Something in the flair

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:54 AM 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.

In no particular order, here are the golfers Ames most admires:

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#1 JACK NICKLAUS

#2 BOBBY JONES

#3 BEN HOGAN

#4 BYRON NELSON

#5 WALTER HAGEN

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NO. 5

WALTER HAGEN

Born -- Dec. 21, 1892, Rochester, N.Y.

Died -- Oct. 5, 1969.

Nickname -- The Haig.

Majors -- Won two U.S. Opens (1914, 19), four British Opens (1922, 24, 28-29), five PGA Championships (1921, 24-27) and five Western Opens. Retired with

40 PGA wins, six-time U.S. Ryder Cup captain.

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The Walter Hagen legend demands we remember him arriving at the first tee

30 minutes late, slightly hung over, still wearing his tuxedo, before dispatching his flustered match-play opponent 7 and 6.

Flamboyant and graceful, Hagen is credited with elevating golf to the front pages of the sports section.

One of the most dominant match-play golfers, Hagen won the PGA Championship under that format four consecutive years (1924-27).

He retired with 11 major titles, third-most in the game's history, but his mastery of match play and reputation for gamesmanship were his calling cards.

"In the case of Walter, he was more of a showboat growing up on tour," says

Calgary's PGA Tour star Stephen Ames.

"Legend has it he was never quite sober enough to play golf the first seven or eight holes but as soon as he got sober, he'd make something like eight birdies in a row and beat his opponent 6 and 5."

Seldom is professional golf today contested as match play. Outside of the Ryder Cup, the Anderson World Match Play Championships offer the rare occasion for touring pros to compete head-to-head.

"I'm not a big fan of match play," admits Ames, defeated 7 and 6 last month in the opening match of the event at La Costa by Australian Mark Hensby.

Hagen's legacy is based as much on his style and professionalism as his playing record.

He is considered the most colourful golfer of his era and provided Bobby Jones with keen competition.

"He was a great player who played against some of the greats of the game, including Bobby Jones," Ames says.

Hagen also introduced an era of style and grace that permeated the game and remains a benchmark today.

"That is part of the mandatory things we have to do now," Ames says of standards of dress and conduct on the PGA Tour.

"Dressing a certain way, respecting certain things, foul language on the golf course, all those sorts of things.

"The way you dress.

"We have to look good on television, that's what it's all about.

"That's where the money comes from."

Hagen is also remembered for often playing wildly from the tee before recovering with a splendid short game that broke the hearts of many opponents.


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