Pony Express Captures Jimmer Newman Memorial PTF Junior Championship; Juancito Bollini Named MVP
By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
Pony Express won the 12th annual Jimmer Newman Memorial PTF Junior Championship Thursday on windswept Isla Carroll West Field at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The foursome of Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini and brothers Benji and Justin Daniels, buoyed by talent and chemistry, won the competitive six chukker round-robin.
In front of a nice crowd and worldwide ChukkerTV audience, Pony Express defeated Casa Dio (Tiernen Tognini, Santos Bollini, Tenzin Tognini, Juan Martin Obregon), 8-2, and Team YPO (Lucas Escobar, Jack McLean, Cody Ellis, Wes Finlayson), 4-3.
In the other two chukkers, Team YPO defeated Casa Dio, 4-1.
“I had an idea about the team for this tournament and started talking to Justin about it over lunch,” said Ganzi, who finished with five goals over four chukkers, including three in the opening two chukkers.
“We thought it was an awesome idea and everything came together a week ago,” Ganzi said. “We had a lot of fun out here and I think it showed. All of us jell well together. We played and beat a tough team.”
Benji Daniels said the team’s chemistry played a key role in the team’s win.
“It helps a lot to play with the same players,” Daniels, 16, said. “If you haven’t played with someone it’s much more harder to play as a team. You know all these little things about your teammates that help. I have been practicing a lot and getting better and better. Tournaments like this really help.”
Other top scorers in the tournament were Benji Daniels with four goals and Wes Finlayson with three. Juancito Bollini, Ellis, Escobar and Obregon each had two goals.
Juancito Bollini, 20, of Florida Atlantic University, was awarded Most Valuable Player for his outstanding all-around play.
Tenzin Tognini, 13, of Casa Dio was the recipient of the Nelly Loeb Sportsmanship Award. The first recipient of the perpetual trophy was Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Memo Gracida. Tognini has been playing polo for two years.
“It is a pleasure to win this award,” Tognini said. “I like being a clean player. If you are a clean player everyone likes to play with you. If you are the guy who is always fouling and yelling, it’s difficult to get along with people and to find places to play.
“The level of play was very high,” Tognini said. “It was very good open polo. The team we put together had a lot of talent but we weren’t very organized. The other teams were very organized and nice to play with.”
Ellis’ final chukker mare, O’Lace, was named Best Playing Pony.
Most of the players ages 25-and-under, grew up honing their skills through the Polo Training Foundation and it showed with the high level of play.
“This was a super fun game,” said Ellis, 20, of South Africa. “The first two chukkers we played very well and second two chukkers we went to sleep a little bit. We had our chances, we just missed a lot. We knew they were a good team.
“All three teams I thought were very good,” Ellis said. “They were super competitive. It was super nice that we could do this here. Getting opportunities to play on good fields like this makes a big difference. You build your confidence and once you build your confidence you start playing better. You make the plays you should make.”
Santos Bollini, 16, played against his older brother in the first two chukkers.
“It was great fun and good opportunity to play with friends and against friends,” Bollini said. “The play was faster than I expected. It was a good game to watch. The horses were really good.
“This kind of competition makes me better,” Bollini said. “I knew Pony Express was going to win. They have played together for three years. They won NYTS together and won other tournaments. That’s what it takes playing together. They are all good players and equally balanced.”
Ganzi and Bollini were coming off winning the 22-Goal Hall of Fame Cup Monday, also at Isla Carroll West, when Aspen Valley Polo Club defeated Grand Champions Polo Club, 10-8. The pair will compete for Casablanca in the spring-opening Grand Champions Cup on Friday at 4 p.m.
The three teams played in honor of Jimmer Newman, who died on October 8, 2004 in Santa Barbara, Calif. where he was assistant polo manager. He was an up-and-coming 2-goal, 24-year-old player and son of IPC polo manager Jimmy Newman.
“I was very impressed with the level of play,” said Cale Newman, one of the tournament co-founders for his brother. “I watch these kids play throughout the season so when I saw the teams I got very excited because I knew it was going to be a good, fast-paced game.
“I am very happy to see this tournament go on. We started this tournament basically just getting a bunch of my brother’s friends together to play polo. What I like about it now is that it’s become a youth tournament.”
Newman said the PTF may move the tournament to mid-season next year to attract more teams. “Everyone will be around, all the kids will be here,” Newman said.
The Polo Training Foundation has been instrumental in the growth of junior and youth polo players by encouraging the sport’s development with training programs, lessons and tournaments for boys and girls. The international exchange programs have been among the most popular.
The Jimmer Newman Memorial Cup-PTF Junior Championship was live-streamed by ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV is exclusively live streaming International Polo Club Palm Beach and Grand Champions Polo Club games along with other games around the U.S. during the 2016 season with polo broadcasters Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz calling the action.
Grand Champions Polo Club is the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club. The USPA-member club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 20-goal in addition to special events. The nine-year-old club opens its spring season on Friday with the Grand Champions Cup.
The club also features The Polo School, dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB 2016 SPRING SCHEDULE
April 22-24: Grand Champions Cup, Friday, Casablanca vs. Power Horse, 4 p.m., Field 1; Sunday, 10 a.m.
April 23, Saturday: USPA Presidents 8-Goal Cup, 3 p.m.; Ambassadors Game, 5 p.m.
April 29-May 1: Spring Challenge
May 6-8: Sun Cup
May 13-15: USPA Eastern Challenge
May 20-22: Polo Gear Challenge Cup
May 26-29: The Memorial