RBC Canadian Open interview: Stephen Ames

July 23, 2013

MORE INTERVIEWS: RBC Canadian Open transcripts archive

THE MODERATOR:  Please welcome Stephen Ames to the media center.  You were tied for low Canadian here last time in 2009.

STEPHEN AMES:  Seems like a century ago.

THE MODERATOR:  A little while ago the last time we were at Glenn Abbey, but you're making your 16th consecutive RBC Canadian Open start.  Maybe you could tell us what it's like being back at the Canadian Open and then we'll open it up.

STEPHEN AMES:  It's always fun being back at the Canadian Open.  It's a home event, obviously a lot of family and friends always following around, so in that respect it's wonderful.  Also the fact of knowing where we're staying and everything each week that we come out to the Canadian Open, it's fun.  So in that respect it's always a delight to play the Canadian Open.

 Q.  Talk about yesterday and what that event meant in your eyes, what you see for it going forward?  And second question to that, are you tending to help the younger guys, something we just talked to Scott Simmons a little bit more about, but are you tending to talk to the younger guys a little bit more in this country about being professionals and some of these up‑and‑comers and some of the guidance and wisdom of Stephen Ames you can pass along to them?

STEPHEN AMES:  Well, there's definitely a lack of that, there's no doubt, in both respects.  Golf Canada not doing, I think personally, not doing the job of being the governing body of golf for Canada.  I think the models of Australia, Sweden are great models to follow, and Canada doesn't do that.  I refer more to the fact of facilities for practicing, having elite facilities within each province.  That to me is a perfect model, what Sweden does, and it shows.  Look at all the great players that have come out of Sweden.

Australia is exactly the same way, their governing body supported very much by the government, which is obviously a tickle with everything with Canada in that respect.

Their hands are very much tied.  It's tough for them to raise the money to be able to support those facilities to work, and for myself, giving back to the game of golf is helping the up‑and‑coming players, without a doubt.

Yeah, I do introduce myself, some of them might know me, some might not, but a lot of the good upcoming players, especially in Canada, some really good players, some really good players.  Like Brad mentioned last night, it takes time for these guys to get there, and I think that's a true statement, but at the same time it's also an excuse.  There's time, but I think the time comes from the fact of how much time you put into it to get there quicker.

We see that with the kids from the States and around the world, and I can name right off the bat, the Korean kid, 14‑year‑old, he's there.  But boy, he does not leave the range.  He works at it.  He's 14 years old, and it's amazing.  From 40 yards in he'll give Tiger a run for his money, and Phil; he's that good.  He doesn't have the strength to hit it far or the mechanics, which are very weak, but from 40 yards and in, he's phenomenal, and it's because he's put the time in.

When Brad mentioned that last night I wanted to jump in but I didn't want to bite his tongue a little bit on that respect.  But that's the difference there.

It's hard living in Canada, of course, because of the fact that we have winter, so that's what takes the time, because we live here.  That's the choice we make, but then we have a choice of also going south, jumping on a plane and going to Florida and working on your game, and that's where the money comes up.  It's very expensive.

It's a give and take in some respects, but I think it's ‑‑ they're getting better, but I think they could be better, especially for indoor facilities, working on your mechanics when the winters are here, helping the younger players come up from 10 onwards and hitting balls, working on their basics.  When time comes to play summertime, they've got the basics down, all they've got to do is go out and play now, and that's the part that takes time.  But having the basics down, then it's easier.  You're not working on your basics like I do every day when I am playing.

Q.  So an event like yesterday sort of becomes a conduit between your generation and the generations coming up behind you?

STEPHEN AMES:  Somewhat, yes.

Q.  You've long been a proponent of trying to get a Canadian Open out west.  It doesn't look in the short‑term like that's going to happen anytime soon, but you have the senior event coming up in about a month's time, obviously not this year but next year you will.  How significant is it for you personally to have an event in Calgary?

STEPHEN AMES:  Well, no offense from everybody being from the east here, but the money is in the west right now with the oil and sand.  The only problem is we don't have the golf course.  There is one that is in the works right now.  The first phase of the seven goes with a housing project.  It's done with the Harmony Group, and ‑‑

Q.  Is this the one you've been affiliated with?

STEPHEN AMES:  Correct.  The first phase alone was $110 million.  There are seven.  You're hearing a lot of money that is coming out there.  But the whole system, the whole phase itself, all the different phases added up, there are 3,500 homes going in there, so it's not a small project.  It's a big project.  The golf course is a separate entity to it altogether.  The land was given for free.  We have the developer giving us all the machinery for free.  So there's a lot of things that have brought plus, plus, plus, plus to get it started, and we had to wait for the first phase financing to come through, which it has, and we're supposed to be breaking ground in August, right now.

Q.  Do you see a couple years out, three years?

STEPHEN AMES:  At least.  You've got to give the golf course at least a year, year and a half to build it, and another two to ‑‑ I've talked to Scott about a date.  We had potential ‑‑ we had '16.  That's gone.  Now we're looking at '18 to hosting it in Calgary.

Q.  Is it significant for you to have an event in Calgary?  Is that a big deal for you?

STEPHEN AMES:  Yes and no.  I think it's important that being a national open we move to different cities within Canada.  It's our national open.  Some can sustain it and some can't.  Calgary can sustain it.  All we needed was a golf course to build.  The city is a booming city.  We've got great hotels, restaurants, everything to go with it.  Those are all added attributes to the event.  Great golf course to go with it, well, yeah, guys are going to be happy.

 Q.  Lastly, what's the state of your game these days coming in here?  I know it's probably not where you want it to be.  How do you see this year?  Is this sort of a transition year heading in?  Do you still have expectations coming out of yourself?

STEPHEN AMES:  Body wise it's great.  No aches and pains, which is always a plus for me.

Q.  No back problems?

STEPHEN AMES:  No, no back problems.  I get a little sore every now and then, but I think we all do as we get older.

But the game hasn't been great.  It's been a struggle, yes, without a doubt.  I have struggled mostly with the driver has been my weak fall in my game.  If you notice the stats, I'm actually third in putting this year, which is good, so that part usually ‑‑ that's usually the part that usually falls down as you get a little older, and I'm actually going the other way.

I'm looking forward to it, but at the same time I've still got another year out here, and I still think I can win out here.  If I get my game back to where it was before hitting and ball‑striking wise, I don't think I'll have a problem competing with these guys out here because of the fact the short game and putting is still very strong.

 Q.  Do you take notice when you see Woody Austin winning at 49 last week?

STEPHEN AMES:  It's good for him.  He was not playing anywhere.  He didn't have any exemption.  I can still play anywhere I want.  Lucky me.  It just happened to work out that way.  I didn't plan it, it just worked out that way.

But for Woody, yeah, it's nice, yeah, especially on that golf course.  It was wet.  It's short, so the longer hitters had an advantage, and he still ended up winning, which was great.  I don't know if it was an easy playoff, but it was a playoff if I'm not mistaken, wasn't it?  Daniel Summerhays?  Another three‑man playoff.  So it's fun.  It's nice to see that Woody did win, yeah.  It gives him a place to play, which is nice.

Q.  Can you touch on the fact that the Abbey is back here first time since '09?  Do you like the rotational thing for this event, or would you like to see it just played at one course?

STEPHEN AMES:  No, it needs to be rotated.  I've stated that for years, and I think that's why they've gone about what they've done.  I think it's nice that we're capable of moving it.  It's our national open, moving it to different courses around Canada and showing the different beauties of Canada throughout.  Vancouver, I wish we could go to Nova Scotia and PEI and play out there.  I mean, that's another beautiful part of the world.  And then of course you're here in Toronto, the metropolitan part of ‑‑ the New York of Canada, shall we say, and then of course there's west Calgary which we haven't got to yet.

Q.  Do you think it's working?

STEPHEN AMES:  I think it is, yes.  I think the main person that's putting the money up is very happy, RBC, about the fact that we're moving throughout Canada.  There are a national bank or the national bank of Canada, am I right, and moving it within different parts of Canada, I think they get to hit those markets that normally they would not be able to hit, and I think that's the plus part, and that's the part that I think is most important more than anything else.  The players, we're just a bunch of spoiled golfers, you know, and that's a fact, we are spoiled.  So if we spoil those guys enough, I think they'll come.

 Q.  Could you speak to I guess your current enjoyment level of golf and where you think it will go eventually when you eventually go to the Champions Tour, if your feeling will change on it at that point?  Reflect, I guess.

STEPHEN AMES:  Well, my current enjoyment depends on my son, if he continues playing, who's caddying for me this week.

Q.  Same son who was out at Florida ‑‑

STEPHEN AMES:  Right behind you.  Yeah.  That's my enjoyment right now, and it's a thrill.  He knows a lot about the game and sees a lot in my swing, which is nice.  It's always enjoyable when you have another family member with you that is enjoying, reaping the same fun things and enjoyment of the game that I've had for years and that he's slowly starting to enjoy it, as well.  Hopefully a lot of it will rub on to him and he'll continue the Ames tradition, shall we say, the sarcastic Ames tradition, and go from there.

But this is his first experience caddying, and I'm sure we'll have more as we go on, because if he continues with the game he'll want to come out and be with me and caddie, as well.  Plus the pay is not bad, I'm sure.

Q.  Does he get the standard

STEPHEN AMES:  No, he's not getting standard.  He's getting pretty close to it.

Q.  So you are paying him?

STEPHEN AMES:  I am paying him, yeah.

Q.  So this is a good summer job.

STEPHEN AMES:  It's a summer job.

Q.  He'll make more money here than at Wal‑Mart.

STEPHEN AMES:  But fun level and still enjoying it, yeah, I always have.  It'll be a while before ‑‑ when I start moving the ball backwards and not forward, then I think I'll stop it, let's put it that way.

Q.  When you talked a few questions ago about moving the rotation of the Canadian Open around, how much of that is also playing different golf courses?  I know a couple years ago the guys loved Shaughnessy, and I know it's always come back here, but to play some of the old courses, maybe like you said, on the eastern seaboard, where we have some really good golf courses, I think it enhances the challenge for you guys, as well?

STEPHEN AMES:  Yeah, of course, without a doubt.  It's funny, about six months ago Geoff Ogilvy and myself sat down and talked about the golf courses that we play on TOUR, and we did an analogy looking at the time, elapsed time of playing in a pro‑am format or playing in a pro‑am itself, and when you played a pro‑am on the Wednesday, if we played the PGA West golf courses at Bob Hope Classic, the amateur, the pro‑am time was five and a half hours almost to play, only because of the fact that everything was a carry over water.  We shot 26 under par to win the event as an example.  And we came to Riviera now, old‑style traditional golf course.  The amateur part of it, pro‑am wise, was taking four hours and a half, and the pros were getting their asses flicked because it was a tough golf course.

And here we have a scenario, don't the architects get the idea that traditional golf courses are the fun ones to play for everyone, yet we keep building golf courses like an example here yesterday, I played with a guy who owns Barnhead.  What's his name, Iggy?  He's 87 years old.  He couldn't hit it more than 100 yards.  He lost eight, ten golf balls in the nine holes that I played with him.  So everything was a false carry.  There's no run to it.  How much golf can you enjoy playing like that?  I know he plays every day, but still.

And that's the part that is happening, and that's why golf is, I think, going that way rather than that way.  A lot of it is technology has made it easier for us, but at the same time the golf courses have to become tougher, so they're building golf courses that are obsolete for the amateur players, and we're less than 1 percent of the population of the world that plays the game.  Why are we building golf courses to suit us?  We should be building golf courses for the majority of golfers that play.  Jack has been saying that for years, and he's very right.

Q.  Just to follow up, what do you think the solutions are to increase participation?

STEPHEN AMES:  Well, a lot of it, in some respects, playing 12 holes, having a golf course that's 12 holes, definitely different golf courses where your traditional bunker left, bunker right, little tucked behind it, but it still has to be the traditional setup, the old design shall I say, rather than having the 150‑, 200‑yard carries over water.  You thin one at a Scottish Open or a British Open golf course, it's running straight up the middle.  Okay, I hit it a little thin, but look at that, it's running, oh, look, it just went in the hole, but I landed it 80 yards short of the green.

People are going to enjoy that.  They hit a bad shot but they're still going to score more than anything else, and that's why a lot of players enjoyed Shaughnessy.  It's a traditional old‑style right in front of us.  Hamilton is exactly the same way.  I haven't played the new Royal Montreal, but I remember the old Royal Montreal was that way, some holes, not all.  There's still a lot of carries.  And then after that, where did we go to?  We don't have anything else after that tradition‑wise, do we?  St. George's?  That's the reason why we went there I thought for me.  I mean, it rained, made the golf courses really soft.  But I think if that golf course was firm and fast, it would be a beautiful test, you know?

I know we have a lot of traditional golf courses out here, but at the same time technology is making a lot of them obsolete, unfortunately.