August 19, 2009
National treasure Ames chips in
By TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA
One day, maybe Stephen Ames will win a golf major.
Perhaps he'll even go toe-to-toe and topple the best player on the planet en route to the coveted victory and, with it, send shockwaves of jubilation through a tiny corner of the globe.
Not that the citizens of Trinidad & Tobago need that to happen for Ames to be considered an icon.
The native of the Caribbean nation, who now calls Calgary his home, has already reached superstar status in T&T -- just as Y.E. Yang is achieving in South Korea after his surprising takedown of Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship.
"He's huge back home -- he doesn't need to win a major," said Martine de Gannes, one of T&T's rising golf stars playing in the Stephen Ames Cup this week at Canyon Meadows Golf & Country Club.
"We had a clinic last year, and over 1,000 kids turned out to see him," added de Gannes, who attends Pepperdine University in California. "It was overwhelming -- something never seen there in golf. Just busloads of kids coming in. It was very moving.
"To produce that much response says something."
Indeed, golf is becoming more global thanks to the vision of players such as Ames and the success of those like Yang.
Coupled with the achievements of South Koreans on the LPGA Tour, Yang's weekend-warrior win over Woods will do amazing things for the game in the Asian country.
And Ames believes it extends beyond the country's borders.
"It was good for the game," said Ames yesterday, with his trademark cheshire-cat grin. "I think it shows the best player in the world didn't win -- for a change. It was nice for someone else to win.
"It makes golf more exciting.
"Yang's performance was stellar. It's the second time he's beaten Tiger. He played well, obviously," he continued. "Tiger played very well, too. Like he said, he just didn't get the putts.
"But it's good for golf for all. It's now becoming a global sport and being recognized for its quality."
Last week, the International Olympic Committee made a move to include golf in the 2016 Summer Games -- another sign it's being recognized as a global game.
On a personal level, Ames is doing whatever he can do to help push the sport in T&T, including his hosting of the fifth Stephen Ames Cup, pitting 10 juniors from his native land against 10 phenoms from Canada in a three-day Ryder Cup format, beginning today at Canyon Meadows.
"We've only had a few Caribbean golfers -- like Chi Chi Rodriguez from Puerto Rico and myself," Ames said. "It's kind of funny we haven't had more from the Caribbean because of all the sunny weather there."
But in T&T, golf is growing by leaps and bounds, thanks to Ames.
"He's won the sportsman of the year award twice, and he's there in the top two or three in terms of sportsmen in the country all-time," said T&T's director of golf Chris Harries.
"It was very moving to see him walk down the fairway holding hands with the children last year. What he's put back in the game in our country is tremendous."
Make no mistake, Ames believes such events help boost the Canadian game, too.
"It's important that both teams in the Stephen Ames Cup get to see the culture of both countries," Ames said.
"This is my way of giving back to the kids in Trinidad & Tobago. And for the Canadian kids, they don't have that rapport with the pros on tour, so this is a way they can meet with Mike (Weir) and myself.
"It's a great opportunity to give back to them, too."