Playing in the final group together, Stephen Ames stared down Charles Schwab Cup leader Steve Stricker to win the Principal Charity Classic at Wakonda Golf Club in Des Moines, Iowa, USA for the second time on Sunday.
It also was the third victory of the year for Ames, tying Stricker for the most on PGA TOUR Champions in 2023.
Ames had a one-stroke lead until a three-putt at No. 14 gave him his first bogey of the tournament. Stricker was able to tie him at 16 under, and by the time they reached the 16th hole, they had been joined at 16 under by Jerry Kelly and Tim Petrovic.
Ames calmly stepped to the tee at the par-3 17th and stuck his tee shot to 6 feet. Stricker, who went the entire week without a bogey, just missed the green left and rolled his chip by the hole. Ames buried his birdie putt for what proved to be the final margin when Stricker couldn’t birdie the short, par-4 18th.
“It was a battle today, there’s no doubt about that,” Ames said. “Steve, obviously the way he’s played this year already tells you it was going to be a good battle and the fact that I ended up on top, which is more fulfilling than anything else right now.”
Kelly fired a final-round 65 to tie Stricker for second. Petrovic bogeyed 18 to fall back to 15 under, in a tie for fourth with Rod Pampling. Pampling closed with a 66, mostly because of a sizzling 30 on the inward nine.
Ames, 59, is enjoying the best season of his Champions Tour career. Before this year, he had won only twice, the 2017 Mitsubishi Electric Classic and the 2021 Principal Charity Classic. He won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic again this year, too, as well as the Trophy Hassan II.
“The main thing is that I’ve been doing the same thing that I was doing all of last year,” Ames said. “Last year I had no wins and finished eighth (on the Charles Schwab Cup). This year I’ve come out and got three (wins) under my belt already. So now I’m contemplating looking at my schedule thinking I can take a couple weeks off here and there, so we’ll see what happens.
“At the stage right now, it’s the same thing that I was doing last year (that) I’m doing this year. Maybe the putter is a little warmer at times and that’s probably why I’m winning.”
No one has been on par with Stricker this year. The Principal Charity Classic marked his 10th start. His worst finish has been a T8. He counts the year’s first two majors among his three wins, and this week marked his fourth runner-up finish.
But over the past five events, Ames has been Stricker’s closest pursuer. He was T9 at the Insperity Invitational to Stricker’s solo second, won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic where Stricker finished T5, finished T11 at the Regions Tradition and placed T15 at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
Ames is the third player to win the Principal Charity Classic at least twice, joining Bob Gilder and Jay Haas.