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The biggest local golf tournament of the year will be a little bigger this year than it has in the recent past.
The Atomic City Invitational, which starts with qualifying Wednesday morning, has 120 players scheduled to compete this year, the biggest field the tournament has attracted in four years.
Wednesday’s qualifying is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. with 37 competitors trying to get into the 16-man championship flight. Thursday’s match play competition begins at 8 a.m.
The Atomic City Invitational is the oldest match play tournament in the state, which Los Alamos Golf Course PGA professional Donnie Torres believes is part of the attraction.
Players this year are coming from all across the state and across the country, traveling from as far away as Washington and North Carolina.
In all, 42 players, more than a third of the field, are from out-of-town.
The tournament is so big this season another flight was opened to accommodate everyone who wanted to play.
In all, 80 players will take part in the men’s division, up from 64 in 2007, along with 28 seniors and 12 women.
“If anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be the one running around with my head cut off,” Torres joked.
The tournament’s field looks very competitive for 2008, with 11 past ACI champions entered, including all three of the 2007 champions.
Brett Hollander eked out a 2-up victory over Mike Self to take the 2007 men’s championship flight, and he’ll be back to defend his title, as will defending women’s champion Barbara Schmitt, who topped Whitney Burkett.
Eddie Sanchez is the returning seniors champion. He defeated Ivars Gals to take the seniors top flight in 2007.
Johnny Montoya, who won the men’s competition in 1974, is among the past tournament winners appearing this year, four of which will be playing in the seniors flight.
Torres said another one of the tournament’s attractions is the nightly festivities, which start at 5 p.m. Wednesday with a pitching contest. Nightly contests and plenty of fun stuff are scheduled every night of the tournament except Friday.
The ACI runs through Sunday at the golf course.
Torres said the course has greened up well over the past few weeks and the maintenance crews seeded areas of the course, such as the seventh hole, that were affected by the Diamond Drive construction.
“We’re going to be in full swing,” he said. “It’ll be really good.”