Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Meet Stephen Ames, Calgary's PGA Tour Player

By Jeremy Freeborn

Since 1997, Calgary's Stephen Ames has been a regular on the PGA Tour.  Over his professional golfing career, the 46-year old has won four major victories (the 2004 Cialis Western Open, 2006 Players' Championship and 2007 and 2009 Children's Miracle Network Classic), and made more than $18 million.  In 2004, Ames was 17th in the official World Golf Ranking.

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Ames moved to Calgary in 1991 after meeting his wife Jodi, a flight attendant, and became a Canadian citizen in 2003.  When in town, Ames is active in local business as part-owner of Vintage Chophouse & Tavern and Redwater Rustic Grille.

We chatted with Ames before he jetted off to San Diego for the Farmers Insurance Open to talk about his upcoming season, the Calgary golf scene and life in the city.

What do you like best about playing golf?
"Wish the situation I'm in, I get to make my own schedule and play events that I enjoy going to - whether it's the city or the golf course.  That's the beauty of playing on tour, I get to go where I want."

Congratulations on winning the Children's Miracle Network Classic for the second time in Florida this past November.  Why does this golf course suit you so well?
"I think that it has a lot to do with the Bermuda grass.  I grew up on Bermuda grass, so I'm familiar with it."

Your greatest golf achievement came in 2006 when you won the Player's Championship.  Four years back, in 2002, you were in contention, and came up a little short.  How meaningful was it for you to win the tournament that many consider to be golf's fifth major?
"It was a great achievement.  It was a highlight having my brother Robert on the bag with me.  I think the performance I put on that last day (a 67) was extremely gratifying.  Winning by 6 strokes on that golf course (TPC Sawgrass), as tough as it was then, is even tougher now as the event is in May."

At age 46, what are you goals this season?
"My goals usually deal with mental aspects rather than playing performances.  What I've noticed in the last couple of years is that I need to be more in the state of forgetting all the bad shots, taking things in stride, move on and play golf.  I need to accept things for what they are.  I'm looking forward to a more consistent year."

Why was it important to you to get your Canadian citizenship?
"A lot of it has to do with having kids (two boys) who are Canadian, and the second reason is because Canada is a great country.  I'm very happy that I've done it.  I am a proud Canadian and really enjoy living in Calgary."

What was it like to carry the Olympic torch near downtown Calgary this past winter?
"It was a great honour.  I was very proud I was asked to do it, and to be a part of a tradition that has been around for centuries."

Calgary has an abundance of golf courses.  Which courses best suit your game, and what are the ones you like the most?
"The Glencoe Golf and Country Club has the best practice facility by far.  Nothing comes close to it.  I enjoy playing the Calgary Golf and Country Club; it's short.  You have to move the ball off the tee and keep the ball below the hole, so you're actually thinking before you're hitting it.  I also like playing Country Hills because it has a lot of wind up there."

Where do you like to go when it comes to shopping in Calgary?
"Chinook Centre is the mall tha tis close to me that I go to.  I get most of my suits from Holt Renfrew.  On the whole Calgary is a cosmopolitan city and shopping-wise it is up there with what the better cities have throughout North America."

Over the last eight years, you have been the part-owner of Vintage Chophouse, and recently Redwater Rustic Grille.  How gratifying is it to be part of the Calgary restaurant industry?
"I have enjoyed it.  I think Vintage was something that was needed, and it has done exceptionally well.  It has been a lot of fun, and given me the opportunity of sampling the different cuisines in Calgary from checking out the competition, which is equally very good.  Calgary is such a buzzing city when it comes to restaurants."

You've travelled the world.  What quality does Calgary have that makes the city unique?
"Where Calgary is situated, in the foothills and the Rocky Mountains.  You can literally have four seasons in one day.  It's a great city to live in."