In thrilling fashion, new team sponsor WPL won its first league tournament of the winter polo season Monday at Grand Champions Polo Club. With the score tied 11-11, Juan Bollini scored the winning goal with seven minutes left in overtime to enable WPL (Santos Bollini, 1, Nico Harriott, 1, Gussie Busch, 1, Juan Bollini, 5) to knock off Dutta Corp (Juanse Olivera, 1, Timmy Dutta, 2, Tolito Ocampo, 5, Tim Dutta, 0) for a thrilling 12-11 victory. After two missed scoring opportunities by both teams, Bollini picked up the loose ball on a broken play and scored.

“I saw the ball and I had to take a chance,” Bollini said. “It was the last chance I had to prove myself. I was upset with myself. I was not happy with the way I was playing.” Gussie Busch, 23, was Most Valuable Player after scoring a game-high eight goals, including seven penalty conversions. It was his first tournament victory this season at Grand Champions.

Busch, the son of polo player Billy Busch, 1991 U.S. Open winner with Grant’s Farm Manor teammates Andy Busch, Mike Azzaro and Carlos Gracida, has filled in for starter Melissa Ganzi of Flexjet during the 26-goal season in the World Polo League lineup, and played well. “It’s been fun playing all over since I have been down here,” Busch said. “I enjoy playing for Melissa. One day it’s fast as hell and the other day it’s a little slower and more controlled with the ball. But it’s a lot of fun.” Busch said the team was put together for the winter season 6-, 8- and 12-goal leagues. It was his final league tournament of the winter season. He will continue to serve as Ganzi’s backup, if needed, for the last two weeks of the World Polo League’s Triple Crown of Polo. “We just meshed and been going at it ever since,” Busch said of his WPL teammates. “It’s been fun.”

In a hotly-contested, penalty-marred game that had more chatter than a morning talk show, the lead changed hands 14 times before going into overtime. Both teams led during the game and both teams had opportunities to win in regulation time at the penalty line and from the field. “The game was a little sticky with all the fouls in the beginning,” said Busch, who has been playing competitively since he was 12. “We finally opened it up and thank God in overtime we pulled it out and got the win.”

Bollini, who turns 57 in June, was the oldest player in the championship  final. It was another satisfying milestone, playing above his rating and playing alongside his 19-year-old son Santos. Juan Bollini finished with three goals and Santos Bollini added one. “My teammates were incredible,” Bollini said. “Gussie, Nico and Santos played well. They fought until the end. I think I finally showed up at the end in the last minute. I am very happy and so happy to win a tournament with Santos.

During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation’s largest and most innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, is hosting 24 tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 0 to 40 goals, Sunny Hale’s Legacy WCT Finals, women’s weekly league play and 26-goal World Polo League tournaments at Grand Champions, Valiente Polo Farm and Jan Pamela Field.

www.gcpolo.com

Photo: Grand Champions Polo Club