It was back in 1991 that Stephen Ames got a taste of what life in Canada would be like. For a guy raised in the tropical temperatures of Trinidad, it was a rude Calgary welcome.
"I think the wind chill was minus-55," he said recalling his first Canadian winter spent living in the basement of his mother-in-law's house. "I never left the house."
Ames has never really grown fond of winter, but he has certainly fallen in love with Canada. On Wednesday, the country paid him back for that by naming him to the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
A four-time winner on the PGA Tour including the 2006 Players, Ames is winding down his career on the regular tour and preparing to join the 50-and-over gang on the Champions circuit in April after reaching the magic age of 50. For most of this year, he'll split his time between the two tours using his top 50-career money list exemption on the PGA Tour.
When asked what he thought the difference between the two tours would be, Ames said it might have to do with what happens off the course.
"I think it's the 19th hole," he said with a chuckle. "I think it's a bit more relaxed after the round."
Ames would be a worthy inductee based solely on his playing record, but his contributions to Canadian golf go well beyond that. He has run the Stephen Ames Cup for the past decade, a team event that pits squads from Canada against those from Trinidad.
Some of the youngsters who have participated in that event have gone on to earn U.S. college scholarships.
And he was instrumental in bringing the Shaw Charity Classic to Calgary, helping line up a team of big rollers in the Western Canadian city to lay the foundation for the Champions Tour event.
Ames was also the guy who gave an energetic young teacher named Sean Foley a chance to work with a PGA Tour pro. We all know where that's gone.
When asked what the top mark of his career is, Ames didn't hesitate.
"It's this," he stated, in reference to his induction. "I think being in the Hall of Fame is the highlight."
On the course, Ames said that his Players victory was at the top of his personal list. I can say that in all the golf I've covered and watched, that is simply the best 18 holes of golf I've ever witnessed. I've never seen anyone control his golf ball for every shot as Ames did that day. All he did was beat the best field in golf by six shots. I remember some of the biggest names in the game that day shaking their heads in disbelief at what he was doing to TPC Sawgrass.
For some people, Ames is seen as a prickly personality but to those who get to know him, nothing could be further from the truth. He's a guy with a huge heart who loves to laugh and loves his family.
Sometimes when he speaks his mind, it can get him in trouble such as the occasion when he questioned Tiger Woods' driving ahead of the 2006 Match Play. While a lot was made of that and the subsequent beating Woods laid on him, what he said wasn't wrong. Woods was hitting it all over the lot with his driver.
After he won the Players, some media members took him to task for saying he might skip the Masters to go on a family vacation. They couldn't understand how someone would pass up the year's first major, the one that's exceptionally difficult to get into. What many failed to realize was that his wife, Jodi, was recovering from surgery for lung cancer. Suddenly a golf tournament, even the Masters, didn't seem so important.
There are also still some who, for small-minded reasons, don't even consider him a Canadian. To me, a guy who leaves his native country to willingly take up citizenship, to give back to the game here, to start businesses here, to create tournaments here and make his home full time in Canada – and even cheer for the Calgary Flames -- is about as Maple Leaf as they come.
Ames is more than deserving of a spot in Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, even if he's never learned to love those nasty wind chills.