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Stephen Ames’ Profile

That story helped to establish Stephen Ames as the number one player in Trinidad and Tobago, and also started this writer in the profession of journalism. But that was only a start. Seven years later, in Stephen’s first year as a professional, while playing the Jamaican Open, Ames hit the 18th green on the second day level par, after a good round on the opening day. The ball rolled over the green to the fringe at the back, slightly uphill and he chose to use a pitching wedge to try and stop the ball on the slicky downslope rather than putting off the toe of the putter and hoping for the ball to die. The ball rolled off the other side and Ames chipped back and two-putted for a double-bogey six for 74, which dropped him to around seventh for the tournament. Ames walked off the green and sat on a bench, back of the 18th with his head bowed between his legs for more than an hour. When this writer, who had also gone to play the tournament, walked over to console him, he said “This will never happen to me again,” and promptly took his bag of practice balls to the driving range and hit 200 balls.

Any one of us local professionals would have been happy with his 74 and position in the tournament. Of course, we would have been disappointed with the double bogey, but a Red Stripe or two at the bar, and a small cry on somebody’s shoulder would have taken care of that. But not Ames, what was good enough for us was way below his standard, and he was not satisfied with getting anything but the best from himself. He finished 11th, but he had gone to Jamaica with much higher expectations.

In a way, this self-whipping attitude proved his weakness, costing him many top 10 finishes, both on the Nike Tour and the European Circuit, where he would be well placed for three days, then fade away with one bad score. But it is also his strength and his desire to do well that has taken him beyond golfing scribes, when they visited Tobago, or Trinidad for annual tournaments. Ames has been able to run past names like Brian Barnes, Andrew Murray, Peter Baker, David Gilford, Barry Lane and others, who were looked on as golfing gods by locals, before his ascent.

A mis-understanding on re-entering the United States during the Nike Tour in 1992, cost him his US visa, and saw him making an impromptu exit from the Nike Tour and trying for the European circuit, in France. He qualified and had four reasonably successful years in Europe, winning twice and last year, placing fifth in the British Open at the famous St. Andrew’s course in Scotland, having the honour of placing higher than world number one, Tiger Woods, and other names like Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Bernhard Langer.

In between he got married to Jodi, a Canadian air hostess he had met while playing the Nike Tour, and also had a son Justin, born February 1997. One never to give up, he kept trying to qualify for the US Tour, and last year, after another reasonable performance in Europe with three top 10 finishes and quite a few in the top 20, tied third in the USPGA qualifying tournament in Orlando last December. Life was tough and expensive in Europe, particularly when he had to play tournaments outside England. He then had to travel to places like Spain, Germany and France, and even if the tournaments followed each other, he would first have to fly back to England before heading out again, which of course, seemed maddening.

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