Saez downs Gray in finals of 1st Texas Tornado Open; Villareal wins short-field Ladies event

Robb Saez and Joey Gray stepped into the finals of the 1st Annual Texas Tornado Open on the weekend of May 10-11 with some history between them. Back in April, they'd squared off in what amounted to a $5,000, race-to-21 quarterfinal match at the 1st Annual Smokin' Aces Bar Box Tournament in Poplar Bluff, MO, won by Saez. Three years ago, they met in the finals of both the 38th Annual Texas Open and a stop on the Midwest 9-Ball Tour, both won by Saez, who pocketed just over two grand, total, more than Gray in those two meetings. The payout difference in the finals of the $10,000-added Texas Tornado tournament that drew 80 entrants to Easy Eight Billiards and Sports Bar in McAllen, TX was $1,480, and once again, Saez came out on top, completing an undefeated run to claim the first of what Texas Tornado Vivian Villareal hopes will become a twice-yearly event.
"We're testing the waters," she said in the days just prior to start of the tournament, "If it's successful, we might try to do it twice a year."
Villareal, in addition to overseeing her first tournament, assisted by tour director Tito Fernandez, found time to compete in the Open, where she finished in the tie for 13th place, and a short field (seven entrants) Ladies Tournament, which she won, defeating Erin Lacy in the finals. 
If success is measured by participant response, it looks as though this first Texas Tornado Tournament won't be the last.
"Players, room owners and sponsors were very happy," said Fernandez, who was flying solo on this one, after something of an apprenticeship under Lewis Jones, tour director of the Fast Eddie's Tour. 
"There were some glitches," he admitted, "but overall, things ran smoothly."
Winner Robb Saez agreed, noting that while there were a few "quirks to fix," match scheduling worked well and didn't fall behind anywhere. He was also pleased with the tournament officials' decision to maintain the promised $10,000-added, which was to have been applied to a full 128-player field.
"They added the $10,000, in spite of not having the expected 128," said Saez. "Nobody does that. These people were short over 40 people and they added the $10,000, anyway. That's pretty awesome."
According to Fernandez, plans for next year include doubling that $10K-added and again, looking to guarantee that amount.
The entry list for this first-ever Texas Tornado Open contained a long list of usual suspects, from the big backyard of Texas (Villareal, Charlie Bryant, Sylver Ochoa) to the tables of the Midwest (Shane McMinn, John Gabriel, and of course, runner-up Gray). Saez and Gray met up first in a winners' side semifinal, while C.J. Wiley and Scott Kitto met in the other one. Saez took his first of two over Gray 7-5, and in the hot seat match, faced Wiley, who'd given up only a single rack to Kitto. Saez defeated Wiley 7-3, and waited on the return of Gray.
Gray had moved over and could not have been too pleased to draw Charlie Bryant right away. Bryant had defeated Sylver Ochoa 7-5 and John Gabriel 7-3 to reach Gray. Kitto, in the meantime, had his own problems, having drawn Shane McMinn, who'd defeated Rudy Sanchez 7-5 and shut out Nino Salazar, who was returning to competition after about 20 years away. 
McMinn eliminated Kitto 7-4, while Gray was doing likewise to the Hillbilly 7-5.
Gray went on to defeat McMinn 7-3 in the quarterfinals, and by the same score, downed C.J. Wiley in the semifinals, setting up a familiar match for Gray; one destined to have familiar results.
As he had done back in April at the Smokin' Aces Bar Box tournament, Gray took an early lead over Saez. He was ahead in that tournament quarterfinal 17-11, racing to 21, before Saez caught a gear and won 10 of the next 12. 
"He had me 5-1, racing to seven, in this one," said Saez, "and I beat him six in a row. He made a couple of unforced errors and I took advantage."
Villareal went undefeated through the short field of seven entrants, on-hand for the $1,000-added Ladies event. Everyone who played went home with a payout. Villareal defeated Sophie Lopez in the battle for the hot seat 7-3. Lopez moved over to a semifinal match against Erin Lacey, who'd just eliminated Rhea Brooks 7-4 in the quarterfinals. Lacey downed Lopez by the same score in the semifinals, for a shot at the Texas Tornado. Lacey put up a fight, forcing a case game, but Villareal prevailed to enshrine her own name in what will be the annals of her own namesake tournament.
Tour director Tito Fernandez thanked the ownership and staff at Easy Eight Billiards and Sports Bar for their hospitality, as well as sponsors Palenque Grill, Boggus Ford, Hampton Inn & Suites, Big Rio Grande Construction, Lopez Tires and Wheels, Texas Boiler Room, Villa Del Mar Restaurant, Careers Institute, Smiles Studio, Max Muscle Sports Nutrition, Voggo Business Consulting, Palenque Chicken, Taco Palenque, Mambo Seafood, Bellissima La Revista, G-Cues Billiard and Dart Supply, Mega Doctor News, FNT Horses & Carriages, LLC, Ozone Billiards and Texas Border Business.