For Stephen Ames, this week’s Shaw Charity Classic in Calgary is a home game in more ways than one.
Ames, the longtime Calgary resident, will play this week in his second Champions Tour event, the tour for professional golfers 50 years and older. Ames had a hand in helping launch the tournament, the likes of Calgary oilman Clay Riddell and others.
But Tuesday morning Ames will also be inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in a ceremony in Calgary, joining the likes of great golfers like Mike Weir, Richard Zokol, and Marlene Stewart Streit.
“It is another feather in my hat,” says Ames. “I’m thrilled to have been nominated, without a doubt.”
For Ames, who feels he has a second act on the Champions Tour, there’s never a right time to receive such an honor. Unlike other sports, golf doesn’t have an age distinction that determines when a player can enter the hall of fame.
“I don’t know what the right time is,” says Ames, who was born in Trinidad, but is now a Canadian citizen who has called Calgary home for the past two decades. “When guys like Dave Barr and Richard Zokol went in they were largely not playing anymore. In that respect they were probably finished. Now it is the back nine of my career, which is great.”
After four PGA Tour wins and two European Tour wins, including a stunning display of ball striking in winning the 2006 Players Championship, Ames has struggled in the last couple of years.
Known as one of the game’s great feel players, it was Ames who introduced swing coach Sean Foley to the PGA Tour. In turn Foley has become one of the game’s most noted instructors, working with the likes of Tiger Woods, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose.
Throughout his career Ames has been known to speak his mind, a refreshing change from many golfers, but something that has occasionally landed him in hot water.
Ames once said Woods’ driving was erratic prior to playing the golfer in the Accenture Match Play Championship, a fact that was true at the time. But Woods took offense to the comment and put on a display of great golf, thumping Ames 9-and-8.
Ames is also known for his remarks early in his career saying few players on the PGA Tour liked playing with Woods, who has 14 victories in golf’s majors.
Though Ames says he may play a handful of PGA Tour events next year, his plan is to have a full schedule of Champions Tour tournaments, where the courses are shorter and perhaps better suited to Ames’ exacting game. His remarks make it sound as if Ames has had his fill of post-round range sessions where he pounds balls in the hope of finding the magic that brought him success on the PGA Tour.
“No one is on the range after rounds,” he says, laughing. “It is quite comfortable, very comfortable.”
That doesn’t mean he’s not prepared to do what it takes to battle with the likes of Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples and Kenny Perry, former PGA Tour stars who’ve had plenty of success in the over-50 set.
“I think it is a question of how much work you want to put into it and how much you want to win,” says Ames, who has been working with Calgary swing instructor Paul Horton. “And I have been putting in my hours. I know the things I need to work on and I’m getting to the stage where I’m seeing it more and more.”
Ames was one of the patrons who helped create the Shaw Charity Classic, but he’s still hopeful he can coax the RBC Canadian Open to come to the city.
Ames has been involved in a proposed course, designed with PGA Tour great and TV announcer Johnny Miller, that would be created to hold the tournament. There are changes in that plan—Ames doesn’t know whether he’ll be involved in the design going forward—but he’s convinced Canada’s only PGA Tour event should make a stop in Calgary.
“The way things are looking the city has adopted [holding the RBC Canadian Open,]” Ames says. “It looks like Canadian Open should come there soon—and least that’s what I’ve heard. And it should—Calgary is a great city.”
As for the state of his game this week and whether he can contend at Canyon Meadows in the Shaw Charity Classic, Ames is coy.
He’ll have his son, Ryan, caddying for him, but Ames is just getting back from a vacation in Hawaii. Though he says he’s pleased to be playing in front of the hometown crowd, he’s not sure what will show up on the course.
“I’m not sure,” he says. “We’ll find out. Just getting over jet lag.”
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