Wellington, FL.--April 14, 2012--A record crowd of nearly 3,000 fans watched the third annual International Gay Polo Tournament crown the 2012 champion Saturday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club.
It was only fitting that Gay Polo League president and founder Chip McKenney lead Gamma Mu to a thrilling come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Polo Gear/Palm Beach Rox in the championship final.
With three seconds remaining, Gamma Mu team captain Juan Bollini took a short pass from Jack Hoffman and tapped in the winning goal. Bollini led his team with three goals, McKenney scored two goals, Christine Vermes finished with one goal and Hoffman came up with some outstanding defensive plays.
"I think today was a winning day for me on two levels," McKenney said. "We won the tournament and that's always a pleasant ending but also the fact when you walk onto the polo grounds and you see this gorgeous place, the crowd, the tents and effort people put into the tailgates because they are all out here to share the day with us, it's extraordinary."
Wellington's first family of polo, Marc and Melissa Ganzi served as honorary chairs and their Grand Champions Polo Club was presenting sponsor. The Ganzis supplied the polo ponies, tack and grooms.
"I am excited that new people have an interest in polo, this is wonderful," Melissa Ganzi said. "Polo should be accessible to everybody."
It was the second year in a row, Polo Gear/Palm Beach Rox finished tournament runner-up. Last year Polo Gear/Palm Beach Rox also lost 6-5 to Team Phelps Media Group (PMG). But the runners-up didn't walk away empty-handed.
Polo Gear/Palm Beach Rox top player Talbot Logan, who led all scorers with a career-high four goals, was named Most Valuable Player. Teammate Dwight Tran, the second youngest player in the GPL at age 28, was named Most Improved Player for the second consecutive year.
"I don't think I've ever scored four goals in a single game in my entire life," Logan said. "It's fantastic because Melissa Ganzi and the pros pick the MVP. That is such a great honor, I can't express it."
In the consolation game, Cedar Crest Stables/Star Meadow, led by Gina Padilla and Phil Tremo of West Palm Beach, defeated Gordon W. Ross Team-Re/Max, 5-3. Padilla, a former polo groom, and Tremo each scored two goals and Dan Haynia added another.
"Both teams played very well," said Cedar Crest Stables/Star Meadow team captain Joey Casey. "The skill level has gotten a lot better and the players have improved a lot. The tournament is good for the sport. If it helps the sport, it helps everybody."
Both teams in the championship final were evenly matched from the opening chukker.
Gamma Mu scored early in the opening chukker when Christine Vermes took a long pass from Bollini and scored. Polo Gear/Palm Beach Rox tied it at 1-1 when Logan scored the first of his four goals. Wellington pro Nic Roldan made it look effortless when he scored on a 60-yard shot to put Polo Gear/Palm Beach Rox ahead 2-1.
Midway through the second chukker, McKenney scored on a Bollini pass to tie the game at 2-2 at halftime.
After the on-field ceremonial champagne pouring for fans and divot-stomping, Logan scored back-to-back goals in the third chukker to give Polo Gear/Palm Beach Rox a 4-2 advantage.
Gamma Mu came roaring back in the fourth and final chukker with Bollini scoring a quick goal to open the chukker and McKenney converting a penalty shot to tie the game at 4-4. Gamma Mu went ahead 5-4 on another Bollini goal. Logan tied the game at 5-5 with a pass from Roldan.
With the seconds ticking down, Hoffman took possession of the ball in a crowd in front of the goal that included McKenney and Bollini, who ended up tapping the ball in for the winning goal.
"I think the teams that made it to the finals deserved to be in the finals," McKenney said. "They played really well today. Everybody came determined to win and that really made it fun. I love the idea that we come to this and even though it's a wonderful, joyous fun tournament it's also for the players a very serious opportunity to win."
"And the Ganzis! You are never going to get better ponies anywhere. They look beautiful, they ride beautifully, the tack is gorgeous, the grooms are impeccable. The pros are great. How do you get any better than this? Without question we are coming back. We are starting to plan next year's tournament tomorrow."