WELLINGTON, Fla., March 10, 2019---Playing with three teenagers, Palm Beach Equine captured the Sieber Memorial 12-Goal Tournament Saturday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
Playing together for the first time, Palm Beach Equine (Segundo Merlos, 2, Poroto Cambiaso, 3, Santos Merlos 0, Gringo Colombres, 7) led from start-to-finish for an impressive 8-5 victory over Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, 0, Geronimo Obregon, 4, Hilario Figueras, 3, Tolito Ocampo, 5).
Palm Beach Equine finished undefeated at 5-0 to win the prestigious tournament that dates back to the late 1980s and featured such champions as Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Eureka, Gulfstream, Catamount, Coca-Cola, Audi and Travieso.
The tournament is named in honor of polo player Rob Sieber, who died in a polo-related accident 33 years ago at Oak Brook, Ill.
Colombres, 29, was named Most Valuable Player after scoring four goals and serving as a field general for Segundo Merlos, who celebrated his 19th birthday on Saturday, and a pair of 13-year-olds in Santos Merlos and Poroto Cambiaso.
"I was the older guy on the field," Colombres said. "I was the only one who had the experience. I had to be the leader, I had to be the guy to organize them and be the captain.
"It was fine, we were winning by two or three the whole game," Colombres said. "We missed a lot of goals but it was tough. They had an amazing team with really good players. We missed Scott, he's in the back always and the guy who closes the door. That's why were a little confused with our positions. It was our first time playing together. But we win and that was the point, that was the mission. It was amazing, we won the tournament."
Team sponsor and player Dr. Scott Swerdlin, who played the early tournament games, was unable to compete in the final because of a back injury. He is scheduled to undergo back surgery in two weeks. Swerdlin received an injection on Friday in hopes of playing but got on a horse before the game and knew he couldn't play. He was replaced by Santos Merlos.
"I was happy that I got to play with this team in the early games," Swerdlin said. "Gringo is playing amazing and just more mature every game. This game was a little tough for them because I play back. Gringo had to switch to playing a more defensive position and sending the ball to the three boys.
"I want to thank Adolfo for having the opportunity to play with Poroto," Swerdlin said. "For the rest of my life I will be able to tell people I played with Cambiaso. I also want to thank Sebastian Merlos for lending me his two brilliant sons. It was such a pleasure to play with this team and I'm sorry I couldn't finish it out. "
Coquito, a 10-year-old Argentine-bred owned and played by Colombres in the second and sixth chukkers, was selected Grand Champions Best Playing Pony.
"He is one of my best horses," Colombres said. "I'm really happy with him, he is playing good."
Dolfina Maria, played by Poroto Cambiaso in the second chukker, was selected American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony.
The APHA was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.
Palm Beach Equine controlled the physical game from the opening chukker. Santos Merlos gave Palm Beach Equine a 2-0 lead and they never trailed, leading 4-1, 4-2, 6-2 after four chukkers and 7-4. It was Santos Merlos first 12-goal tournament victory.
Colombres with the help of Swerdlin put the team together before the season.
"He makes the recommendations and I nod," Swerdlin said. "He's friends with Poroto and Segundo is getting better and better. Both these teams are amazing. We will see a lot of people on the field today go up in handicap. I assure you what we saw today wasn't 12-goal polo."
Also scoring for Palm Beach Equine was Segundo Merlos with four goals. Tolito Ocampo led Beverly Equestrian with a team-high four goals. Obregon added one goal.
It was the second consecutive year Beverly Equestrian lost in the final. In last year's final, in the battle of unbeaten teams, Patagones (Joaquin Avendano, 1, Robi Bilbao, 4, Benjamin Avendano, 2, Santi Wulff, 5) held off Beverly Equestrian (Bill Ballhaus, 0, Hilario Figueras, 2, Tolito Ocampo, 4, Carlucho Arellano, 5) for a thrilling 11-10 victory.
During the winter polo season, Grand Champions, the nation's largest and innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club, is hosting 24 tournaments: 6, 8, 12, 20, and 0 to 40 goals, WCT Finals and women's weekly league play and 26-goal World Polo League tournaments at both Grand Champions, Valiente Polo Farm and several other fields in the area.
Grand Champions 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.
Season highlights for 2019 are the Sterling Cup, $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament, John T. Oxley Memorial and $100,000 World Cup Tournament, a unique 0-40-goal, winner-take-all single-elimination tournament and inaugural World Polo League.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and three polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball with plans to build more polo fields in the future.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels and ages. Its' expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its' Polo On Demand program, created by Grand Champions President Melissa Ganzi when the club first opened in 2007.
The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November. Headed by Director of Operations Juan Bollini, The Polo School has nurtured several men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception.