It’s no coincidence that Colorado’s climb as one of the top programs in the region has coincided with the hiring of Anne Kelly as its second head coach in 1997.
Entering her 19th season as head coach of the Colorado women’s golf team, Kelly has helped usher in a new era, with the school moving into the toughest women’s golf conference in the country, the Pac-12. The timing proved to be right for Kelly and the Buffaloes, as CU enjoyed its most successful season in its inaugural Pac-12 campaign.
Kelly returned to her native Colorado from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she filled head coaching duties for one-and-a-half years. Prior to her work at UNC Greensboro, she spent five years from 1991-96 as a teaching professional at Silverbell Golf Course in Tucson, Ariz., where she earned PGA Class A status, a position which followed a six-year stint from 1984-90 on the LPGA Tour.
During her six seasons on the women’s tour, Kelly won a Women’s Professional Golf Tour event in Phoenix in 1991. She fired a career low round of 69 at the 1989 McDonald’s Championship and her career best finishes included several top-20 finishes. Her professional career culminated in a career low scoring average of 74.63 in 1990.
Kelly sparkled as a collegiate golfer, earning four letters for head coach Fred Warren and the Texas Christian University women’s golf team. She was a member of the Horned Frogs’ 1983 NCAA Championship team, and, all told, won 25 tournament team titles during her four-year career from 1979-83. She was named the team’s most valuable player in 1980 and won TCU’s Dutch Meyer Award, which recognizes the school’s outstanding student-athletes, in 1983. She also tied for top individual honors in the San Jose State Lady Spartan Classic in 1982. Her 1983 NCAA Championship team was inducted into the TCU Hall of Fame in October 2000.
“I love coaching because it allows me to combine my competitive experience and professional golf experience into one job,” Kelly says. “All of my different experiences in golf help me to assist team members in whatever situation they might encounter.”
At UNC Greensboro, Kelly was named the 1997 Big South Conference Coach of the Year after the team won two tournaments. She coached UNCG’s Becky Morgan to five individual tournament titles and second-team All-America standing on the year and, under Kelly’s tutelage, Morgan finished 10th individually at the 1997 NCAA Championships and also earned GTE Academic All-America honors. Morgan is now in her 13th year as an LPGA and European tour member.
Since Kelly’s arrival in 1997, the team has continued to show steady improvement and progress every year, culminating with the best season in program history in 2012. She has coached the Buffs to nine tournament wins and 37 second or third place finishes. In 2012, the Buffs took a momentous step forward, qualifying for the NCAA Championships for the first time, while also earning a nod to NCAA Regionals for the third time in program history, all happening in the past five seasons.
In 2012, the Buffs won three tournaments while playing the toughest slate in program history with all 12 events having a top 50 rank for strength of competition from Golfweek, with most earning a top 30 nod.
CU hosted the NCAA Regionals at Colorado National Golf Club and earned a trip to its own site after breaking into the top 10 for the first time in program history. CU was the No. 4 seed and looking to advance to the finals for the first time (eight teams from each site go). The Buffs struggled the first two days, but then put together one of the best team rounds in CU history, collectively shooting a 9-under par to jump from ninth to fourth the final day and advance.
In 2014, the team recorded a program-best 5th place finish at the Pac-12 Championships and also earned a second straight invitation to the NCAA Regional.
The program has seen individual players excel both on the course and in the classroom.
Most recently, during the 2014-15 season, Esther Lee became the first Buffalo to be named All-Pac-12 First Team. She also earned WGCA All-American Second Team honors.
The Buffs have had 33 players earn 61 Academic All-Conference honors during Kelly’s tenure in the Big 12 and Pac-12 Conferences. CU has had at least one player being named to the prestigious WGCA All-America Scholars team for four straight years, beginning with Taylor Doyle and Jessica Wallace in 2011 and continuing with Wallace and Alex Stewart in 2012, Megan Haase and Allie Zech in 2013 and Brittany Fan in 2014. Former Buff Maria Persson-Gulda was named to that team three times and was also honored with an NCAA postgraduate scholarship. She was honored as CU’s top female student athlete academically in 2006, an honor former Buff Jamie Befort racked up twice. Additionally, an astonishing 47 CU players have earned mention on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll (3.0 GPA or higher in a semester) a total of 205 times in Kelly’s tenure.
Erin Kerr was the first Buff to qualify for a NCAA Regional post season bid in 2001 and that was followed up with another invitation in 2002. Hannah Hoch became a two time tournament winner in 2004-05 and broke many school records. She also became the first player in Buff history to be named All Big 12 second team that year as well. In 2012, Emily Talley and Jessica Wallace were both named first-team All-Big 12, the first two players to earn that honor, and each were named twice as the Big 12 Golfer of the Month over their final two seasons. Wallace won CU’s only Big 12 individual honor, named the Newcomer of the Year in 2012, as well. In 2014, Wallace, now a Symetra Tour professional, would become the first player in program history to successfully qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open.
In 2012, Talley became CU’s first All-American, earning honorable mention from both the coaches (Golfstat) and Golfweek. Stewart joined Talley on the Golfweek poll as both were also given the distinction of being named to the All-Pac-12 team along with Wallace. Talley also joins Wallace on the Symetra Tour and has appeared on two seasons of Golf Channel’s Big Break, winning the 2013 NFL season in Puerto Rico with teammates Jerry Rice and Isaac Sanchez.
In 2013, Jenny Coleman received an individual invitation to the NCAA Regionals, where she finished with a 72-79-71—222 scorecard – the fifth-best score by a Buff in the postseason. The following season, Coleman, an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection, helped the Buffs to the 2014 NCAA Regionals, marking a record-setting fourth straight year that CU sent the team or an individual to regionals. Coleman graduated in 2014 and then became the second Buff to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open in 2015.
Born May 15, 1961, in Aspen, Colo., Kelly graduated from TCU in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in business communications. She prepped at Santa Rita High School in Tucson, Ariz.