Palm Beach Equine won its first tournament of the spring season at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club. In front of a packed house, Palm Beach Equine (Brandon Phillips, 4, Juan Bollini, 5, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, Scott Swerdlin, 0) won a hardfought 10-9 game against Audi (Lucas Lalor, 5, Sugar Erskine, 6, Marc Ganzi, 2, Jared Zenni, 6).

Argentine 8-goaler Alejandro Novillo Astrada scored the winning goal with 1:45 left in the game. Astrada finished with four goals and was named Most Valuable Player. “I went to put pressure on Lucas and Marc and I got an open space and luckily I was able to score,” Astrada said. “Marc was trying to hook me and it was a little difficult but it went in. “This is a very fun team to play with,’ Astrada said. “I think we got along very well from the beginning. In our first game, once we started working as a team and did what we had to do for each other we played very well together.” When asked what the key to winning was, Swerdlin smiled and said “We put one more in than they did. You can’t take anything for granted but that was a great goal by Astrada. There was no secret, everybody was marked up and fighting, every ball was hard.”

Ava Maria, a 5-year-old mare played by Ganzi and owned by Spinacci, was Grand Champions Best Playing Pony. Palm Beach Equine was making its second championship appearance this season. In the Spring Challenge Cup, Palm Beach Equine lost a 9-8 overtime game to Aspen Valley’s Pablo Pulido, Juancito Bollini, Grant Ganzi and Alejandro Novillo Astrada.”This team played amazing, it was great fun,” Swerdlin said. “I want to thank Marc and Melissa Ganzi because without them I wouldn’t have the opportunity to play this kind of polo. It’s very generous of them to let us play with these kind of players that they have. It’s great, it’s exciting and it’s fun.”

In the second half, the teams played to a 2-2 tie in the fourth chukker with Palm Beach Equine still leading, 7-6. Palm Beach Equine had its biggest lead, 9-7, after the fifth chukker but Audi tied the game at 9-9 early in the final chukker with goals from Lalor and Erskine after a great pass from Zenni. After Astrada’s game-winner, Audi had two final scoring opportunities that fell short. 

“It was fun,” Phillips said. “Juan and I have played together on-and-off for 15 years so it’s fun to play with him. This is the first time I got to play with Negro which was great, he is a very good player. He is very easy to play with.

The Santa Rita Abierto is named after Melissa Ganzi’s grandmother, who passed away on December 29, 2012, in Wellington. Grand Champions fall, winter and spring tournaments attract a large international field of players from all corners of the world  including India, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Venezuela and England.

By Sharon Robb

www.gcpolo.com