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Tornado Open billiards tournament to feature pro, amateur and Native American players

Pro billiards player Vivian Villarreal takes a few shots during a media outing Sept. 13 at Beyond Billiards in Davie. The Tornado Open, featuring some of the world’s top players, will run Sept. 28-Oct. 3 at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood.
Pro billiards player Vivian Villarreal takes a few shots during a media outing Sept. 13 at Beyond Billiards in Davie. The Tornado Open, featuring some of the world’s top players, will run Sept. 28-Oct. 3 at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood.

HOLLYWOOD – The spotlight will be shining on more than just the best billiard players in the world this week at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood.

The Tornado Open will feature pro players as well as amateurs and Native Americans, a unique setup that organizer and former world No. 1 women’s player Vivian Villarreal is glad to see.

“This is the first time we’re having pro men and pro women, amateur men and amateur women, and Native women and men,” Villarreal said. “This is the first time, so it’s big.”

After wrapping up a television interview Sept. 13 with Univision to promote The Tornado Open, Villarreal discussed the importance of the Native aspect to the tournament that will feature a $100,000 prize fund, the richest purse in the U.S. this year.  When the tournament was in the early stages of planning, Villarreal met with Seminole Gaming CEO  and Hard Rock International Chairman Jim Allen, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. President Mitchell Cypress and Cypress’s brother David.

“I told them if I have an event I would love to do [a Native tournament] because I know how much they love pool,” she said. “The Tribal members love pool.”

The tournament will run Sept. 28 through Oct. 2 and feature 32 billiard tables in Hard Rock Live. The pros, amateurs and Natives will compete in separate events. The Native portion of the tournament will start Sept. 30. The response from Native players has been encouraging, Villarreal said. As of mid-September, about 60 Native men and women from as far as Oklahoma, Washington state and Canada were scheduled to compete.

“I’m really happy because I got a great response,” she said. “A lot of them are happy that we’re having these tournaments because the Hard Rock used to have these tournaments when Mitchell was chairman. He loves pool.”

Villarreal said President Cypress is slated to play in the tournament, which will also feature 128 pro and amateur men each and 48 pro and amateur women each in what is being dubbed the biggest tournament of the year in the U.S.

“Everybody in Texas does everything big, so I’m doing everything big,” said Villarreal, a Texan whose nickname is ‘The Texas Tornado.’

Villarreal will play in the tournament with other top ranked men and women players from around the globe. One player to watch on the women’s pro side is Chezka Centeno. The 17-year old from the Philippines won the Amway Cup in June.

“She plays unbelievably well. She’s one of the favorites to win,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal is no stranger to the Seminole Tribe and Hard Rock. She has played in tournaments at Hard Rock in years past and has been sponsored by Hard Rock for more than a dozen years.

“I’ve been very blessed to meet a lot of people,  especially with the Hard Rock and the Tribe,” she said. “It’s been truly a blessing. They treat me as one of their own.”

Tickets for the tournament are available at thetornadoopen.com. The tournament will be broadcast live on pay per view through the website.

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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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