CALGARY—Stephen Ames breaks into the wide grin he’s noted for when asked if he’s enjoying his time on the Champions Tour, the over-50 set whose latest tournament kicks off on Friday at Calgary’s Shaw Charity Classic.
“Wait—let me think about,” Ames says, smiling. “Who wouldn’t? Wow—three round events, everybody gets paid, and after a round of golf you sit down and have a glass of wine with all the guys and their wives. Are you kidding me? It’s fun out here.”
Ames discussing fun is unusual these days. The golfer has faced a tumultuous period of his life since turning 50, which saw him separate from his wife last year, moving away from Calgary to Vancouver with his two teenage boys to create some distance, and putting his family’s home on the market for $8-million. While he no longer maintains a residence in Calgary after living in the city for more than two decades, the native of Trinidad says he’ll likely end up spending a majority of his time in Hawaii, where he’s looking to buy a home.
His personal challenges probably explain why Ames, 51, hasn’t taken the Champions Tour by storm as some thought he might. Last year Ames, whose most notable win came at the 2006 Players Championship, played a mix of PGA Tour and Champions Tour events, not excelling at either. This season he’s played sporadically, but has three Top 10 finishes in 10 tournaments. His game doesn’t look very different from the years when he was considered one of the best ball strikers on the PGA Tour.
He played the Shaw Charity Classic, a tournament he helped found, last year, but kept a low profile, despite being inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. This year he seems more at ease, though his caustic sense of humor with the local media leaves some unclear about whether he’s joking or being serious.
But returning to Calgary, he admits, isn’t the same as it has been in the past.
“It is very weird,” he says. “I have nothing here. [My house] is for sale. I’m out of here.”
Life in Vancouver, where he’s living with his sons, Ryan, 16, and Justin, 18, has been positive, Ames says. He won’t be living there full-time for long—Justin is attending school, and after Ryan gets out of secondary school, Ames imagines moving to Hawaii, where he’s spent time in past years.
While his start at the Champions Tour hasn’t yielded the wins everyone expected, they could be in Ames’ future. He’s says physically he’s in good shape, and he’s enjoying competing on a tour where bombers don’t hit it 50 yards past him. That makes sense—Ames has always been primarily a feel player, with a game suited to courses that require precision over power. His skill was clear during his win at the Players where he shot a nearly flawless round of 67 in tough conditions, but he never won as often as many expected for a player of his abilities.
Still with nearly $20-million in earnings on the PGA Tour, Ames seems content to play the Champions Tour, with its tournaments spread out over three rounds instead of the PGA Tour’s four, and no cut.
He’s planning on playing more regularly on the Champions Tour for years to come.
“I could do this till I’m 65—easily,” Ames says, chalking up his slow start to the fact, “Life got in the way.”
“It is still in my way,” Ames adds. “But I’m going to make the most of it.”