On his first day at home after a long season on the Champions Tour, Stephen Ames got up early and watched the sun rise. And in Turks and Caicos, when you’re sitting on the deck of your oceanside home, those mornings are quite spectacular.
While he may be a native of Trinidad, Ames, a proud Canadian citizen, is a true snowbird these days as he and his wife, Kelly, will relax in the warmer climes of the Caribbean for a while.
“I can’t complain at all,” said Ames, punctuating his comment with a hearty laugh.
After playing 24 events from Japan to England, Ames is more than happy to sit and watch the sunrises and sunsets for a while. He’s earned that. The 55-year-old finished inside the top 40 in all but two of his starts, ending the year in a very respectable 26th spot on the Charles Schwab Cup points race.
The year wasn’t without some speed bumps, however. He admits that as the season wore on, his game began to wobble and he told himself he required some swing repairs.
He found it in an unusual place: Instagram.
“I realized that I needed help,” said the lone Canadian regular on the 50-and-over circuit. “I was looking on Instagram and found a guy who really intrigued me, so we connected.”
That guy was Shauheen Nakhjavani, a Montreal teaching professional who has a gained wide social media presence and lots of positive results teaching in person and online.
He worked on the position of the clubface at the top of Ames’ backswing, a problem the golfer has struggled with off and on for some time. A grip change as well as some modifications to his stance paid off and Ames was hitting a cut with ease.
“That just gave me a lot of freedom,” he stated. “It simplified things for me and that cleared my head so there was less to think about.”
Over the course of his career, Ames has played his best golf when his mind isn’t littered with swing thoughts. The simplicity of the changes offered by Nakhjavani gave Ames a superb second half of the season. Always a good ball-striker, this year was even better by his standards. He finished 19th in driving distance and 27th in greens in regulation. In his last six events, he was inside the top 20 five times.
The other part of the equation for Ames was that for the first time in his memory, he didn’t have any physical ailments. No aching back or sore wrist or bum knee. A commitment to the gym was a major reason for that.
All this hard work doesn’t mean that Ames didn’t enjoy his year off the course. One look at his social media will show off some of the great social atmosphere that exists in this world.
“The 19th hole is the best hole,” he said of life on the Champions Tour. “We all know our careers are done in terms of competing against the big boys, so we really enjoy things out here.”
That doesn’t mean the 50-and-over gang is any less competitive or skilled. There is some excellent golf being played, and Ames pointed to the ageless wonder Bernhard Langer as an example. The 62-year-old German won twice and posted 12 top-10 finishes this season, ending the year fourth on the Charles Schwab Cup list.
Langer is a bit of an outlier and most of the competitors on the Champions Tour know their time is limited. In most cases, it’s how long the body will hold up. For some, it’s about the desire after a career of grinding out travel. Others simply get bumped from exempt status.
Next year, a new crop of rookies will debut and the 2020 class is deep. Among those eligible are Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, K.J. Choi and Canadian Mike Weir, who turns the magic 50 on May 12.
Ames doesn’t know how many more seasons he’ll but after a solid campaign in 2019, he’s already thinking about next year. Before that happens, however, there are a lot more sunrises and sunsets to enjoy.