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Veteran Stephen Ames named for induction into Canadian Golf Hall of Fame

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He's a Hall of Famer now, but Stephen Ames isn't ready to give up playing golf just yet.

Ames was unanimously named for induction into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame on Wednesday, becoming the 74th member of the country's golf's shrine. And with Ames poised to celebrate his 50th birthday in April, the Calgary resident is planning to play events on both the PGA and Champions Tours in 2014.

"Usually you think Hall of Famers are inducted when they're finished playing," Ames said during a conference call from West Palm Beach, Fla. "I still see myself as a player right now.

"It's a great honour, for sure, without a doubt."

Ames' induction ceremony is expected to be in Calgary in August during the Shaw Charity Classic, a Champions Tour event that Ames is a founding patron of.

"The Canadian Golf Hall of Fame seeks to recognize excellence as golfers, contributors and supporters of the game," said Ian Clarke, the chairman of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame's selection committee. "Stephen Ames has excelled on the biggest stage in our sport and it is fitting that he will be recognized for his respective accomplishments."

After attending Lynn University, Ames turned pro in 1987. A dual citizen of Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, Ames has recorded 11 career wins. Four have come on the PGA Tour, where he has earned over US$19.5 million.

Ames' first Tour win came July 4, 2004 at the Cialis Western Open, finishing two strokes ahead of American Steve Lowery. His last victory came in '09 at the Children's Miracle Network Classic in a playoff with Justin Leonard and George McNeill, both of the U.S.

Ames has also won on the European and Nationwide Tours as well as three skins events, including the '05 Telus World Skins Game in Whistler, B.C. when he finished ahead of Jack Nicklaus, John Daly and Vijay Singh.

He finished second behind Daly in the '06 event held at Banff, Alta., and third in '07 in Thornbury, Ont.

A career milestone came in '06 when Ames captured The Players Championship by six strokes over Retief Goosen. The win was worth US$1.44 million and moved Ames into No. 27 on the official world golf rankings at the time.

But Ames said receiving the Hall of Fame nod has surpassed that as a career highlight, although he considers the 2006 win his biggest ever on a golf course.

"It was a week of complete mental control, which we all know is very difficult to do, day in and day out," he said. "On the course, that would be it.

"Off the course, being inducted into the Hall of Fame. It's very prestigious, very nice."

Ames also made headlines of a different sort that year. When asked about top-ranked Tiger Woods prior to the '06 WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship, Ames quipped: "Anything can happen, especially where he's hitting the ball."

The next day, Woods thrashed Ames 9 and 8 in their match. Afterwards, Woods was asked about Ames' comments and simply answered, "9 and 8."

Ames is also active off the course.

Last year, the Stephen Ames Foundation funded the inaugural CJGA Stephen Ames Junior Cup. And since 2005, he has hosted the Stephen Ames Cup, a Ryder Cup style tournament featuring a team of Canadian junior players versus a team from Trinidad and Tobago.

His foundation also provides funding for junior golf programs and other children's initiatives in Canada and Trinidad and Tobago. Ames is also involved in the construction of a golf course in Calgary that he hopes will host the Canadian Open by 2018 or 2020.

Ames continues to put together his 2014 tournament schedule, adding he has exemption status on the PGA Tour this season. But he said having two separate circuits to choose from is indeed a luxury.

"If I miss a few events at the start of the year, I have the option of playing on the PGA Tour or the Champions Tour," he said. "There are a couple of weeks where I'm not going to be able to play in invitationals (on PGA Tour) but I can play in some of the majors on the Champions Tour.

"That's a wonderful opportunity that I have and an option as well, so lucky me."

The Champions Tour is a circuit for golfers 50 years of age and over that's run by the PGA Tour. And while the Champion Tour competitors might be older, Ames said they still have the burning passion to compete.

But there are subtle differences between the two golf Tours that Ames says he's going to enjoy.

"The 19th hole might be a little different," he said. "The guys are definitely a little more relaxed after a round of golf and I think the camaraderie is going to be a little lighter, which is fantastic.

"It's like playing with your buddies. You finish a round of golf and you go to the bar and have a drink and talk about your round . . . this is going to be a nice setting for me, I quite enjoy that."

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