Whistlers black bears may have stolen the show earlier in the day, but when the Telus Skins Game teed off at Nicklaus North on Monday nobody could take their eyes off the Golden Bear.
Jack Nicklaus, who will play his last pro competition next weekend at the British Open, won the biggest share of the loot on day one of the competition with $60,000, then followed up on day two with another $60,000 to finish second on the money board. He won seven skins in total.
But while the Golden Bear showed he can still play, Calgarys Stephen Ames (formerly a native of Trinidad and Tobago) showed that his 2004 season, with 11 top-10 results, was no fluke by taking seven skins himself to win the Skins title and $150,000.
Ames had a chance to win the first day, but missed a four-foot, $40,000 putt on the ninth hole by inches. On day two, with rain falling on the course, Ames made up for his lapse on the 14 th hole where he made a spectacular putt from almost 10 feet out to add $115,000 to his first day tally of $35,000. He came close to adding another $50,000 to his total after hanging a long putt on the rim of the cup on the par three 17 th hole.
John Daly, who put his drive a few feet from the pin, looked relieved and asked Ames, "You trying to make that?"
Daly wrapped up his two days with three skins, one on the first day, plus holes 16 and 17, to earn a total of $65,000.
Vijay Singh, who is on top of the PGA Tour money list this year, was shut out of the money on both days. His best chance was on the 18 th hole after making the green in two, but his putt just missed the rim.
With the rain coming down, the players decided not to hold a playoff after a tie on the 18 th , but to give the $25,000 skin to KidSport B.C., the official charity of the event. Telus matched that donation, as well as made contributions to the charity for every birdie, and every yard driven by the players on two of the longest holes.
The total contribution to KidSport, which offers a Little Links golfing program for kids who dont have the financial means to play, was $125,000.
Judging by the comments the rain was definitely a factor for the players, but everyone agreed the course was in excellent shape. About 5,000 spectators came out each day to watch, despite the weather and added some energy to the game.
"I have to thank Telus for inviting me and promoting the game of golf in Canada and for thinking of the kids," said Daly. "I loved this course, and I love coming up here."
For his part Ames said it was an honour to play with Nicklaus in one of his last pro events, and that he was looking forward to playing at St. Andrews in Scotland for the first time in next weeks British Open.
Singh was disappointed, but kept his head up until the end. "Its a great golf course, its in great shape, Jack (Nicklaus) did a great job designing it," he said. "I also have to thank the fans for coming out in weather like this, it was really a great event."
Jack Nicklaus tipped his hat to Ames in his post-match interview. "I have to congratulate Stephen, he played the best golf of anybody this week and he deserved to win," he said.
Nicklaus said he doesnt play well in the rain and the cold, but was happy to be a contender for most holes even with the other three golfers outdriving him off the tees. At 65, he showed he still has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.
While he said he wouldnt be playing much golf after retiring next week, he hinted that he might come back and play in the "odd Skins Game if Im invited back."
The Skins format has been good to Nicklaus recently. Earlier this year he won his largest tournament prize ever in Hawaii US$340,000 from 11 straight skins.
This is the second time that Nicklaus North has hosted the Telus Skins Game in the tournaments 13-year history. The Skins Game came to Whistler in 1997.