The International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) held its first match of the season on New Year’s Eve day in front of a large crowd to begin the 2018 season at the venue. The 20-goal Herbie Pennell Cup final saw Team Coca-Cola take on the all pro of Team Tackeria in what appeared to be an easy match at the outset for Team Tackeria as they took an early commanding lead.
Tackeria held Coca-Cola scoreless throughout the first two chukkers of the match as they chalked up a 4-0 lead. By halftime, Coca-Cola had fallen behind by five goals, 7 to 2. The fourth period saw Coca-Cola finally come alive as they outscored Tackeria five goals to one brining the score within one heading into the fifth chukker of the match, making for an exciting final few minutes of the game. At the start of the sixth, the match was tied at 10 all for a brand new ballgame with both teams playing intensely for the win.
The teams traded goals in the final period when Matt Coppola (4), who would be named Most Valuable Player of the match, made his sixth goal of the game to give Tackeria the narrow win with a final score of 12-11. Coppola’s fantastic 9-year-old mare, Ventaja, earned Best Playing Pony honors. All eight players on the field scored at least a single goal for their respective teams during the match.
The highlight of Opening Day was the new and innovative grass turf installed by Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of the Wellington Equestrian Partners and CEO of the International Polo Club Palm Beach over the summer. The new TifTuf Bermuda grass held up well under the demands of high goal playing conditions and is the first of it’s kind for top polo play, requiring less water and fertilizer for the main field’s maintenance throughout the season. Tackeria’s Wesley Finlayson (4) was very impressed, commenting, “The field was remarkable and the best I’ve ever played on. The ball bounced and rolled in a straight line though out the game.”
MVP Matt Coppola echoed Finlayson’s remarks about the new footing at IPC following the game, adding, “We had a great win today. The field played unbelievable today, probably one of the best field’s I’ve ever played on in my life. If you miss the ball, it is definitely your fault,” he laughed. “We had a lot of fun out there today and there were a ton of spectators for the first game of the season, which was very exciting to see.”
Alfred “Herbie” Pennell was an American polo player that reached a rank of 6 goals outdoor and 8 indoors. He was the winner of various prestigious tournaments and also manager of Meadowbrook Polo Club and Palm Beach Polo & Country Club among others. He passed away in 2000 and the United States Polo Association honored him by naming the season opening polo tournament in his memory.
The 2018 high goal season promises to be one of the best seasons in many years at IPC with a record number of teams entered in the 20-goal tournaments and a strong presence of the top high goal polo players in the world participating and competing at the venue throughout the winter. The 20-goal season will welcome the Joe Barry Memorial Opener next, from January 7-21.
For more information on the International Polo Club Palm Beach, please visit www.internationalpoloclub.com.
Team Coca Cola (20): Gillian Johnston (2), Sugar Erskine (6), Julio Arellano (8), Steve Krueger (4).
Team Tackeria (20): Wesley Finlayson (4), Matt Coppola (4), Jason Crowder (6), Pelón Escapite (6).
MVP: Matt Coppola (Tackeria)
Best Playing Pony: Lavinia Ventaja (played by Matt Coppola)