Ames ó Canada's best bet

TODD SAELHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 AM ET

CALGARY - Woe, Canada!

We seem to be in a world of hurt these days on the golf globe.

Mike Weir is struggling to find his form after an elbow injury, the up-and-comers have suddenly up and faded, and Stephen Ames ó by his own standards ó is coming off his worst season in five years.

But donít tell the Calgary golfer thereís trouble in the Great White North. Ames says he isnít feeling the heat of being the only swinger from Canada with a legitimate shot at PGA Tour success this season, and heís got the ego ó in particular, a handle on his ego ó to prove it.

So he intends to give it a shot.

ďI feel the rooting part, but I donít feel the pressure,Ē said Ames, a Trinidad and Tobago native whoís lived in Calgary for two decades and is a Canadian citizen. ďItís an individual game, and Iím still playing for myself, in some respects. But playing well, yeah Ö you definitely get recognized and youíre very much recognized in Canada, and thatís where the rooting part and the cheering part comes along. Itís more of a positive than anything else.Ē

Give Ames credit for seeing such a silver lining.

After all, there seems little to celebrate right now when it comes to Canadian golf.

Weir, of course, continues to stumble ó from Masters blaster to Augusta awful two weeks ago ó in what seems to be an ongoing agonizing effort to rediscover his touch after suffering a torn elbow ligament last year.

Despite so much promise, Calgary-born Chris Baryla has failed to make any money in six tour appearances this season and has only pocketed $24,254 since the beginning of the 2010 PGA campaign.

And who knows if we can expect a significant 2011 recovery from back surgery by Graham DeLaet, last yearís top Canuck on tour with $954,011?

Sure, Ontarioís David Hearn surprised many with a sixth-place finish for US$205,025 at the Shell Houston Open earlier this month and his stock continues to rise weekly, but his previous top payday was $81,000 for winning the 2004 Alberta Open on the Nationwide Tour.

That brings us back to Ames. Although his earnings are anything but gaudy ó he boasts $266,603 on this yearís money ladder, thanks mostly to a third-place $203,000 take at Puerto Rico Open in March ó and heís nearly two seasons removed from his last PGA Tour win, itís his own personal growth that makes him Canadaís best bet weekly on the worldís top golf circuit.

Not only did Ames rededicate himself to the game in the off-season, but he learned heady stuff about himself that heís determined to address.

ďThis year is about the ego ó Iím trying to get rid of that,Ē said Ames, who turns 47 next Thursday. ďThatís interesting how that gets involved with messing up your shot or your shot pattern. You canít hit the shot because your ego is involved too much, and thatís been interesting trying to get rid of it. But itís always going to be there, for everybody.

ďBut itís a nice battle. I like the battle because itís always inside. Itís not on the outside.Ē

Essentially, itís an aspect of the game Ames himself can control.

ďI didnít understand what is was,Ē Ames said. ďAnd then when it was pointed out by my psychologist, it was like, ĎOh, my god ó itís there on almost every shot.í It was checking my stance, and checking to see that my posture was right. It was like, ĎCan I just stand by the golf ball and hit it?í And he says, ĎNo, thatís your ego getting involved there.í You want to make sure that youíre right. Thatís the typical ego ó always telling you that youíre right. And I didnít know that.

ďNow Iím just trying to play within myself and be a little more relaxed and be aware of what Iím thinking or how Iím thinking and getting up and executing the shot, and Iím hitting the ball a lot better,Ē Ames continued. ďIím a little bit more free-wheeling, as they say, and a lot of people are seeing that now, which is nice.

ďThatís the beauty of the game, isnít it? Youíre always learning something, which is great. I enjoy that.Ē

Whether heíll enjoy a campaign Canadian golf fans ó and even himself ó are used to remains to be seen. Certainly, Ames is looking forward to the bulk of the PGA Tour season, which includes another shot at the Canadian Open at Vancouverís Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club, where he finished seventh in 2005.

By that tour stop in mid-July, the Calgarian hopes his 25th PGA season will be a success story in full swing.

ďThe rededication part is because I realized what I did last year ó it was my worst year in five years, and it still wasnít that bad, but

I think I needed to rededicate myself to be able to play the way Iím capable of playing,Ē said Ames, after his 115th-place, $916,527 standing in 2010. ďIíve done that, and Iím reaping rewards.

ďIím feeling a lot better, and Iím hitting it a lot better, and all those things are coming out now.Ē


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