this country.

Now 50, Ames has a foot in two tours. He’ll play this week at the Wells Fargo Championship, but he also has the opportunity to start on the Champions Tour, whose tournaments are designed to showcase the games former biggest stars and includes golfers like Fred Couples, Bernard Langer, and Nick Faldo.

At one point Ames was regarded as one of the best ball strikers in the game. And it was Ames who brought swing coach Sean Foley to the attention of the world, long before Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan, and Justin Rose knew who the Canadian golf instructor was.

Under Foley, Ames became a star, winning the Players Championship with one of the more impressive golf performances witnessed in recent memory. It seems like the distant past, but Ames’ win in 2006 saw him blow away one of the best fields in golf by six shots in a nearly flawless round. It made him the envy of many on tour and Foley’s ability to accentuate Ames’ strengths—and to help the golfer limit the back problems that plagued him—brought the swing coach to the attention of the world.

That seems like the distant past now. Ames has officially hit the point where he can play the Champions Tour, and he’s been actively involved in the Shaw Charity Classic, the senior tour event in Calgary that will head into its second year at the end of August. Ames was a big supporter in the tournament’s first year—but he’ll actually be able to tee it up in the tournament in a couple of months.

The move to the Champions Tour should be a boon for Ames, who is an exacting golfer, but never one of the game’s longest hitters. Courses on the Champions Tour are a fair bit shorter than on the PGA Tour and should make Ames not only competitive, but potentially one of the more dominant golfers on the senior circuit.

But that doesn’t mean he’s through with the PGA Tour. Playing on a one-time money exemption, Ames hasn’t had a great deal of success this year, only making five cuts in 13 events. Last year he made 11 cuts in 19 events, but only made $188,987, putting him well down the money list.

While he continues to play on the PGA Tour, Ames is only a few weeks away from his debut on the Champions Tour, where he’ll make his debut at the Senior PGA Championship that starts on May 22.

Notoriously outspoken, always entertaining and rarely boring, expect Ames to continue his straight shooting ways on the Champions Tour.

This week on the PGA Tour:

Wells Fargo Championship
Television times: May 3, 4 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Global

Players to watch:
Phil Mickelson: A very marginal start to the season with Mickelson, who hasn’t had a Top 10 finish to date. Is time finally catching up with Phil the Thrill, or is the poor start to the season simply a result of injuries?

Rory McIlroy: With three Top 10 finishes in his last four starts, it is time McIlroy seized the opportunity presented by Tiger Woods’ recent injury and demonstrated he can dominate.

Lee Westwood: A recent winner on the European Tour, and a Top 10 at the Masters, Quail Hollow has the feel of a major. Westwood has the game for such a setup, and comes into the tournament in winning form.

Notables: Davis Love III, Darren Clarke, Hunter Mahan, Ryan Moore, Justin Rose

Canadians in the field: Stephen Ames, Mike Weir, Brad Fritsch, David Hearn


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