WELLINGTON, FL-Oct. 11, 2013—-After a full day of polo at Palm City and Grand Champions Polo Clubs, Casablanca and ELG emerged the finalists for Sunday’s USPA Kay Colee Memorial Tournament presented by The Tackeria.
The championship final is at 10 a.m. followed by the consolation at noon. The games will be held at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Casablanca, featuring three up-and-coming teenagers, advanced with a thrilling 11-9 victory over Palm House Friday afternoon at Grand Champions.
Juancito Bollini, 17, Grant Ganzi, 15, and Wes Finlayson, 18, three members of the winning Florida Zone 3 All-Star team at the inaugural USPA National Youth Series Championship, will join Hall of Famer Mike Azzaro in their first championship appearance of the fall season.
ELG (Equine Law Group), defending tournament champion, survived round-robin play at Palm City Polo Club Friday morning with a 5-4 victory over Newport and 6-3 win over Beluga.
In the opening three-chukker round robin game, ELG (Melissa Ganzi, Kris Kampsen, Juan Bollini, Avery Chapman) led from start to finish. After picking up a goal on handicap, all four players each scored one goal. ELG had a 3-1 lead after the opening chukker and held on for the win.
Newport (Gene Goldstein, Michael Dorignac, Luis Escobar, Kaisser Maakar) was coming off two consecutive championship final appearances. Dorignac, 27, making his Grand Champions fall season debut after competing in the recent Super Nations Cup for Argentina, led his team in scoring with three goals, all on penalty shots. Maakar scored one goal.
In the second round robin game, Beluga jumped out to a 4-1 lead after two chukkers to defeat Newport, 4-2. Beluga (Misha Rodzianko, Leo Mandelbaum, Joey Casey, Brandon Phillips) had balanced scoring, with each player scoring one goal. Escobar and Dorignac each scored one goal for Newport.
In the third and final round robin game, ELG jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the opening chukker and led 4-2 in the second chukker and controlled most of the game.
Beluga’s Joey Casey escaped serious injury with 3:35 left in the second chukker when an opposing player collided with him as he attempted a neck shot. Casey and his horse tumbled onto the field. Casey sustained a swollen right eye and abrasions around his eye and nose. He was replaced by Carlos Diaz for the remainder of the game.
Bollini and Kampsen each scored two goals, Chapman scored another and one goal was picked up on handicap. Phillips, Mandelbaum and Rodzianko each scored one goal for Beluga.
“The field was really fast,” Kampsen said. “The key was we all know each other well. I’ve spent a lifetime playing with Avery. It was fun.”
It was the fall season tournament debut for both Ganzi and Chapman, recently elected to the USPA Board of Governors. The chemistry between the ELG foursome was evident from the opening game.
“It’s fun playing with your friends, having that chemistry makes it easier,” Chapman said. “We have played together for a long time and that makes a difference. I think every chukker got better and better across both games for us. We feel real good about being in the finals.”
Added Bollini, “I think the team played hard and smart. Kris and I have been playing a long time. Avery was good at back and Melissa played very good today for her first day and scored a nice goal on a beautiful run.”
The fourth and final game proved to be one of the most competitive and exciting of the season.
The fast-paced, physical game saw Palm House (Marc Ganzi, Jonny Lavine, Carlitos Gracida, Nic Roldan) come from behind to tie the game twice, 5-5 on Roldan’s goal with 1:39 left in the third chukker and 6-6 on Gracida’s goal with 7:10 left in the fourth chukker.
Behind a tremendous defensive effort sparked by Finlayson and Azzaro’s leadership, Casablanca kept its composure to regain the lead for good on Finlayson’s big hit goal in the fourth chukker for a 7-6 lead. Casablanca never trailed after that.
Midway through the fourth chukker, Bollini avoided injury when his horse lost its footing. Bollini hit the field but quickly recovered and walked his horse off the field.
Azzaro, Ganzi and Finlayson each scored three goals and added two on handicap. Roldan led Palm House with six goals, Gracida had two and Lavine added one goal.
Sunday’s final will pit mother against son (Melissa and Grant Ganzi) and father against son (Juan and Juancito Bollini).
“Good news we are in the finals, bad news is it’s going to be against Marc or Grant,’ Ganzi said. “I was so happy to play together with this team. I had a nice practice yesterday but have been out of town so I am out of the swing of things.”
One of the state’s oldest tournaments is named after Joey Casey’s grandfather, Kay Colee, a teammate and friend of polo legend John T. Oxley. Started in 1964, it was played at the former Royal Palm Polo Sports Club in Boca Raton for more than 20 years.
In last year’s Kay Colee Memorial, Flat Out/Equine Law Group won the title with an 11-9 victory over Newport Polo. Audi won the round robin consolation.
This is the third of seven medium-goal tournaments of the fall season which looks to be the most competitive in Grand Champion’s seven-year history. Two additional 20-goal tournaments are scheduled for November.
The remaining fall tournaments are the Oct. 18-20 US Trust Cup, Oct. 25-27 USPA Fall Plates; and Nov.1-3 Pedro Morrison Memorial and Nov. 8-10 Palm Restaurant Invitational.
The two 20-goal tournaments are the Oct. 30-Nov. 9 USPA North America Cup and Nov.13-24 The National 20-Goal Championship.
The fall season is both fun and competitive. Rosters and lineups change from tournament to tournament. Evenly-matched teams are put together to help build players skills and performance.
All tournaments are USPA-sanctioned and have grown in stature since their start in the mid-1990s.
Casablanca, one of Grand Champions’ fall season’s main sponsors, has been a pioneer in polo, recognized as the world’s foremost producer of cutting-edge polo equipment and apparel, used and worn by polo players and followers of the sport.
The Tackeria in Wellington is the local distributor of Casablanca merchandise which can also be found online at www.casablancapolo.com.
The Tackeria, located at 13501 South Shore Boulevard in Wellington, is a complete equestrian shop catering to all horse sports including polo.
The store carries a full range of polo gear, saddles and apparel. Store hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
GRAND CHAMPIONS FALL SCHEDULE
Oct. 11-13, USPA Kay Colee Memorial presented by The Tackeria
Oct. 18-20, US Trust Cup
Oct. 25-27, USPA Fall Plates
Oct. 30-Nov. 9, USPA North America Cup
Nov. 1-3, Pedro Morrison Memorial
Nov. 8-10, Palm Restaurant Invitational
Nov. 13-24,The National 20-Goal Championship
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 561-644-5050.
INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro team Audi. Everyone is welcome to watch high and medium goal polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the International Cup in November, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament in March, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament, both in April.