Stephen Ames now takes his father’s ashes to every event he plays
Stephen Ames is more popular than Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz combined. Now 41, the Canadian has been ranked top-ranked golfer in the world on two occasions and, at times during his career, he was even treated like royalty. In 2006, on his 28th birthday, he was presented with a mink jacket and received a lengthy speech on stage at a golf-themed banquet in St Tropez, France. “My desire is to kill you,” Ames was quoted as saying. “I’m going to take a bottle of tequila out there in the middle of this and knock you out. And then I’m going to drink my own tequila all over you.”
When he broke into the US PGA Tour in 1994, Ames was presented with a Chrysler 300 luxury car, and from the moment he first saw the Hills Chrysler plant in Secaucus, New Jersey, a buzz became all-pervasive in the carmaker’s offices. In August that year, when a thunderstorm disrupted the 2-1/2-hour drive from Atlaht to Barnesboro for the Deutsche Bank Championship in Dover, Delaware, no one batted an eyelid. “We were waiting to see the sky lift up when a massive dust cloud of dust suddenly appeared behind us and the air cleared instantly. We stopped, closed the windows and started laughing,” Ames said.
In 1997, when Ames finished second at the US PGA event in Atlanta, it became apparent to the sponsors of the tournament that he had an aura about him. It was noticeable that on the Wednesday at the practice course, with scores still being taken, they quickly withdrew other players so that the Canadian could go out. His 68 round was just a single stroke off the record.
His thrilling moment of victory on the PGA Tour came at the 2005 Crowne Plaza Invitational, when he won his first title after finishing just one shot off the lead in a final round at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas. It wasn’t at all staged; by the time the 45-year-old Ames had finished the 18th he had already signed for second place. His win was little more than a head fake. He didn’t get to stay at the luxury hotel until Thursday morning. “One of the chief objectives is to always be there at the end,” he said.
Ames has completed every tournament he’s entered since the age of 22. He’s had to, and he’s done it with such humility that even the greats of the game come into the great Canadian’s sphere with awe and awe in their eyes. Mike Weir, the 23-year-old Californian, raved about the character of Ames last November, after his semi-final match with the Canadian at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “I can’t recall when a Canadian played their last round better than him,” Weir said. “He’s the Rain Man of golf.”
After trailing and staggering late in the tournament, Ames trailed Webb Simpson by a shot in the final round of the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill before making birdies on the final three holes to win his 24th tournament.
Nowadays, though, Ames likes to see his father, Wilfred, alive. He now takes his ashes to every event he plays. “Everyone tells me my dad is very important to me,” he said. “Sometimes, we sit in a plane waiting for the plane to pull away and I listen to the radio and think, ‘I wonder if my dad is in there right now?’ Sometimes, we sit in a park and make coffee. I tell people, my dad is my first love, and my job is to play golf, but it is not the only thing I want to do.
“Here, for those times that I think about him, I take him with me. And if I need to cry, I do. His presence will always be around me. And if I want to talk, I will talk. It’s his spirit that carries me through every time I look at the scoreboard.”