The tournament committee at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic surprised Stephen Ames with a beach-themed cake on Sunday in honor of his 60th birthday. It was an appropriate gesture, given that he lives at the Turks and Caicos Islands and spends a lot of time with sand between his toes.

But it might have been more apropos had the cake been adorned with a couple of big, frosted eagles, since that’s what helped Ames successfully defend his tournament championship and become the first three-time winner of the Mitsubishi Electric Classic.

Ames even poured in a 40-foot birdie on the last hole, causing him to doff his hat and bow to the crowd on the surrounding hill and hospitality boxes who soon began singing the first of many choruses of “Happy Birthday.”

“The whole week was great to be honest,” Ames said. “This just sort of added icing to the cake.”

Ames shot a 5-under 67 on Sunday to finish at 14-under 202, four shots better than 36-hole leader Paul Broadhurst, who shot 72, and first-round co-leader Doug Barron, who shot 69.

Stephen Alker (71) and K.J. Choi (70) tied for fourth at 9 under and Retief Goosen (68) and John Senden (71) tied for sixth at 8 under. Fan favorite Miguel Angel Jimenez (70) and Tim Petrovic (69) tied for eighth at 7 under.

Tournament host Stewart Cink shot a final-round 75 and tied for 35th at even par. Gene Sauers of Savannah was the low Georgian and tied for 13th at 5 under.

Much like his shocking eagle on No. 9 at the end of the first round helped jump-start his week, the two eagles in the final round were the difference-makers.

The first eagle came at No. 6 when he hit his approach shot into the hole. The success there vaulted him into a tie for the lead with Broadhurst.

“I had a perfect number and hit the shot that I needed to hit,” he said. “Going into the hole was a bit of luck.”

The other eagle was like the game-changing slam dunk. He drove the par-4 13th hole, threatening a hole-in-one, and made an uphill 18-footer. That gave him a two-shot lead over Alker and a four-shot advantage over Broadhurst, who had taken a double-bogey at No. 12.

“Hit a good drive and got it all the way to back end,” Ames said. “Then I had a straight putt to the top, which made the hole a little easier, because Paul and Stephen had three putts from the top end. In that respect it kind of snowballed everything, made the gap a little bigger.”

Ames led by four shots coming down the last hole. The only thing left was to avoid a disaster and sign the correct scorecard.

“The funny thing I was remembering when I was walking down 18 with my son (Ryan) on the bag last year, so that was special,” Amers said. “It’s always nice. There’s no doubt about it.”

Ames now has six wins in his last 29 starts on PGA Tour Champions after winning just twice in his first 175 starts. He had shoulder surgery during the COVID lockdown and has been diligent about getting in the gym every day.

“It’s the accumulation of things that have changed over the last 2 ½ years,” Ames said. “One was the health part. I’m in the gym more often because I hurt my shoulder and decided that was enough of that. I didn’t like the feeling of being injured, weak, stuff like that, so I rededicated myself back into the gym.”

No workouts were scheduled for Sunday night. Ames had an appointment with a big hunk of cake.

“I have to actually devour a little of it,” he said. “Along with a cold drink.”

Stephen Ames gets a kiss from wife Kelly before the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Classic on April 28, 2024 at TPC Sugarloaf in Duluth.

Credit: David King

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Credit: David King