By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
FlexJet rallied in the semifinal and final to capture the sixth annual Pedro Morrison Memorial, the biggest Cup of the fall season, Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The never-say-die team of Melissa Ganzi, Leo Mandelbaum, Juan Bollini and Martin Estrada came from behind and rallied for an 11-10 overtime victory over Postage Stamp Farm in Friday’s semifinal.
On Sunday, in front of a packed house and worldwide Chukker TV audience, FlexJet, trailing by as many as three goals, rallied for an 8-7 victory over Travieso (Grant Ganzi, Tony Calle, JJ Celis, Jesse Bray) to win the five-team tournament.
Estrada scored the winning goal with 2:40 left in regulation.
“This was a lesson from the old people to the young people,” Bollini said. “We never lost our concentration. We knew we had a good team.”
Mandelbaum, who calmly scored the tying goal on a 40-yard penalty shot and played well defensively turning back several scoring attempts including one in the final 50 seconds, earned his second Most Valuable Player honor of the fall season. Mandelbaum has been a member of three winning teams this season.
“We were running fast and covering a lot of real estate in the second half,” Mandelbaum said. “I love playing with Melissa. The team is amazing. The chemistry is good and everybody plays hard and fast.”
Pedasito, a 7-year-old Chestnut mare owned and played by Estrada, was named Best Playing Pony.
“We needed to come back so we did what we needed to do,” said Estrada, also a member of last weekend’s winning Dutta Corp team in the USPA Kay Colee Memorial.
“Our team had guts and effort and never gave up,” Estrada said. “We kept pushing. We had the experience and energy to win. It was a pleasure to play with this team.
FlexJet’s Martin Estrada on his way to goal with teammate Juan Bollini backing him up. Photo by Alex Pacheco
“Don’t take anything away from them, they were a hell of a team,” Estrada said. “They are four, young talented players. I think our experience caught up with them.”
Mandelbaum and Estrada each finished with three goals. Ganzi and Bollini each scored one. Celis had three goals for Travieso.
FlexJet regained its composure in the fifth chukker outscoring Travieso, 4-1. Mandelbaum started the rally in the opening minute of the chukker to come within two goals (5-3).
Estrada scored back-to-back goals to tie the game at 5-5. The seesaw battle continued when Celis broke loose from a crowd to regain the lead at 6-5. Ganzi regained her team’s momentum scoring a key goal in the final seconds of the chukker for a 6-6 tie.
“When Melissa scored that goal it changed our attitude and got them down,” Bollini said. “We had more fire after winning Friday’s overtime game. I’m really happy for us.”
Before the final chukker, Estrada looked over to Dr. Scott Swerdlin on the sidelines and said “Never give up.”
Calle gave Travieso its final lead of the game scoring a quick goal off the throw-in. After that it was all Ganzi, Mandelbaum, Estrada and Bollini.
“We have played this tournament many, many times and I can’t wait to see my name on the trophy again,” Ganzi said. “Juan, Leo and I have a long history of playing well together and Martin was a great addition. He is a classic, smart player.”
In the consolation round robin, Audi (Marc Ganzi, Gene Goldstein, Carlucho Arellano, Guille Aguero) triumphed with wins over Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, Carlitos Gracida, Nic Roldan, Tim Dutta) and Postage Stamp Farm (Annabelle Gundlach, Wes Finlayson, Brandon Phillips, Brad Blake). Ganzi scored a game-high eight goals. Goldstein had four goals and Arellano added two goals.
Pedro Morrison, born in Spain and University of Miami alum, died Dec. 11, 2003 in Wellington at age 49. He was an avid polo player, patron of The Sympatico Polo team and helped develop Wellington into a thriving community.
Morrison was active in several local and area charities and businesses and touched countless lives. He remains an inspiration. His work on behalf of the YMCA of the Palm Beaches continues on through Polo with Pedro. The tournament is played in honor of Morrison in a casual, laid-back and fun atmosphere.
“Today was a very special day,” Melissa Ganzi said. “When we bought our first barn at South 40 we played polo with Pedro at Palm Beach Polo. He had one of the most contagious laughs. I just think of Pedro laughing, smoking his cigars and sitting on the boards. It was one of my wonderful polo memories.”
Travieso’s Jesse Bray goes for the neck shot downfield with Luis Escobar and Tim Dutta watching from the sidelines. Photo by Alex Pacheco
Team sponsor FlexJet has been a member of the Directional Aviation family of companies since 2013. They are committed to creating premium travel experiences and providing access to the most modern, technologically-advanced aircraft in the industry on a daily basis, going above and beyond world-class private travel experiences.
ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting, is live streaming Grand Champions’ entire fall schedule worldwide with entertaining polo broadcasters Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz.
Grand Champions, with five well-manicured fields and turnkey facility, is enjoying its finest fall season in the nine-year history of the club.
Grand Champions is one of only four clubs in the nation to stage 20-goal tournaments. The club will host the Nov. 4-15 USPA North American Cup and Nov. 11-22 USPA National 20-Goal tournaments.
The medium goal tournament season ends with this week’s USPA Fall Plates.
The first four tournament winners were Postage Stamp Farm (Annabelle Gundlach, Leo Mandelbaum, Guille Aguero, Brandon Phillips) in the Tackeria Invitational; US Trust (Marc Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Luis Escobar, Jesse Bray) in the US Trust Cup; Postage Stamp Farm (Julio Ezcurra, Brandon Phillips, Leo Mandelbaum, Annabelle Gundlach) in the USPA Fall Classic and Dutta Corp (Tim Dutta, Martin Estrada, JJ Celis, Wes Finlayson) in the USPA Kay Colee Memorial.
The 2015 fall schedule also features a world-class doubleheader on Nov. 28th featuring the fourth annual International Cup which has become a holiday weekend tradition marking the end of the fall season.
Team USA, which has won the first three International Cups against England, Chile and Mexico, will host South Africa in the featured game.
This year’s U.S. team features Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Julio Arellano and Nic Roldan. South Africa’s lineup is Selby Williamson, Chris MacKenzie, Gareth Evans and Tom de Bruin.
In the opening doubleheader game, the legacy of polo great Carlos Gracida continues with the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo game, featuring some of the sport’s greats.
Grand Champions is one of the busiest and most innovative clubs in North America catering to men, women and youth polo players at all levels.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
2015 FALL SCHEDULE
Friday-Sunday: USPA Fall Plates; Nov. 4-15, USPA North American 20-Goal Cup; Nov. 11-22: USPA National 20-Goal Tournament; Nov. 28: Carlos Gracida Legends of Polo Memorial and International Cup, Team USA vs. South Africa.