Equuleus Wins Great Futures Celebrity Polo Match; Riley Ganzi Named MVP; Boys & Girls Club Biggest Winners
By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
For the third year in a row, the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club of Wellington was the biggest winner of the Great Futures Celebrity Match recently held at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The star power of Nacho Figueras, John Walsh and several top polo players was a positive draw in raising funds for the facility that serves hundreds of children.
Equuleus’ team of Joe DiMenna, Martin Pepa, Juan Bollini and Juan Olivera, runners-up last year, won the round-robin tournament for the first time in event history.
Equuleus finished ahead of Polo Gear (Annabelle Gundlach, Leo Mandelbaum, Malcolm Borwick, Brandon Phillips) and two-time defending champion and host team Grand Champions (John Walsh, Riley Ganzi, Nacho Figueras, Stewart Armstrong).
Riley Ganzi, 16, a student at St. Andrew’s School and youngest player in the game, was named Most Valuable Player. Marco Polo, ridden by Figueras and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was selected Best Playing Pony.
Walsh, a television spokesman, children’s advocate, activist and creator of America’s Most Wanted, and now with CNN’s The Hunt, was just as popular as Figueras signing autographs and posing for pictures before and after the game and during the Great Futures Brunch at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Busloads of boys and girls from the boys and girls club got the chance to watch their first polo game, stomp divots at halftime, meet players and visit with the horses.
“It is so fantastic to play for the Boys and Girls club here because we do have so much poverty in Palm Beach County,” said Walsh, an avid polo player for twelve years. “What people don’t understand here is that on any given day the clubs will feed 600 kids that wouldn’t get a warm dinner.
“The great saying is they are saving and changing one child at a time, without a doubt,” Walsh said. “This is the whole polo community contributing. Marc and Melissa Ganzi are such a big part of this. The best part of it is we can raise money for kids.”
Figueras, who flew ten hours from Argentina the night before to participate in the event, said he loves giving back to a sport that has given him so much.
“Today was about the Boys & Girls Club and Neil’s enormous effort to make a contribution to the community of Wellington,” Figueras said. “It wasn’t just about the game of polo today.”
“It went really well,” said Grand Champions president and event co-chair Melissa Ganzi, who enjoyed the morning event with friends and family before competing with her Flexjet team in the 26-goal USPA Gold Cup featured stadium game.
“The participation from the Boys & Girls Club, all their staff coming out and the kids seeing the polo and horses was just a really fun day. They all watched the game and were cheering players on.”
Proceeds from the game and IPC brunch benefited the Neil S. Hirsch Boys & Girls Club of Wellington, one of thirteen Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County and 1,100 across the U.S., located at 1080 Wellington Trace.
“I wanted to help because I know that many of the families in our community need the services the club provides,” Hirsch said. “Unless you know someone who has benefited from the club, you may not know what a lifesaver it is for families who are in need of a safe haven for their children.”
Added Ganzi, “Neil Hirsch has set a great example for our polo community by giving back to those who need us most here in Wellington-our children. The celebrity match is making an impact on the club members, their families and our community.”
The Boys & Girls clubs, open year-round, provide services during non-school hours, as well as summer camp opportunities for nearly 7,000 boys and girls from ages 6 to 18 throughout the county.
Polo Gear was the official supplier for the event and sponsored one of the all-star teams. Polo Gear, one of the top sponsors and supporters of polo established in1993 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.
The event and player interviews can be seen on ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting. The Wellington-based company is exclusively live streaming IPC and Grand Champions Polo Club games during the 2016 season with polo broadcasters Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz calling the action.
Grand Champions is the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club with tournaments ranging from six to 20-goal featuring U.S. and international players.
Grand Champions Polo Club also features The Polo School, dedicated to teaching polo, 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.