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WELLINGTON, FL-May 28, 2013—Lorenzo Ramirez of Audi Red was all smiles during the Memorial Day Junior Tournament at Grand Champions Polo Club.

Six-year-old Lorenzo Ramirez of Audi Red rests his polo mallet during the lead line. Photo by Scott Fisher

The six-year old was patiently waiting for his mom Lisa to guide him and his horse X-box on the polo field for the leadline, the fifth and final competition of the tournament, co-hosted by the Polo Training Foundation, the Polo School at Grand Champions and U.S. Polo Association.

After Ramirez and his Audi Red teammates Renick Hoover, Aidan Montoya and Emmett Templin tied Piaget Black and Piaget White, Ramirez wanted to go out and do it again.

Four-year-old Mia Maldonado of Piaget White showing her hitting form in the lead line. Photo by Scott Fisher

The future-polo-player-in-the-making was among more than forty junior players of all ages (3-17) and ability levels honing their polo skills while having fun during the season-ending tournament.

Two USPA National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) game qualifiers to determine all-stars opened the tournament.

Ayaan Quraeshi of Grand Champions White reaches in for the hook while Grand Champions Black’s Juancito Bollini and Grant Ganzi pursue the ball. Photo by Scott Fisher

Grand Champions Black (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Matias Gonzalez and Michael Bellissimo) defeated Grand Champions White (Wesley Finlayson, Jonny Lavine, Lorenzo Merlotti and Ayaan Quraeshi), 10-3, in the first game. Bollini scored a game-high six goals.

In the second game, Polo School Green (Grant Ganzi, Cipi Echezarreta, Jack McLean and Chase Schwartz) defeated Polo School Blue (Riley Ganzi, Jaqui Casey, Anthony Devrient and Clemente Devrient), 4-3. McLean scored the winning goal on a penalty shot at the 2:24 mark.

Cipi Echezarreta of Polo School Green goes for the ball while trying to avoid the hook from Polo School Blue’s Riley Ganzi. Photo by Scott Fisher

“I am watching the future,” said polo player Martin Estrada, who just completed the Grand Champions spring season. Several other pros including Nic Roldan, Kris Kampsen, Brandon Phillips and Luis Escobar came out to support the juniors tournament.

“This tournament was really great because it brought three organizations together, the Polo School at Grand Champions with the Polo Training Foundation and the United States Polo Association,” said Robin Welker Sanchez, who handles lessons, clinics, kids polo at Grand Champions Polo Club and plays an integral role in juniors tournaments and juniors development.

Juancito Bollini of Grand Champions Black puts the pressure on Lorenzo Merlotti of Grand Champions White. Photo by Scott Fisher

“It was all a good showcase of youth polo from 3-years-old to 17-years-old and the different abilities,” Sanchez said. “It was really nice to see in succession where kids start on the lead line and how much fun that is up to where some of these kids are professional players.

“It’s such a great exhibition of talent and broad range of players and abilities within junior polo in Florida,” Sanchez said. “We even had kids coming from out-of-state. It’s so nice to see the little kids who are just starting. For some of these kids it was their very first time to ever play polo in their first tournament. We’re so happy that we can have this opportunity at Grand Champions and through the Polo School to be able to offer polo to kids in the Florida area.”

Melissa Ganzi, co-host of the tournament and avid supporter of juniors polo, was happy with the tournament’s success. She also got a chance to watch her children Grant and Riley Ganzi play.

Polo School Green’s Grant Ganzi goes for the ball with his sister Riley Ganzi of Polo School Blue in hot pursuit. Photo by Scott Fisher.

“I think it was unique that the PTF and USPA were able to work well together today,” Ganzi said. “I hope it’s the first of many times where they collaborate.

“I am super proud of all the people that work for me and makes this event happen,” Ganzi said.

Not every junior player will pursue a pro career, but being exposed to polo can lead to many diverse jobs in the sport, Ganzi said.

“Every other sport has little leagues and youth programs so I think it’s great that polo does have youth programs. We have a lot of players who have come up through the PTF programs in the past including Jeff Hall, Kris Kampsen and Jason Crowder.

Grand Champions White’s Ayaan Quraeshi drives downfield with the ball with support from teammate Wes Finlayson and defense from Juancito Bollini of Grand Champions Black. Photo by Scott Fisher

“I think it’s good for kids to have an awareness whether they want to be a polo pro, polo sponsor, a veterinarian blacksmith or even an umpire. It’s wonderful exposure and it gives them the choice if they do want to participate later in life. I learned how to play polo at age 31 but I certainly would have liked the opportunity to play as a child.”

On Saturday morning in a two-chukker warm-up NYTS tournament game, Polo School Green (Cipi Echezarreta, Wesley Finlayson, Jack McLean, Chase Schwartz) defeated Polo School Blue (Riley Ganzi, Anthony Devrient, Jaqui Casey and Ayaan Quraeshi), 6-1.

Finlayson led scoring with three goals followed by McLean with two and Echezarreta with one. Quaraeshi scored Blue’s lone goal.

Grand Champions Black’s winning team from left to right, Grant Ganzi, Michael Bellissimo, Juancito Bollini and Matias Gonzalez hoisting the Memorial Day Cup kids trophy. Photo by Scott Fisher

The fun, festive day in front of a good crowd featured snow cones from Kona Grill, five-star Argentine food from Miami-based food truck Che Grill and entertaining announcing from Gus Whitelaw, all provided by Marc and Melissa Ganzi, owners of Grand Champions Polo Club. The Ganzi family also provided horses for most of the players.

The mission of the PTF’s Junior Polo program encourages the growth of polo by supporting training programs for junior players while promoting good will and sportsmanship. Melissa Ganzi is secretary-treasurer of the PTF.

The future of polo looking good with the participants of Monday’s Memorial Day Junior Tournament at Grand Champions Polo Club. Photo by Scott Fisher

GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB

WHERE: 13475 Southfields Road, Wellington, 33414. On the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington.

INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Piaget. Everyone is welcome to watch polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the International Cup in November, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament in March, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament, both in April.

 

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