CALGARY — Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, Stephen Ames never dreamed of one day being inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
Now a Canadian citizen and one of the country’s most successful golfers, Ames was welcomed as the 74th inductee into Canada’s golf shrine during a private ceremony Tuesday at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club.
“As a proud Canadian, I am truly humbled by this great honour,” said Ames, who became a citizen in 2003 in his adopted hometown of Calgary. “It kind of adds to the fact of how much Canadians have embraced me — obviously becoming a Canadian citizen and now getting into the Hall of Fame. It’s an added bonus.”
Ames has 11 professional tournament wins to his credit, including four on the PGA Tour, the most memorable of which was a six-stroke victory at the 2006 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
“It has been a long journey, a lot of hours, a lot of miles, a lot of back pains, a lot of learning and a lot of fun,” said the 50-year-old Champions Tour rookie, who’s one of the marquee names scheduled to compete at the Shaw Charity Classic from Friday to Sunday at Canyon Meadows. “It’s hitting home a little bit now for me. It’s the highlight of my career right now, an added trophy to the career that I’ve had, which is wonderful.”
Tournament director Sean Van Kesteren is excited to see how Ames will fare once the action gets under way on Friday.
“I think he’s motivated,” Van Kesteren said. “He’s still obviously a great player. To be inducted into the Hall of Fame, there’s not too many folks that get that honour. Hopefully this will fire him up for the week and he’ll represent Calgary and all the fans that are here to support him.”
Having helped to bring the Shaw Charity Classic to Calgary for its inaugural event last year, Ames is now looking forward to hearing his name announced when he tees it up for the first time on Friday in the second instalment of the Champions Tour event.
“It’s going to be emotional,” said Ames, whose 15-year-old son Ryan will caddy for him. “I can feel it now coming on. It’s going to be fun for me. On top of that, I’ve got my youngest caddying for me as well. That’s going to be even better in that respect that he’s going to get to enjoy that with me, so I’m looking forward to it very much.”
Seeing as how the tournament is being hosted in his own backyard, Ames might have a bit of an advantage over his competitors.
“That was the goal was to sleep in my own bed and drive to work, which is nice, rather than have to jump on a plane and fly 15 hours to get there and find a hotel,” he said.
If he hopes to contend for top spot, Ames will have to fend off the likes of defending champion Rocco Mediate and Charles Schwab Cup points leader Bernhard Langer.
“Rocco, Bernhard, everybody’s here, which is good,” said Ames, who has played in just one Champions Tour event, finishing tied for 15th at the Senior PGA Championship on May 25. “This tour, a lot of people think is not as competitive. But I’ll tell you what, it is competitive. Those guys are still very hungry and everybody still has pretty much the same game they’ve had.”
With eight of the top 10 money winners this season on the Champions Tour in attendance, it won’t be an easy task for Ames to finish atop the leaderboard.
“The field’s a little stronger this year and we had a great field last year,” Van Kesteren said. “Bernhard is going to be one that everyone is going to have to chase down. I saw him here (Monday) night on the green, doing his measurements. He’s already done his homework. He obviously wants to win again. I think Rocco will be there as well and I know he’s excited to defend his championship.”
Including Ames, a total of four Canadians will be among the 81-competitor field at the Shaw Charity Classic.
Joining Ames at the event will be Rod Spittle of Niagara Falls, Ont., Jim Rutledge of Victoria and Calgary’s Darryl James, who qualified to play in his first Champions Tour event after carding a 2-under 68 at Canyon Meadows on Tuesday.
“This is an absolute dream come true,” said James, an instructor with the National Golf Academy in Calgary who earned one of the final five spots by virtue of his performance at Tuesday’s qualifying round.