Tennis: Mesa Verde nets grand action

Devin Bowen has played tennis for a long time, from Estancia High to Texas Christian University to courts all over the world as a veteran on the Assn. of Tennis Professionals Tour.

That doesn't mean the Costa Mesa resident is done bringing out the racquet. This weekend at Mesa Verde Country Club, he and several other former high-level players are doubling up for a big tournament.

The first Mesa Verde Pro Open Invitational begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Mesa Verde center court, and the doubles lineup assembled for the eight-team tournament is impressive. Bowen will be playing with his buddy Tim Leonard, who also played at Estancia and TCU.

Bowen and Leonard are both members at Mesa Verde. The pro tournament, which is offering nearly $2,000 in total prize money, is being held concurrently with the 28th annual Mesa Verde Grand Prix Tournament, part of the Orange County Grand Prix series.

"We're all excited about tennis and love the sport," said Bowen, 38, who was ranked as high as No. 39 in the world in doubles in 2003. "It's a good opportunity, a lot of fun for us. We tried to get the eight best players we could in the area. Every match is going to be a good match. All 16 players are pretty good players."

Bowen is used to teaming up with his dad, Bart, for the United States Tennis Assn. national senior father-son hardcourt championships. They got third place this year, and now, two weeks later, the former Newport Beach Breaker will team up with his friend, Leonard, to face some of Orange County's best players.

The tournament is open to guests to watch for free. There will be four matches in succession on Saturday, and the tournament will continue Sunday.

Other notables include David Roditi, who also played at TCU and is a USTA national coach. Roditi also played for Mexico in the Davis Cup and had a career-high doubles ranking of No. 41.

Former UC Irvine players Carsten Hoffman and Brian Morton, also a Corona del Mar High product, will also be participating, as will USC Coach Peter Smith and San Diego State Coach Gene Carswell.

Leonard said the prize money is what set the tournament apart from typical OC Grand Prix events, but added that most of the players "really just like still competing and playing."

"Mesa Verde has some top-level talent for this event," Leonard said. "We have a handful of guys who used to play on the pro tour. It should be a really good event. I think we have eight really good, quality teams."

Randy Myers, the tennis director at Mesa Verde, is also excited. The event should bring some publicity to his club, which is also playing host to the annual Jones Cup golf tournament on Tuesday.

"It's exciting because of some of the talent," Myers said. "A lot of people don't even know that Mesa Verde [Country Club] exists. It's kind of tucked into a residential area in Mesa Verde. It's a very intimate, family-oriented club, but it's very exciting to run this tournament."

The Orange County Grand Prix is the largest of four Grand Prix divisions serving Los Angeles, Coachella Valley and San Diego. Cumulative point totals are kept for the events, conducted at private and municipal club facilities throughout the country.

All involved hope that this weekend's pro tournament also could become an annual event. Asked to assess his chances with Bowen this weekend, Leonard said they have a chance to do well.

Then again, so do all the other teams.

"I'd say Devin and I have as good a chance as anybody," Leonard said. "I really think anybody has a chance to win."

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