On the enchanted back nine, where there are no hole yardage numbers posted on any tee box in the Magic Kingdom for fear the guests would be stressed, Stephen Ames continued strolling merrily down the middle of the fairways with his 10-year-old son Ryan at his side making birdies like they were included in the price of admission on his way to his fourth PGA title, his second at Disney in three years.
A family man won at a family resort.
"I enjoy life. I enjoy the quality of my life. I enjoy the fact of watching my kids grow up. I think that's what's important about life," is how Ames characterized his life on the PGA Tour after receiving the hardware from Mickey Mouse and his wife Minnie.
Not to understate his intensity for the game when compared against the likes of Tiger Woods or Vijay Singh, the 2006 Players Champion stated the obvious: "I've put my time in where I need to practice and get myself ready for each event each year."
Though he closely followed that statement with a "but" and the most obvious: "I do enjoy the quality of life that I live in Calgary with my family, and to me family comes first. Golf is secondary. It always has been."
The 45-year-old golfer born in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago with dual citizenship in Canada has won $2 million in each of the past four years on the PGA Tour.
Second on a spectacular Floridian sunny and warm November day were Justin Leonard and George O'Neill. Both exited the playoff with mojo and title-killing three putts— Leonard's an official three-putt from 63 feet on the first playoff hole and McNeill's an unofficial one from off the fringe and over a ridge 30 feet from the hole on the second playoff hole.
All four Falls Series events played on the PGA TOUR ended with playoffs. Leonard who barely missed a 17-footer to win in regulation thought he had made it with a fist pump that was stopped mid-pump. He was visibly disappointed likely because this playoff loss runs his playoff record to won two, lost five.
"To be this close and not be able to pull it out is disappointing. I had such good putts in regulation on 18, and you know, obviously I thought I made it by my reaction. Surprised it didn't go in, but you know, it is what it is. I hit the ball great. Didn't putt that well this weekend, and you know, that was the difference."
It would have been the third straight year with a victory for the 37-year-old Texan and 12-time winner on the PGA Tour who resurrected his game a decade after his glory years as a player when he won the 1997 Open at Royal Troon and the 1998 Players Championship, lost the 1999 Open at Carnoustie to Paul Lawrie amidst the Jean Van de Velde collapse and made that huge putt on the 17th green at The Country Club to ignite the American 1999 Ryder Cup victory.
McNeill, a Florida State alumni and journeyman of sorts has had three solid years on tour after winning the 2006 Qualifying Tournament, a.k.a. Q-School. He won the Frys.com tournament in the Fall series of his rookie year.
"Eagle" McNeill, who eagled three straight par-fives starting with both par-fives on the back nine on Saturday before finishing bogey-double bogey, came back to the field and was caught by Ames' 66-64 and Leonard's 71-67 when all was said and done at the end of regulation on Sunday afternoon.
McNeill also lost in a playoff to Martin Laird two tournaments ago at Justin Timberlake's event in Las Vegas. The 34-year-old golfer won there in 2007 when it was the Frys.com Open which is now held in Arizona.
Though ranked No. 1 in putting this week in terms of total putts per round and average putts when hitting a green in regulation in the end the difference between victory and defeat came down to six footer and the ultimate rim out on the second playoff hole.
"(My putt) made a full 360. It went down in the hole and came back at me. So obviously that's not what I was looking for. I was looking for it to go in. But I guess we're looking for them all to go in."
Both Nicholas Thompson (T11) and Jimmy Walker (T15) found the magic they were looking for this week and moved into the Top 125 on the money list at the season's final event.
David Duval, playing on a Top 50 career money list exemption this year and a runner-up at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black along with Robert Garrigus dropped out of the top 125 this week.
That puts them behind the Golden 25 from the Nationwide Tour and a similar number expected from Q-School finals the first week of December as far as priority ranking goes on the PGA TOUR in 2010.
Still though partial exemption is not anything like full exemption when it comes to getting into tournaments.
As Porky Pig would say "That's All Folks" for the 2009 edition of the PGA TOUR.
But in the Magic Kingdom it was a storybook ending for Stephen Ames and his son Ryan.
Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering and working part time for NBC Sports, CBS Sports, and The Golf Channel.
He resides in Jacksonville Beach, FL near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to Andy@MrHickoryGolf.net
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