Ames adjusting to changes

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

Finishing 26th on the 2006 PGA Tour money list isn't a bad place to be for financial and prestige reasons, but Stephen Ames has a new caddie, coach and golf swing, changes that would normally indicate a disappointing year.

Spending time in Hawaii, as Ames did with his family the past three weeks, isn't a bad place to be either, especially with the wind chill biting back home as it was in Calgary last week and Ames getting off to a strong start in paradise.

Ames battled the trade winds at Kapalua, but took a piece of the first-round lead before tying for 11th and moving on to Honolulu. The Aloha portion of the schedule ended on a sour note as Ames was disqualified from the Sony Open on Friday for signing an incorrect scorecard.

This erratic start comes after a 2006 season in which Ames recorded three top-10 finishes, including his final-round artistry in his second career win, a big one at The Players Championship, as part of nine top-25s for $2,395,155 US.

So why all the changes for '07? They were more out of necessity than design.

For one thing, his brother Robert is pursuing his own playing career, so Ames has returned to Dean Elliot, who served as his caddie for nine years, but that isn't the only shuffle in the Ames' camp.

Ames also switched coaches from Dennis Sheehy to Canadian Sean Foley, who works out of Orange County National near Orlando where Ames spent time at the end of November making swing changes.

Ames made the coaching change because he liked the personal attention Foley offered and they will hook up again at the FBR Open in early February to check the progress of the new swing changes that were put in place for medical reasons.

Ames caused a buzz at the Canadian Open when he withdrew with a back problem that had actually started a month earlier. "We couldn't figure out what it was and, as time went on, it got progressively worse," said Ames, who also missed the American Express Championship and Tour Championship.

The problem, centred in the middle lower back, wasn't muscular but the result of his right hipbone being out of alignment.

"My right side was two-and-a-half inches rolled forward," said Ames, adding that the left side was affected as the rest of his hips began to overcompensate for the problem. This led to a chain reaction that included the muscular pain he experienced in his back.

"It's such a one-side sport with golf. The other side doesn't get the same kind of turns and twists that your right side does," said Ames, who realized that he he would need to change his swing.

Enter Foley.

"A lot of the back problems stemmed from the golf swing. He explained to me where I was going wrong. For him, it's not a technique, it's more how the body's supposed to work and I'm understanding what he's trying to get across," said Ames, who reports the changes are becoming more comfortable and the back is fine.

"Golfing-wise, I think it's going to be easier on my back. It might take me a couple of more months before I get it right."

Ames now hopes to continue the momentum he established in 2006, when he also won the unofficial LG Skins Game.


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