WELLINGTON, FL-March 17, 2014-—The Buzz Welker Memorial Tournament offered junior polo players of all ages and ability levels a chance to improve their skills and have fun at the same time Monday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
With more than 80 players, polo’s grass roots level never looked better during the Polo Training Foundation event.
More than twenty teams and 80 kids competed in the PTF Florida Junior polo tournament. Player skill level ranged from advanced to intermediate, lower levels and lead-line for young children.
“We are very happy with the progress,” said PTF tournament director Jennifer McLeavy. “We have had close to 250 kids play last year and probably more this year. We are growing every year.
“We are trying to focus on encouraging more lead line and getting the older kids to cheer on the lead line,” McLeavy said. “We had kids come over from the horse show for the walk-trot. They had never been introduced to polo before. This was their second tournament and they had a blast.”
Several pro and amateur polo players watched proudly from the sidelines as their children competed including Adolfo Cambiaso, Juan Bollini, Mariano Aguerre, Sebastian Merlos, Matias Magrini, Marc and Melissa Ganzi, Horton Schwartz, Leo Mandelbaum and Bob Daniels.
“Coming to watch them play is one thing, you expect that of the parents,” McLeavy said. “What’s nice is to see them changing a kid’s stirrups, fixing their mallet, coaching them from the sidelines. A lot of these guys don’t change their own stirrups or tack their own horses up, but there they are for their little kids.”
Ten-year-old Landen Daniels is one of six boys who play polo in his family. He has been playing four years.
“I am happy playing today,” said Daniels, who scored four goals for his winning team Polographics. “Polo is fun and competitive. It’s hard when you first start out and a challenge.”
His father, Bob Daniels, who started playing at age 40, couldn’t be happier with his sons playing in junior tournaments.
“It’s great fun,” Daniels said. “It helps me inside. There is nothing like your kid playing well in a tournament or winning a tournament for your inner feelings. It’s very gratifying.”
Older sons Justin and Benji have been playing alongside their dad during the Grand Champions at PB Polo season at various levels and also competed in Monday’s tournament.
“It’s great because they enjoy it,” Daniels said. “They have a lot of friends and meet very interesting people. You never know where it’s going to lead.”
Said Justin Daniels, 14, a freshman at St. Andrew’s: “This kind of polo tournament is a lot of fun. It’s not as competitive. We still want to win but if we lose we are cool about it. When I play with pros they are always giving me advice and telling me what to do. In kids polo, we have to make our own decisions and learn more.”
Santos Bollini has grown up around polo. His father Juan is a former 8-goaler and older brother Juancito plays pro tournaments.
“Playing these kind of junior tournaments you feel like you have more responsibility and should do more for your team,” Bollini said. “I have played this tournament my whole life. It’s much more fun because you are playing with and against your friends.”
In the featured game, Tato’s Mallets (Jack McLean, Liam Lott, Lucas Arellano, Segundo Merlos) held off a late rally by Casablanca (Benjamin Daniels, Matias Gonzalez, Matt Cohen, Ian MacTaggart) to win, 4-3.
Tato’s Mallets jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the opening chukker behind McLean’s two goals and Arellano’s penalty shot. Gonzalez rallied his team with three goals but time ran out.
In the consolation game, Grand Champions defeated Red Barn, 2-1, behind Grant Ganzi’s winning goal.
Segundo Merlos was named Most Valuable Player and Mia Astrada was given the Sportsmanship Award. Grant Ganzi’s horse X-Box was named Best Playing Pony.
In the four chukker game, Polographics (Landen Daniels, Mia Cambiaso, Hope Arellano, Matias MacDonough Jr.) defeated Alex Photo (Poroto Cambiaso, Timmy Dutta, Kristos Magrini, Santos Merlos), 8-1.
Mia Cambiaso, daughter of 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso, was named Most Valuable Player. Santos Merlos earned the Sportsmanship Award.
Landen Daniels led Polographics with four goals and assisted on two others.
Grand Champions Polo Club owners Melissa and Marc Ganzi provided three polo fields, horses, umpires, food and refreshments from two food trucks, Miami-based Che Grill and Wellington-based Sweet Cravings, face painting for kids and entertaining announcer Dale Schwetz who helped spectators follow the various games, walk-trot and lead line.
Melissa Ganzi is secretary-treasurer of the Polo Training Foundation and big supporter of junior polo and attracting more kids to the sport at the grass roots level.
The tournament was named in honor of Buzz Welker, a former polo player who shared his love for the game with everyone. Before his life ended, Welker played in 16 countries and played with several celebrities including Prince Charles, the Sultan of Brunei and actor Tommy Lee Jones.
Welker died in 2006 at age 69. He was the founder and leader of the Franklin Polo Association and headed major polo clubs in Texas, Florida and Dominican Republic.
For full results of the Buzz Welker Memorial Tournament and more information on juniors polo visit the Polo Training Foundation website.
For game recaps, news, features and photos of Grand Champions Polo Club-related events, go towww.grandchampionspoloclub.org.
Game video and live webcasts can also be seen at PoloNow Network at http://www.polonow.tv/.
2014 HIGH GOAL SEASON
MARCH 7-23: USPA Piaget Gold Cup: WEDNESDAY, Valiente vs. Audi, 1 p.m.; Lechuza Caracas vs. Alegria, 3 p.m.; THURSDAY, Butler Handicap Semifinals, Crab Orchard vs. Orchard Hill, 1 p.m.; Flight Options vs. Coca-Cola, 3 p.m.; MARCH 23, Butler Handicap Final, noon; USPA Piaget Gold Cup Final, 3 p.m.
MARCH 26-APRIL 20: 110th Maserati U.S. Open Polo Championships
GRAND CHAMPIONS AT PALM BEACH POLO 2014 TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE (HOTLINE 561-373-0073)
MARCH: Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (5-goal); The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; The Top Pony 12-Goal Series; March 18-30, Santa Rita Abierto (16 goals); March 23-31, March 23-31, $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament.
THIS WEEK’S SCHEDULE
TUESDAY: 12-goal, Hawk Hill vs. Casablanca, 3 p.m.; WEDNESDAY: 12-goal, Pony Express vs. Palm Beach Equine, 4 p.m.; THURSDAY: 8-goal, Equuleus vs. Tonchala, 4 p.m.; FRIDAY: 8-goal, Far Niente vs. Tonchala, 4 p.m.; 5-goal, Grand Champions vs. Elegante Polo, 4 p.m.; SATURDAY: 12-goal, Bracket Handcap Final, 1 p.m.; Bracket Final, 3 p.m.; SUNDAY: 8-goal, Hawk Hill vs. TLC Development, 10 a.m.; 5-goal, SLS Jets vs. Patagones Azul, 10 a.m. and Pony Express vs. Grand Champions, noon.
SANTA RITA ABIERTO 16-GOAL TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
TUESDAY: Equuleus vs. Goose Creek; March 21: KIG vs. Casablanca; March 23: KIG vs. Equuleus; March 25: KIG vs. Goose Creek and Casablanca vs. Equuleus; March 28: Goose Creek vs. Casablanca; March 30: Championship final.
APRIL: Las Acacias (5-goal); USPA Association Cup (8- goal); Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Challenge Cup (12-goal); John T. Oxley Memorial Trophy (16-goal).
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB SCHEDULE (561-644-5050)
APRIL 4-5: Fifth annual Gay Polo League International Tournament
APRIL 8-12: Women’s Championship Tournament
GRAND CHAMPIONS AT PALM BEACH POLO 2014 SPRING SCHEDULE (561-644-5050)
APRIL 17-19: Grand Champions Cup
APRIL 24-27: The USPA Spring Challenge
MAY 1-4: The USPA Sun Cup
MAY 8-11: The USPA Eastern Challenge
MAY 15-18: The Polo Gear Challenge Cup
MAY 22-26: The Memorial
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.
INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Flight Options. Everyone is welcome to watch high, medium and low goal polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the winter, spring and fall tournament season and other special events including International Cup in November, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament in March, ProKidz Tournaments in the spring and fall, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament, both in April.