Fairway of dreams

DAN TOTH, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

A year ago, Stephen Ames strolled out the back door of Augusta National's quaint clubhouse, scanned Bobby Jones' lush, green dream and smiled.

The Calgarian, with roots in Trinidad and Tobago, had downplayed the anticipation he was feeling in the weeks leading up to golf's most cherished tournament, staged at the game's most revered venue.

But now, with the picture-perfect setting spread out before him and his first Masters invitation tucked in his pocket, Ames acknowledged it was a special event in his lengthy professional career, dating back almost 20 years.

"It's exciting," Ames grinned, soaking up the panoramic view from behind the clubhouse that overlooks the 18th green and first tee.

"The overwhelming factor that comes into effect is the fact that you've never seen the course before in person."

Kind of like how golf fans from around the world feel when they flick on their TVs for an annual taste of the Masters, the unofficial kickoff to the golf season.

For Ames, what followed was one of his most unforgettable weeks of golf, making the 36-hole cut although never contending.

Masters rookies rarely do, with Augusta National's endless nuances and deceptively fast greens demanding competitors rely on experience as much as skill.

But there are so many other reasons why the Masters rates as one of the world's most unique and special events.

Just getting through the front gates takes some doing, with many golf fans stuck for years on waiting lists just to gain a pass to see the event.

Similarly, the Masters features the smallest field of golf's four majors, making it that much more difficult for the game's best players to qualify.

Ames was 40 when he hit the first tee last April but still looked like a kid compared to some competitors.

Jack Nicklaus, 65, and a six-time champion, played his final Masters last year.

Unlike any other golf event, winning the Green Jacket affords the man inside the coat a lifetime exemption into the event, once again something unique from other events and other sports.

Nicklaus revelled in the moment, acknowledging the waves of cheers that greeted him at every green and each tee.

The emotions finally overwhelmed the Golden Bear when he holed his final putt, doffing his cap to accept the outpouring of affection from the huge gallery.

An affection earned over more than four decades as the event's most dominant golfer.

This week, Ames, 41, returned to Augusta to shoot for his first major title.


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