Top women golfers from across the country return to SaddleBrooke next week for the Mountain View Collegiate Invitational Golf Tournament, a gathering of 19 NCAA Division 1 teams.

Anne Kelly, a Tucsonan and Santa Rita High School graduate who played at Texas Christian and spent five years on the LPGA tour, is in her 11th season as head women’s golf coach at Colorado. She helped begin the tournament with her mom Pat, who was retired in SaddleBrooke.

“When I first started at CU, we really needed a spring tournament,” Anne said. The Mountain View course was in its early years, “so they let us” start the event.

It has bloomed like the desert in spring, with the considerable help of dozens of SaddleBrooke volunteers.

“The field gets better and better every year,” Kelly said. This year’s tournament should have 19 teams and 99 contestants. There were 18 teams a year ago.

“Twenty teams is about maximum, given the fact it’s a shotgun start” and that players complete 36 holes the first day, said Bob Sneddon, one of the SaddleBrooke volunteers. A Sunday 18 concludes the competition.

“All the teams keep wanting to come back, we have to turn away teams for this tournament,” Kelly said. Nine of the Big 12 schools are competing, along with high-ranked teams like Nevada Las Vegas, defending champion Indiana, Michigan and Louisville. The winning school earns a glass crystal bowl.

For years, the SaddleBrooke Lady Niners Golf Association, local coordinators and resident volunteers have worked the tournament and helped it grow. Kelly praised the volunteers, coordinated by Debbie Hammer. Roger Kettelson helps make housing arrangements. “Kids … get that family atmosphere again, they get some home-cooked meals,” Kelly said.

There are about 150 volunteers overall, people who help with scoring and spotting, those who shuttle players in golf carts the long distance between the third green and fourth tee, and others who coordinate housing.

Volunteer work begins with the new year. Each year, the effort and the outreach expand, Sneddon said. This year, for example, organizers asked for donations of bottled water. With more than 90 golfers on the course for two warm days, “we figure 400, 500 bottles of water,” Sneddon said.

Players say “it’s one of their favorite tournaments because of the relationships, as well as the courtesy,” Sneddon said. “They’re really appreciative of what the residents do, the volunteers. Several long-term relationships have been established” by people who may still exchange holiday and birthday cards with young women golfers.

“Every team that wants it has housing, so it’s pretty neat to see the evolution,” Kelly said.

Those hosts watch the action, too. Of all the tournaments her team plays, “we get the biggest gallery at this golf course, which the girls really enjoy,” Kelly said.

“Kids compete so hard, and there’s no crowd like volleyball or basketball,” she continued. “They work hard on their games, and they’re great players, and to have people come out and watch them and acknowledge them means a lot to them.”

Weekend play is unusual for college golfers, who typically compete on early weekdays. “That’s a bonus,” Kelly said. “It’s less school time missed for players.”

The quality of play is “fantastic,” Sneddon said. “They play some wonderful golf. It’s a lot of fun. Several past participants have gone on to compete professionally, and it is a great opportunity to watch some exceptional young golfers.”

“The golf course is a good course for college women players,” Kelly said. “It’s very playable, and challenging,” but not too long. “It’s a course where they can shoot under par, too.”

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