The 9th Annual Land Rover Palm Beach International Gay Polo Tournament took place on Saturday, April 7 at International Polo Club Palm Beach and attracted large crowds for viewing of the two feature games of the tournament. Members of the Gay Polo League (GPL) competed with their teams, all l=quarterbacked by one professional polo player, for the coveted Senator Cup. The professionals for the ninth annual tournament featured Sugar Erskine, Nacho Badiola, Matt Coppola, and Joey Casey and Tiffany Busch all donating their time to play for a good cause.
After preliminary games during the week leading up to Saturday’s festivities, team Goshen Hill (Jed Pearsall, Daniel Bain, Teddy Rekai-Nuttall, Sugar Erskine) faced team RSM (Bruce Schrieber, Mark Bennett, Phil Tremo, Nacho Badiola) to compete for claims of the Founders Cup. Professionals Sugar Erskine and Nacho Badiola lead their teams expertly and offered GPL crowds an exciting first game. After the first chukker, team RSM held on to the lead by one, after a goal from Mark Bennett and an exciting breakaway goal by Phil Tremo. However, team Goshen Hill quickly caught up with Teddy Rekai Nuttall executing two flawless goals to end the first half of play in the lead. Despite a comeback attempt from team RSM in the second half of play, Goshen Hill managed to hold on to their lead in order to take home the Founders Cup with a final score of 4-3.
Later on in the day, the feature match of the tournament took place with Seminole Casino Coconut Creek (Stacie Simpkins, Gus Larrosa, Chip McKenney, Matt Coppola) challenging Cedar Crest Stables (Michael Sahakian, Ken Mayer, Tiffany Busch, Joey Casey) to see who would capture the Senator Cup.
The game offered crowds of tailgaters and viewers an intense game that showcased the abilities of not only pros Matt Coppola and Joey Casey, but the rest of the Gay Polo League members. During the first chukker, Ken Mayer came out strong for his team by quickly putting in a goal that would keep them in the lead for the remaining chukker. However, their lead was quickly taken away during the start of the second chukker with a swift goal by pro Matt Coppola. Throughout the remainder of the first half of play, each team continued to match each other goal for goal with teams at a 1-1 tie at the end of the first half.
At the start of the second half team Seminole Casino Coconut Creek gained the lead with goals from GPL founder, Chip McKenney, and Stacie Simpkins. After that, teams continued to match each other in scoring, which led to the fourth, and final chukker, to end in a 3-3 tie. Umpires decided that the game would go into an overtime that operated under sudden death rules, meaning the first team to score would take home the prestigious Senator Cup. Both teams came out determined to be the first to score, but it was Matt Coppola that demonstrated his skills as a professional and quickly secured victory for his team by scoring the winning goal.
“I’m really happy to participate in the 9th Annual Land Rover Palm Beach International Gay Polo Tournament,” said Coppola. “It’s a pleasure to play with Chip, Gus and Stacie. I would also like to thank all the sponsors for their support.”
Best Playing Pony was awarded to McKenney’s brand new pony, Pitucca. Gus Larrosa, of team Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, was awarded with the title of the Most Valuable Player.
“I am so happy that I was chosen to be MVP,” said Larrosa. “I have only been playing polo for one year, so it is very special to receive this award. It’s very encouraging and it gives me more confidence to continue to play. I am very happy.”