The Polo School At Grand Champions Wins Buzz Welker Memorial Tournament
Story by Susan Robb Photography by Susan Robb and David Lominska
Winning team, The Polo School at Grand Champions Justin Daniels, Grant Ganzi, Benjamin
Avendano and MVP Matias Gonzalez Photo Credit Susan Robb
WELLINGTON, FL-March 26, 2013-The future of polo, looking bright as ever, was on display for four hours Monday at the Buzz Welker Memorial Tournament at Grand Champions
Polo Club. With 10-goal pro players Sapo Caset, Miguel Astrada, Adolfo Cambiaso, Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres watching from the sidelines with friends and family, junior polo
players of all ages competed in the annual event in a fun, festive atmosphere. In the featured game, The Polo School at Grand Champions defeated Lechuza Caracas,
7-4, to win the four-chukker championship.
Photgraphy of David Lominska
Top -Grant Ganzi of The Polo School at Grand Champions
Photography of David Lominska Below -Adolfito Cambiaso of Orchard HillJaqui Casey of Orchard HillHope Arellano of Palm Beach Equine Clinic Riley Ganzi of Grand Champions
The Polo School at Grand Champions opened up a 5-0 lead before Lechuza Caracas got
untracked. Matias Gonzalez and Justin Daniels each scored three goals, Grant Ganzi
added one goal and Benjamin Avendano played well defensively. Nikoli Bahlsen scored
three goals for Lechuza Caracas.
Gonzalez was named the game's Most Valuable Player. At 14, Gonzalez recently made
his 26-goal debut playing for injured Zacara team captain Lyndon Lea in the USPA
Piaget Gold Cup.
"I have been playing these tournaments since I was 5 with my dad," Gonzalez said.
"After we play the 20 and high goal we come back and teach the kids to give back
to the sport and so they get a chance. It's nice to all grow up playing together.
Hopefully, we will be doing this for the rest of our lives.
"Every game is important, whether it's 26-goal or juniors," Gonzalez said. "I play
to win and for fun. My dream is to play high goal so they can teach me and I can
Ganzi, 14, a freshman at St. Andrew's School in Boca Raton, is carrying on his family's
tradition in polo. He started playing polo at age 5 and competing seriously at age
12. He has honed his skills playing not only with his parents, both pro team captains,
but also at the 12-goal level and junior tournaments. Ganzi also competed in interscholastic
tournaments in Atlanta and Virginia.
"It's a great advantage to play at a young age," Ganzi said. "You get an early start
which is important if you want to be a pro. When you play with better players you
get better eventually.
"These junior tournaments are better than taking a lesson because I am learning
how to be a team player and leader on the field. I play different positions and
it's very helpful. In a lesson I just work on hitting the ball.
"I have played with these guys and against them, we have all played together," Ganzi
said. "We knew when we saw our team on paper we had a good chance, a fun game and
a good match-up."
Added Daniels, "Tournaments like this is important for junior polo to get all these
players out here and keep playing. I have gotten a lot better because of these tournaments."
The well-organized tournament was hosted by Marc and Melissa Ganzi at their well-manicured
The fun event featured food truck Che Grill with four-star Argentine food, Donut
Divas with fresh, piping hot donuts and kids face painting by Wellington-based
Michele Rodriguez of The Glitter Station, all sponsored by the Ganzi family. Pro
announcer Gus Whitelaw kept spectators informed and entertained throughout the
Several pros officiated including Juan Bollini and Jason Crowder. While Bollini
got a late start in polo in his 20s, Crowder grew up playing in junior tournaments
"When you are a kid you look forward to tournaments like this for a whole week,
a whole month," Crowder said. "These kids work their butts off in the barns so they
can come out here and play for a couple of hours.
"I remember being so excited to play these tournaments when I was growing up, it's
all you thought about," Crowder said. "Parents put all their time and effort into
these kids to help make them better. This helps the growth of polo, this is the
"That first game was flying out there. Everyone was working and playing as a team.
Some of these kids are scaring me a little bit, they are go good. You got to start
somewhere and this is where you start. It's important to have nice people like Marc
and Melissa to make this all happen, it's hard to organize. They donate their time
and money. In Argentina, the juniors have more support."
Joining Gonzalez as Most Valuable Player in their various divisions were Nico Escobar
of Equine Law Group; Santos Merlos of Orchard Hill; Cinderella Von Faulkenhausen
of Wellington Preserve; Benjamin Quiroga of County Line Feed; Joe Mark Leone of
Pololine; Lauren Amos of Polographics; and Brandon Cochrane of The Morning Line.
Sportsmanship award winners included Justin Daniels of The Polo School at Grand
Champions; Benjamin Daniels of Equine Law Group; Donovan Stratemann of Orchard Hill;
Richard Gollel of Wellington Preserve; Rufino Merlos of Casablanca; Elizabeth Fenner
of Eagles; Sophia Aguerre of Nano's Mallets; and Juan Rodriguez of the American
Polo Horse Association.
A record 21 teams competed in Polo Training Foundation Florida Junior Polo tournament.
Player skill level ranged from advanced to intermediate, lower levels and lead-line
for young children.