Casablanca won its second tournament of the fall season Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
In biting cold weather, Casablanca (Marc Ganzi, 2, Grant Ganzi, 3, Nic Roldan, 8, Pierre Henri Ngoumou, 6) led for most of the game to defeat Sebucan (Sugar Erskine, 6, Pablo Pulido, 2, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Brandon Phillips, 4), 12-10, to win the sixth and final medium goal tournament of the season.
NIC ROLDAN OF CASABLANCA REACHES FOR THE BALL WITH SUGAR ERSKINE DEFENDING.
The 20-goal tournaments begin Tuesday with the USPA National 20 Goal opener Flexjet and Aspen Valley at 10 a.m. and Wellington Open on Friday.
Eight-goaler Nic Roldan, America’s highest rated player, was named Most Valuable Player. Roldan scored a team-high five goals.
“Nic was super strong in this tournament, he anticipates great and can hit the ball a mile,” Phillips said. “He’s real tough in this sport.”
NIC ROLDAN OF CASABLANCA WORKS THE NEAR SIDE.
It was the first U.S. tournament victory for Ngoumou in his Grand Champions debut. The French national team captain is preparing for the Nov. 30th International Cup against Team USA at Grand Champions.
“I am very happy to win,” said the 6-goaler. “It was a tough game. The team went well and field was amazing. I was impressed how Marc changed strategy for me at back to give Nic more time and Grant and Marc could go forward with the ball. It was a very good idea and worked very well.
“I feel more comfortable now,” Ngoumou said. “I am less in a hurry and I am getting to know the horses and players better. I felt much better today. We had a very good team. Nic gave me confidence. We played a good team but it was easy to play with Nic. He deserved MVP, no doubt.”
THE FOUR HORSEMEN, NIC ROLDAN, SUGAR ERSKINE, BRANDON PHILLIPS AND PIERRE HENRI NGOUMOU CHARGE AFTER ERSKINE’S HIT.
Miss America, played by Ngoumou in the fourth chukker and owned by Halo Polo, was Best Playing Pony.
Casablanca, which also won the US Trust Cup earlier in the season, and Sebucan battled closely in the first half. Casablanca jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the first chukker with back-to-back goals from Roldan.
Sebucan came back with a 2-1 second chukker of its own with goals from Erskine and Spinacci for a 3-3 halftime tie.
GRANT GANZI OF CASABLANCA AVOIDS A HOOK FROM BRANDON PHILLIPS OF SEBUCAN.
With goals from Roldan, Ngoumou and Grant Ganzi, Casablanca outscored Sebucan, 3-1, for a 6-4 advantage. Taking advantage of Sebucan penalties, Casablanca shut out Sebucan 3-0, in the fifth chukker for a 10-6 lead. In that explosive chukker, Grant Ganzi had three goals including two penalty conversions.
“They just started making some careless fouls,” Ganzi said. “Some of them were pretty costly because they were in front of the goal. They missed a couple back shots and I started hitting more. When they were leaving balls on the field, we were cleaning up.
PIERRE HENRI NGOUMOU OF CASABLANCA OUT OF THE SADDLE TO HOOK PABLO PULIDO OF SEBUCAN.
“They started to come back a little bit in the sixth chukker but we figured a way to close it out and stayed disciplined,” Ganzi said. “We stayed with the man and stayed disciplined defensively. The balls would come and our offense would make good plays. We worked hard for this. It was fun.”
Erskine got hot in the final chukker with three goals and Phillips added one to close the gap but ran out of time.
BRANDON PHILLIPS OF SEBUCAN AND PIERRE HENRI NGOUMOU BATTLE FOR THE BALL AT THE SIDEBOARDS.
“We made mistakes, we had a few mishaps right in front of our goal that should have been cleared shots, we ended up fouling and kind of handed it over to them,” Phillips said. “We missed some goals and they played very well, too.”
In addition to Roldan’s five goals, Grant Ganzi had four goals, Marc Ganzi had two and Ngoumou added one goal.
For Sebucan, Erskine scored a team-high five goals. Spinacci and Phillips each had two goals and Pulido had one goal.
SUGAR ERSKINE OF SEBUCAN AND CASABLANCA’S PIERRE HENRI NGOUMOU CHASING DOWN A LOOSE BALL.
In the Just For The Joy Of It Cup subsidiary, Newport (Jason Crowder, 6, Gene Goldstein, 1, Kris Kampsen, 6, Juancito Bollini, 4) rallied for a hardfought 9-8 victory over Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, 0, Jeff Blake, 6, Horatio Heguy, 6, Juan Bollini, 5).
The lead changed hands eight times before Kampsen scored the game-winner. Flexjet had a 4-0 lead in the third chukker but Newport dug itself out of a hole and tied the game, 5-5, on Juancito Bollini’s goal and went ahead for the first time, 6-5, on Goldstein’s goal with two minutes left in the fifth chukker.
HORACIO HEGUY OF FLEXJET WORKS THE NEAR SIDE SHOT WITH JASON CROWDER OF NEWPORT DEFENDING.
Juancito Bollini led Newport with a team-high four goals. Kampsen had three and Goldstein added two goals in the final two chukkers.
Melissa Ganzi scored a game-high five goals and finished with eight goals in two games. Juan Bollini had two and Horacio Heguy, making his Grand Champions debut, added one goal.
Popular singer Tom Blake gave a souful rendition of the National Anthem before the game and then served as a spare holder for his brother Jeff during the subsidiary game.
JUANCITO BOLLINI OF NEWPORT WORKS THE BALL WITH BACK UP FROM TEAMMATE KRIS KAMPSEN.
The tournament is named in honor of 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 to this day. His work on behalf of the YMCA of the Palm Beaches continues on through Polo with Pedro.
“This tournament does have special meaning because it’s for Pedro Morrison,” Ganzi said. “It’s huge. I’ve known Tommy Morrison and Arvo Katajisto my whole life. It’s a meaningful tournament and I know how much Pedro meant to my dad, to Nic and my mom. So it’s a big win and nice to win that trophy.”
JEFF BLAKE OF FLEXJET TRIES TO GET PAST DEFENDER GENE GOLDSTEIN OF NEWPORT.
Added Phillips, “I played with Pedro for two or three years in the 14-goal. I knew him very well. He was a great guy. He smiled the whole time and had fun no matter where he was. He was a great guy to play for and great guy off the field as well.”
The winners of the first four 2019 tournaments at Grand Champions were: Newport (Gene Goldstein, Jason Crowder, Kris Kampsen, Juan Bollini), Fall Plates Tournament; Sebucan (Santos Bollini, Pablo Pulido, Nic Roldan, Kris Kampsen), Fall Classic; Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Kris Kampsen, Pablo Spinacci, Juan Bollini), Tackeria Invitational; and Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Brandon Phillips, Jason Crowder), US Trust Cup. The Polo Gear Challenge final was postponed by rain.
JEFF BLAKE OF FLEXJET REACHES TO HOOK JUANCITO BOLLINI OF NEWPORT.
During the 2019 fall season, the nation’s largest and busiest polo club, hosts both medium and high goal polo. It is highlighted by the International Cup featuring Team USA against France; Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial, USPA National 20 Goal and Wellington Open.
The well-organized fall tournaments attract players from all over the United States and world including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, England, France, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Uruguay, Switzerland, Nigeria and South Africa.
BEST PLAYING PONY MISS AMERICA PLAYED BY PIERRE HENRI NGOUMOU.
Grand Champions had its finest fall season in club history last year. It was the only club in the nation to stage two USPA-sanctioned 20-goal fall tournaments.
The fall season serves as a tuneup for the winter season for players and green horses. The winter season will feature the second season of the highly-successful 26-goal World Polo League at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm with the best polo players in the world.
The Grand Champions Fall Invitational League is geared toward improving a player’s polo skills at every level. Roster lineups change from tournament to tournament with evenly-matched teams featuring pro and amateur players.
MARC GANZI AND THE MORRISON FAMILY SHARE A SPECIAL MOMENT AFTER THE GAME.
Club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi, both accomplished players, take pride in teaching and sharing the exciting sport of polo with anyone interested in learning. The husband and wife team are coming off their most successful and historical summer season at Grand Champions’ sister club Aspen Valley Polo Club.
The fall league features: stick-and-ball sessions during the week; two tournament games every weekend; ambulance and umpires for all tournament games; world-class polo fields; club-sponsored social events every weekend for all players; and top-of-the-line trophies for all teams every weekend. Food and refreshments are available for players and fans after the finals.
TOM BLAKE SINGING A SOULFUL RENDITION OF THE NATIONAL ANTHEM.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program at the turnkey facility.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its’ mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA club, operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099.
GRAND CHAMPIONS AWARDS TABLE FOR THE PEDRO MORRISON MEMORIAL.
PHOTOS BY GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUBSharon Robb