Nicklaus balances family, fairways

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 1:10 PM ET

It's an argument that can't be won or lost but is hashed over daily in clubhouses around the world: Who are the 10 best golfers of all time?

Obviously, there's no definitive answer yet a handful of fairway legends belong on any knowledgeable golfer's list.

Sun sports writer Dan Toth asked Calgary's Stephen Ames, who has played professionally around the world, to offer up his all-time greats.

The native of Trinidad and Tobago, who gained his Canadian citizenship a year ago, has been fortunate enough to tee it up with a couple of the golf gods, who earned a place on his honour roll.

Who Ames selected -- and why -- will be revealed in this special 10-part series.

- - -

Is there a kid who grew up on a golf course in the 1960s or '70s who wasn't influenced by Jack Nicklaus?

The powerful style, piercing stare and unmatched success became The Golden Bear's trademarks, while an unprecedented 18 major wins makes him one of Stephen Ames's top golfers of all time.

Ames as a youngster was inspired by Nicklaus's dominance and his strategic approach to golf domination, just like every other kid swinging a club at the time.

But today, as a father of two young sons, Ames's lasting impression of Nicklaus is of a great golfer who could balance his time-consuming career with a vibrant family life.

In Ames's eyes, Nicklaus found the winner's circle in both areas.

"It takes your mind completely off of golf. You're not thinking golf 24 hours a day," remarks Ames, who along with wife Jodi have two sons: Justin, 8, and Ryan, 5.

"Guys who don't have anything else to do with their lives go home and think about golf. Family was big for Nicklaus and I admire that he was able to do that and remain such a great player.

"His greatest achievement is definitely the balance he has in his life -- family, golf, business, everything."

Nicklaus's dedication to family is even more poignant in light of the recent tragic death of his 17-month-old grandson, Jake Nicklaus, who accidentally drowned.

Nicklaus is the all-time PGA leader with 18 major championships (along with two U.S. Amateur titles).

He also holds the record for most consecutive seasons with at least one win (17) between 1962-78. Nicklaus recaptured some of the magic from his prime by winning the 1986 Masters at 46, his sixth green jacket.

In his fifth decade in golf, Nicklaus is considered one of the most influential personalities in the game today as both a player and course architect.

"The greatest achiever in golf today is still Nicklaus with

18 majors, so he's number one," Ames says.

"I don't think money had anything to do with it. It was just his competitive drive."

Tiger Woods could eclipse Nicklaus's marks if he regains his form from a few seasons ago when his Tiger Slam left the trophies from all four majors on Woods's mantelpiece.

"It's tough but it's a possibility if Tiger got his game back to where it was in 2000," Ames says.

Thirty years past his prime as a player, Nicklaus is still making an impact on the game around the world through golf course design.

It's another area in which Ames is interested in emulating Nicklaus.

- - -

NO. 1

JACK NICKLAUS

NICKNAME -- The Golden Bear.

BORN -- Jan. 21, 1940, Columbus, Ohio.

MAJORS -- Masters (1963, 65, 66, 72, 75, 86); U.S. Open (1962, 67, 72, 80); British Open (1966, 70, 78); PGA (1963, 71, 73, 75, 80).


Videos

Photos