Taking Skins and jabs

DARREN FRIESEN -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

WHISTLER, B.C. -- It wasn't the fact he beat his boyhood idol at the game he loves.

Nor was it the fact he took home the most money in the Telus Skins Game.

The proudest moment for Stephen Ames yesterday was chants of 'Go Canada Go' from the sold-out gallery surrounding the greens and tees of the Nicklaus North Golf Course.

That recognition alone satisfied the Calgary resident more than any stat, shot or putt during the past two days.

"First of all, being recognized as a Canadian was a big feat, especially from some of the press here in Canada," said Ames.

"I think it was more the eastern part of Canada that didn't accept me or put me down as Canadian. In this part of the world and towards home in Alberta, they accepted me as Canadian. Even when I wasn't a Canadian citizen, I was still a resident and (westerners) recognized me as both."

Ames, who was born in Trinidad, picked up $150,000 and seven skins yesterday to beat Jack Nicklaus, who played in his last competitive round in North America before capping off his remarkable golf career at the British Open next week at St. Andrews.

Nicklaus' seven skins and $120,000 earned him second place, while John Daly grabbed third spot with three skins ($65,000). Last year's PGA Tour money winner Vijay Singh wasn't as fortunate, ending the two-day event with no skins.

Tied after the final hole, the players donated the final skin ($25,000) to charity.

Although Ames believes the entire country now recognizes him as a Canuck, he couldn't help but point out it's taken some time to get the east on board.

"I think it's a little obvious," explained Ames. "This part of the world recognized me as Canadian and that part of the world didn't recognize me as Canadian.

"It doesn't bug me but I just like to throw it in every now and then."

When asked if he represents the west, while fellow Canadian Mike Weir was the reason for most of the media attention out east, the 41-year-old noted Weir no longer lives north of the 49th parallel.

"Is he (Canada's representative)? Or is he the Salt Lake rep? I don't know, you tell me.

"Fortunately Mike wasn't invited because he had Bell on his hat and this is a Telus event. I guess I was second in line.

"The fact that I ended up winning felt good. It was a great week and I enjoyed it very much."

After a vintage Nicklaus tee shot on No. 10, which sat only a foot away from the cup, the Golden Bear looked as if he was going to run away with the event yesterday.

The three skins on the first hole of the day gave Nicklaus $120,000 in the bank and seven skins for the event.

However, the other three players kept things close for the next four holes.

While battling a solid downpour all afternoon, Ames broke through as he drained an eight-footer for birdie on the par-4 15th, which netted him $115,000 and five skins.

Money and trophies aside, Ames admitted this win is step to getting his season back on track.

That and it was great to play and learn from a legend such as Nicklaus.

"I started seeing more results at the Western and here, so I was quite happy with the way I hit it. It was a lot better than the rest of the year so far.

"I was out here to have fun and learn something from the legend himself."

As for Nicklaus, he was satisfied with his play over the two days.

"I played all right yesterday and I made a couple of bad shots today but overall when the golf course got wet, I was hitting 3-irons and 4-irons and these guys are hitting 8- and 9-irons," he noted.

"It makes it a little hard to compete."


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