The eighth annual $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament gets under way Tuesday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
By Sharon Robb
Casablanca (Santos Bollini, 2, Wes Finlayson, 3, Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4) will play Dracarys (Chetan Krishna, -1, Leon Schwencke, 3, Facundo Obregon, 6, Brandon Phillips, 4) at 4 p.m.
The other two teams entered are Loudmouth (Andrew Seibert, 0, Kris Kampsen, 6, Scott Sorbaro, -1, Pedro Gutierrez, 5) and Rafool Polo (Ray Rafool, -1, Jack Whitman, 2, Henry Porter, 4, Salva Ulloa, 7T). That game is tentatively scheduled for Thursday.
One of the nation’s most important and competitive tournaments that offers major prize money features top players and up-and-coming young athletes.
The single-elimination, winner-take-all tournament features four teams. The first two matches are semifinals with the winners advancing to the final.
The tournament has attracted some of the sport’s top teams and pros in the last seven years including Britain’s Mark Tomlinson, Jesse Bray, Poroto Cambiaso, Luis Escobar, Michel Dorignac, Jason Crowder, Gringo Colombres, Matt Coppola, Juan Martin Zubia, Toro Ruiz and Joaquin Panelo. It is the nation’s only 12-goal tournament that offers major prize money.
“The medium goal really offers a unique blend of amateurs and pros to play together,” said Marc Ganzi, who created the tournament in 2014. “If the amateurs play above their handicap on any given day, they can affect the outcome of the game. You see a bunch of young kids today, some of them are young pros that are developing, some of them are young amateurs who want to become pros.”
The inaugural winner in 2014 was Palm Beach Equine. The team of Dr. Scott Swerdlin, Alejandro Gonzalez, Tommy Collingwood and Luis Escobar came from behind to defeat Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Carlitos Gracida, Nic Roldan), 11-9. Escobar was MVP.
Other past winners were:
2015: Audi (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Mark Tomlinson, Wes Finlayson) defeated Newport (Gene Goldstein, Joaquin Panelo, Michel Dorignac, Agustin Arellano), 9-8. At 32, Tomlinson was MVP.
2016: Palm Beach Illustrated/Team USPA. In a wild finish, the foursome of Todd Thurston, Jared Zenni, Geronimo Obregon and Jesse Bray rallied for a 13-12 win over Pony Express (Justin Daniels, Benji Daniels, Bautista Urbina, Tomas Goti). They were the youngest team to win. At 23, Bray was MVP.
2017: Global Student Accommodation (GSA) Henry Porter, Santino Magrini, Juan Martin Zubia and Torito Ruiz defeated Casablanca (Matias Gonzalez, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Jesse Bray), 13-6. Zubia was MVP. They were the youngest team to win with an average age of 18.
2018: GSA-The defending champion became the first team in tournament history to win back-to-back titles. Henry Porter, Santino Magrini, Toro Ruiz and Nachi Viana dominated Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, Hilario Figueras, Tolito Ocampo, Carlucho Arellano for a 12-5 win. Ruiz was MVP.
2019: La Dolfina (Santos Merlos, Segundo Merlos, Poroto Cambiaso, Juan Martin Zubia became the youngest team in tournament history to win defeating Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, Geronimo Obregon, Hilario Figueras, Tolito Ocampo, 13-10. The team averaged 16 years in age with Santos Merlos, 13, Cambiaso, 13, Secundo Merlos, 19, and Juan Martin Zubia, 19. Zubia was MVP.
2020: Did not play due to Pandemic.
2021: The Parrotheads (Nachi Viana, Roni Duke, Jason Wates, Felipe Viana) defeated Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, Keko Magrini, Tolito Ocampo, Hilario Figueras), 12-8. Viana was MVP.
2022: Was not held.
Grand Champions, the nation’s largest polo club celebrating its 16th anniversary, and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 102-acre polo facility in Wellington with 212 stalls in nine self-contained barns, two tracks, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and four polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and short work arena. The club has 13 well-manicured fields including nine world-class fields at GCPC and four at Santa Rita.
During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation’s largest and most innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, nestled in the heart of the world’s winter equestrian capital, is hosting tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 26-goal leagues, WCT Finals, Polo School Ladies Weekly League play and 26-goal WPL tournaments at both Grand Champions and Santa Rita.
Among remaining season highlights for 2023 are the $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, John T. Oxley Memorial and $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament and special events including Nic Roldan Sunset Polo and White Party, Great Futures Celebrity Polo, WPL Polo Pride and Sunset Chukkers & Cocktails.
The winter season is being live-streamed locally and worldwide on Wellington-based ChukkerTV (CTV Sports).
Grand Champions Polo Club caters 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.
The Polo School, now located at the former Pony Express facility, operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. The stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is thriving. It 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. November. The Polo School has nurtured several junior, men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception.
For more information on leagues or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or General Manager Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.