SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The familiar grin flashed across Stephen Ames’ face as he chatted about a topic close to his heart following a session with Burlington coach Sean Foley on the range at TPC Scottsdale last week.
About a month ago, Ames was playing mega-golf during the annual family visit to Maui, but the 16 rounds he played were extra special with son Ryan, 11, along for the ride.
“That was the main objective,” said Ames of his quality time.
“He breaks 90 and he’s 11 years old. He hits every fairway, every green. Oh, he can swing it. He just can’t chip and putt yet,” said Ames, adding that Ryan’s game may be even more refined in the near future.
“We’re going to throw him in a junior program in Florida for a couple of weeks, see if he likes that and then, go from there,” Ames said.
Watching Ryan’s progress on the golf course was timed perfectly with his dad’s goal of progressing as well, following a 2010 PGA Tour season that was cut short because of a back injury that limited his range of motion.
Ames, 46, withdrew from the Justin Timberlake event in Las Vegas in October and that ended his season, meaning he couldn’t defend his title at the Childrens Miracle Network Classic, a tournament he won twice in three years.
When all was said and done, Ames finished outside the top 100 on the money list, with just one top-10 to his credit, leaving him to find a way back to the form that has earned him four PGA Tour wins, including the 2006 Players Championship.
“I found a wonderful physiotherapist in Calgary who worked on my back over the winter. I worked out harder over the winter,” said Ames, adding that he lost an inch-and-a-half off his waist, which takes the pressure off his back.
“I’m now working with Craig (Davies) and we’re doing a lot more stretching. It’s been fruitful,” said Ames, who has also been working with longtime trainer Rob Connelly.
“I would say I’m close to mid-season form right now,” said Ames, whose confidence appears to be overriding the fact that he isn’t a big fan of West Coast events because of unpredictable weather such as the unusual frost delays that hit the Waste Management Phoenix Open here last week, forcing a Monday finish.
Ames won’t play again until the tour arrives in Florida, but he is happy with his conditioning throughout the West Coast swing.
“I just felt like playing. I think a lot of it was due to the fact that the back was healthier. I wanted to play. I felt like playing and I was capable of playing. Let’s put it that way,” Ames said.
MAHAN ON FOLEY
Hunter Mahan was talking at TPC Scottsdale last week about the effect that Foley has had on him as his coach.
“He’s brought a lot of knowledge, I think, about the golf swing. It’s not necessarily a theory. It’s pretty well-documented, like biomechanically, what is right and what is wrong and he’s seen it with other players and he’s seen the evidence himself,” Mahan said.
“I think he gives a player confidence in what they’re doing, that it is correct in that they don’t need to search for it. There’s nothing worse than searching for your golf swing,” he added.
“You’re just learning with him. It’s the stuff he tells you. If he’s not on the road or on the golf course, at least you have an idea what to do and how to fix it if it does go a little haywire,” said Mahan.
“I think he’s a great teacher and he’s a great guy and he’s a great friend, so it makes it easy to work with him,” he said.