Ames truly is a proud Canadian

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- He has been one of us for less than two years, but Stephen Ames is feeling as Canadian as maple syrup today.

In a Bell Canadian Open field shorn of all its native-born talent on Friday, Ames is the only holder of a Canadian passport still alive in the tournament, and he's making the most of it.

Ames began the third round in 47th place at three-over-par. But when the sun set over the Georgia Strait last evening, he owned both a share of the course record at Shaughnessy and of fifth place in the tournament, just three strokes off the lead.

A year after Mike Weir nearly snapped Canada's 0-for-50 streak in its national Open, Ames put on a huge charge to insinuate himself in the mix heading into the final round.

Somewhat unaccustomed to being the focus of large galleries, Ames is revelling in the attention.

"The bigger, the better, as far as I'm concerned," he said.

"I think it's going to be huge. It will be awesome. Everybody is going to be there rooting for me."

Ames, born and raised in Trinidad, and wife Jodi have been married the better part of 10 years, living in her hometown of Calgary. He was granted Canadian citizenship in October, 2003.

He witnessed the craziness at Glen Abbey last year when Weir battled Vijay Singh right to the wire and beyond. He understands and respects the special bond between Weir and the Canadian galleries.

"I'm not going to take anything away from Michael," he said. "Michael has had a great career, he has won the Masters. He's the only Canadian to win a major and that is a big feat."

That said, Ames is looking forward to basking in the glow of a late tee time on the Sunday of a Canadian Open.

"I don't think I have to worry about winning the fans over at this stage," he said. "For me, the opportunity of being a Canadian and having an opportunity of winning the Canadian Open, or any other PGA Tour event, would be a great feat."

Ames began his day on the back nine and, after a couple of routine pars, he caught fire, making five birdies in the next six holes. He made the turn in 30, then added one additional bird at the par-4 fourth hole.

His 64 matches the Shaughnessy competitive course record set by Lanny Wadkins in the 1978 Candian Professional Golfers Association championship.

As well as he played, Ames got more joy just looking outside the ropes and seeing his wife marching the fairways with him for the first time since last spring when she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

She underwent surgery to excise half a lung on July 20 and has been recuperating ever since. The cancer was in its early stages and Ames said the prognosis is good for a full recovery.

"It's a big relief to see her out here following me again like she did in the past," Ames said.

"Overall, it's a weight taken off my shoulders and life is a bit easier not having to worry about what the future will bring."

He has no doubt his improved play lately is accountable to his wife's improving condition.

"It has been difficult for me to focus or even see shots that I had to play because there were other things playing on my mind."

Ames had an extraordinary ball-striking round, hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens in regulation. Two of the fairways he missed were in the first cut of rough.

"It's not often you can shoot 64 and say that it could have been lower, but that was the case," he said. "It gives me a lot of confidence heading into (today)."

The previous Canadian to win the Canadian Open was Pat Fletcher in 1954. He, like Ames, was a new Canadian, having been transplanted from Scotland.

The last native-born player to win the Open was Karl Keffer in 1914.

In his time in Canada, Ames has learned to appreciate many of the idiosyncracies that go with having a maple leaf tattooed over your heart.

"I think because I'm Canadian, I will embrace the day as much as any Canadian would," he said.


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