The Moab mob: Strong contingent from Utah flocks to Taco Bell

Sixteen-year-old Brianna Ballard, right, celebrates with partner Tracy Davis after scoring a point Saturday during their mother/daughter 18-under doubles match at the Taco Bell Western Slope Open against Lisa and Taylor Poudrier. Ballard and Davis are part of a group of players from Moab, Utah, who traveled to Taco Bell to see how they stacked up against the players on the Western Slope.

Brian Ballard clears his calendar every year for the Taco Bell Western Slope Open.

It’s an opportunity for him to get out of town and play other people.

Ballard has come from Moab to play in the tournament for 10 years.

This year, he brought 10 others to play in the 53rd annual event.

“Brian is the spark plug,” Charlie Kulander said. “He’s the guy that drives over here to play, zooms back and regales us with tales of the tennis wonderland here in Grand Junction.”

Kulander played in the Western Slope Open three years ago, but missed it the past two years.

Kulander’s wife and family play tennis, but his children live on the Pacific Coast and couldn’t make it this year. He’s hoping they can next year.

He is playing with Ballard in the men’s 4.5 doubles in addition to the men’s 50-older singles draw.

“We have a nice little tennis community,” Kulander said. “A lot of people are playing, but we live in this desert goldfish bowl, so we never know how we stack up against anyone else. It’s always fun to play new people, that’s why so many people come here.”

Others, though, like Tracy Davis, are playing in the tournament for the first time.

She moved to Moab in 2009 and is a contractor for the federal government.

“This is by far the best tournament I’ve played,” Davis said. “The people are so friendly and it is organized so well. There is not even a hiccup.”

She is playing in four events, including mixed 7.5 combined doubles with Ballard.

“Moab is growing in tennis,” Ballard said. “There are new courts at the high school and we’re seeing more people play.”

Ballard is also playing with his daughter, Brianna, in the father/daughter 18-under doubles bracket.

“We’ve been coming to Taco Bell as long as I can remember,” Brianna said. “My dad is playing with a lot of us. He is the one that gets us all out here.”

“He hands out the entries and tells us to fill it out,” Davis said.

Brian and Brianna took first place in their draw.

Brianna, 16, is playing with Davis in the mother/daughter 18-under doubles draw.

Todd Beeman brought his two sons to play in the tournament for a second straight year.

Nick, 24, reached the men’s 4.5 singles final.

“There are quite a few of us (from Moab),” Beeman said. “This is a fun tournament. It’s a good turnout.”

Ed Defrancia and Kent Somerville are playing in the men’s 50-older doubles draw.

“Taco Bell is a big tournament and you don’t need to be in the USTA (to play),” Kulander said. “A lot of people in Moab don’t want to join anything. That’s why they’re there in the first place.”

“We’d love to get it to the point we could come over and participate regularly.”


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