Wellington, FL – May 19, 2014 – Palm Beach Polo came from behind to capture the coveted PoloGear® Challenge Cup with a thrilling 11-10 victory over Pony Express on a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.
In a hard-fought physical battle, Palm Beach Polo (Glenn Straub, Brandon Phillips, Kris Kampsen, Carlos Gracida Jr.) erased a four-goal opening chukker deficit and three-goal third and fourth chukker deficits against Pony Express (Justin Daniels, Pancho Eddy, Tomas Goti, Bob Daniels).
Six-goaler Kris Kampsen was named Most Valuable Player after his Herculean effort playing twelve chukkers over four hours.
Kampsen played for his regular team Casablanca (Gene Goldstein, Grant Ganzi, Roberto Gonzales, Kris Kampsen) in the subsidiary round robin against PoloGear® (Melissa Ganzi, Guille Aguero, Alejandro Gonzales, Joey Casey) and Audi (Matias Gonzalez, Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Lucas Lalor) and then filled in for Palm Beach Polo’s big-hitting star Tommy Biddle, who was hospitalized on Saturday with a medical emergency.
Kampsen, rated at six goals, was a dominant force scoring six goals for Casablanca and four goals for Palm Beach Polo.
Against Pony Express, Kampsen played well defensively, turning back two Pony Express scoring attempts late in the game.
“I got a phone call this morning at 7 to fill in for Tommy,” Kampsen said. “He was in a lot of pain so I told him I would absolutely play.
“Not knowing the horses you don’t know what you are able to do and not able to do,” Kampsen said. “Pony Express has been playing together the whole season and this team has been playing one way with Tommy. It helps that Brandon and I have played a lot together and that with Carlos we grew up playing Gracida polo.
“It took us a couple of chukkers to get incorporated with the four of us, but once we did it felt really good,” Kampsen said. “The fifth and sixth chukkers I felt really good. It’s great to win. Any time you can win it’s great, it’s a great feeling. No one wants to come to lose.”
Teammate Brandon Phillips also scored four goals in the final and scored what turned out to be the tying and winning goals. Gracida added two goals and Straub scored one.
“Kris did a nice job filling in for Tommy after already playing six chukkers this morning,” said Straub, wearing a Miami Heat cap. “We started playing like a team and not individually.
“I am starting to learn a little bit more about this game,” Straub said. “It took me 17 years to learn to hit a straight ball. This sport is beyond a doubt one of the most complicated sports to learn. You’re lucky if you can learn one thing each season.”
Pony Express, a 10-goal rated team, was the underdog going in against 14-goal rated Palm Beach Polo, but ended up playing tough.
Pony Express started off with its handicapped 4-0 lead which Palm Beach Polo erased by the start of the second chukker with Phillips’ tying goal at the 6:06 mark.
Pony Express regained the lead (5-4) with its first goal from the field by Goti with 6:19 left in the third chukker. Pony Express pulled away for a three goal lead (7-4) with goals from Bob Daniels and Goti’s penalty-three shot.
Kampsen and Phillips played well off each other in the fourth chukker. Kampsen sent a pass to Phillips who scored on a well-placed cut shot to trail by 7-5. After Gracida’s goal attempt hit the goal post, Eddy came back with a well-placed pass of his own to Goti for a goal and 8-5 advantage. Straub scored in the final seconds to again cut Pony Express’ lead to two (8-6).
The fast and furious pace continued in an exciting fifth chukker where goals from Phillips and Gracida tied the game at 8-8. At the 3:54 mark, Goti scored to give Pony Express a 9-8 advantage but Palm Beach Polo roared back behind Kampsen.
Kampsen blocked Goti’s goal attempt and then turned around to make his way through a crowd of defenders with a great effort to score the tying goal (9-9) with 2:54 left.
Palm Beach Polo went ahead for good on Gracida’s goal with 6:47. After two missed Pony Express goal attempts, Phillips converted a penalty-two shot for an 11-9 lead. Goti scored the final goal with 10 seconds left in the game.
“We were very happy with our team,” Goti said. “It is very hard for a 10-goal team to play against a 14-goal team. We were right there, we had our chances. I missed shots. Our team is like a family. We were here to have fun and improve.”
Goti led Pony Express with five goals and deft mallet play throughout the contest. Bob Daniels added one goal and four goals were picked up on handicap.
Playing well defensively was Pancho Eddy and Justin Daniels, a freshman at St. Andrew’s School and at 15 one of the youngest players in the tournament.
“We did well in the first half,” Bob Daniels said. “Then all of a sudden we gave up the lead. We had some problems with shooting fouls today. We missed about fifty goals, I don’t know how. It’s just the way it is. We played well against a stronger team.”
Goti’s horse, 8-year-old mare Choppa Floppy earned Best Playing Pony honors.
PoloGear® won the subsidiary round robin tournament and Audi was runner-up.
PoloGear® had an impressive 7-6 win over Casablanca in which Melissa Ganzi scored a game-high four goals. Ganzi also had two goals in a 4-3.5 loss to Audi including a perfectly-timed 60-yard angle shot within nine inches of the goal post. PoloGear® was eliminated by Palm Beach Polo by one goal in Friday’s opening game.
“We were better today,” Aguero said. “Today we were a different team. Melissa was on fire scoring all the goals.”
The tournament featured polo families Marc, Melissa and Grant Ganzi; Roberto and Alejandro Gonzales and Bob and Justin Daniels.
“I like playing with or against him, it doesn’t matter, but I love playing with him,” the 19-year-old Alejandro Gonzales said of his father and mentor. It was the first time Gonzales has competed alongside his PoloGear®teammates.
“It was a pleasure playing with them,” Gonzales said. “These tournaments are great for someone my age and level. I am trying to improve every day. You improve your game by playing and that’s the opportunity I have. We played much better today than Friday where it was a little confusing. Today we were more of a team.”
Polo Gear co-founder Gary Fellers, who played polo for nearly forty years from zero to 26-goal, was pleased with the success of the two-day tournament. Fellers and PoloGear® co-founder Jeanette Sassoon presented the post-tournament awards.
“This was incredible, it is so exciting to come and see such a good game…up and down the field, passing the ball, running hard…it was very, very enjoyable,” Fellers said. “For this level of polo to see it so fast and everybody having fun is wonderful.
“We have had the PoloGear® Challenge Cup since the beginning,” Feller said. “We have been involved with Grand Champions for a long time. We will continue this and be involved with them at Polo West and Aspen. We are old friends with Marc and Melissa Ganzi and love what they are doing for polo. We are honored and proud to be part of it in any way we can.”
The five-team PoloGear® Challenge Cup was the fifth of six medium-goal tournaments of the spring season. The May 22-26 Memorial is the final spring tournament at Grand Champions.
PoloGear®, one of the top sponsors and supporters of polo established in 1993 and incorporated in Florida, manufactures, distributes and sells polo products to players, teams and polo events worldwide.
For more information on Polo Gear and to order products, visit www.pologearusa.com.
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