Ames's Immigration Problem
Hasta La Visa
Stephen Ames is right where he wants to be. By finishing third
at the Sprint International two weeks ago, he vaulted 94 places
on the 1999 money list, to 129th, and heading into the Tour's
two-week swing in Canada, he seems a good bet to make enough to
keep his card for the second straight year. He and his wife,
Jodi, have a two-year-old boy, Justin, and an infant son, Ryan
Michael, born in May, who travel the Tour with them. "Childbirth
is a complete miracle," Ames said more than once in an interview
with SI earlier this year.
So is the way Ames has kept his Tour career alive. "It was
difficult getting back out this year," Ames said last week at
the Reno-Tahoe Open, where he shot 70-76 and missed the cut by a
stroke. "I almost didn't make it."
Ames's odyssey began in 1992, when he was banned from the U.S.
for five years because he had lied to a U.S. immigration
official. Stephen, who is a native of Trinidad and Tobago, and
Jodi were crossing the border from Canada, where she was born
and where the couple were living (in Calgary), when they were
asked to state their country of origin. "Canada," said Jodi.
"U.S.," said Stephen, who was running late for a Hogan tour
event and hoping to avoid further delays. If only Ames, whose
grandmother was a 20-time national golf champion back in
Trinidad and Tobago, could have taken a mulligan.
After the ban Ames turned to the European tour, where he won
twice. All along, though, he felt he belonged in the U.S. So in
December 1997, thinking he had served his sentence, he went to
Haines City, Fla., and finished fourth at the Tour's Q school.
Then he ran into a new obstacle.
For the first seven Tour events of '98, Ames was slow-played by
the U.S. State Department and couldn't get into the country. For
the eighth tournament, the Nissan (L.A.) Open, he was finally
granted a one-week visa and finished third to jump-start a year
in which he would earn $357,859 in 16 events. He played whenever
he was allowed into the U.S. (sometimes he was rebuffed at the
Calgary airport) and had two other top 10s. Ames finished 83rd
in earnings to keep his card and caught the eye of Randy Paul,
an IMG agent based in Toronto. He persuaded Ames to let IMG
represent him, contending that the sports-management company had
a cadre of lawyers who might help Ames clear his legal docket.
The caveat: Ames would have to stop talking publicly about his
mistake, which he has done.
This year Ames failed to gain entry until the 21st week of the
season, when the lawyers made good and secured a one-year visa
for him. When Ames learned that he could play in the Kemper Open
in late May, he hit so many practice balls that he made himself
sore, and when he got to the 1st tee at the TPC at Avenel, he
said afterward, "it was the first time I had heart palpitations."
Ames started bogey, bogey, double-bogey and shot 76 but bounced
back with a 69 to make the cut on the nose. He finished 44th and
collected $7,225. "I didn't make as many putts as I wanted to,"
Ames said, "but I was happy to be playing." The downside was that
Ames missed the birth of Ryan Michael on Tuesday of that week.
Free of the burden of trying to get into the U.S., Ames is
focusing instead on getting into the top 125. "I think I need
another $100,000," says Ames, whose status will be reviewed by
the State Department next year. "Then I get another year to play
in the States--provided I'm allowed."
Calling Casey Martin
Carts in Use At Reno-Tahoe
Due to slow play and the physically taxing distances between
some greens and tees, Tour players were given the option to ride
carts on three holes during last week's Reno-Tahoe Open at the
7,552-yard Montreux Golf and Country Club, which is at an
elevation of 6,000 feet. "Rounds were taking more than five
hours," said Notah Begay III, who won for the first time, with a
Tournament officials made the shuttle service available to the
tees at the 225-yard par-3 11th hole and the 496-yard par-4 12th
during all four rounds. After interminable rounds last
Thursday--some lasted six hours--officials gave players the
choice of riding or walking to the tee at the 464-yard par-4 8th
hole, which is 150 feet above the 7th green. Said Begay, who
took advantage of the shuttles, "The last two weeks [the Sprint
International was at 6,000 feet] have been a strain on the
players." --Steve Yingling
COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL Lofty Ames Trinidad and Tobago's finest has eyes on the top 125.
COLOR PHOTO: WINSLOW TOWNSON
COLOR PHOTO: MEL LEVINE
COLOR PHOTO: PHELAN M. EBENHACK
What do these players have in common?
They have won playoffs against Hale Irwin on the Senior tour.
Irwin fell to 0-3 in sudden death by losing to Ahern at the AT&T
Canada Senior Open last week.
The U.S. and European Ryder Cup rosters are set. Which team do
you think will prevail in the Sept. 24-26 match?
--Based on 535 responses to our informal survey.
Next question: Will Tom Watson, who turned 50 on Sept. 4,
dominate the Senior tour? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
With 10 weeks left in the season, the races for rookie of the
year are heading down the homestretch. Here are the contenders on
the PGA, LPGA and Senior tours.
(TOP 10s) SCORE MONEY
Carlos Franco 2 (6) 70.02 $1,562,884
Sergio Garcia 0 (3) 70.44 $784,917
Notah Begay 1 (1) 70.88 $644,704
Paul Lawrie 1 (1) 69.46 $562,234
Mi Hyun Kim 0 (7) 70.75 $292,830
A. Fukushima 1 (4) 71.37 $264,201
A.J. Eathorne 0 (2) 72.45 $123,159
Laura Philo 0 (1) 72.04 $118,336
Bruce Fleisher 5 (14) 69.62 $1,756,860
Allen Doyle 3 (11) 70.59 $1,353,266
Jim Thorpe 0 (7) 71.10 $657,424
C. O'Connor 2 (4) 71.06 $564,024
Maureen Ramini, Topsfield, Mass.
Ramini, 46, a retired operating room nurse, won the women's
championship at Salem Country Club in Peabody for the 12th time
in 13 years. Ramini, a five handicapper, defeated Anna
Mandragouras of Topsfield, the 1997 titlist, 4 and 3 in the final.
Jacqueline Parrotta, Loudounville, N.Y.
Jacqueline, 11, made three holes in one, all with her driver, in
an 11-day stretch. Her first ace was on the 105-yard 6th hole at
Brunswick Greens Golf Club in Troy, N.Y. Number two came a week
later on the same hole. Jacqueline's third was on the 147-yard
12th hole at the Country Club of Troy.
Ty Tryon, Orlando
Ty, 15, won the Lucent Technologies Boys Junior on the Queens
Course at Gleneagles Country Club in Plano, Texas, with a
12-under 272, which tied the American Junior Golf Association
four-round scoring record held by Phil Mickelson (1987) and
Robert Floyd ('94).
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