The International Polo Club Palm Beach held its first match of the season on Sunday, Dec. 31 in front of a large crowd to begin the 2018 season.
The 20-goal Herbie Pennell Cup final saw Team Coca-Cola take on Team Tackeria in what appeared to be an easy match at the outset, when Team Tackeria took an early commanding lead.
Tackeria held Coca-Cola scoreless throughout the first two chukkers of the match, as they chalked up a 4-0 lead. By halftime, Coca-Cola had fallen behind by five goals, 7-2. However, the fourth period saw Coca-Cola come alive, as they outscored Tackeria five goals to one, bringing the score within one heading into the fifth chukker and making for an exciting final few minutes of the game. At the start of the sixth, the match was tied 10-10 — a brand-new game with both teams playing intensely for the win.
The teams traded goals in the final period when Matt Coppola, who would be named Most Valuable Player of the match, made his sixth goal of the game to give Tackeria the narrow win with a final score of 12-11. Coppola’s fantastic 9-year-old mare, Ventaja, earned Best Playing Pony honors. All eight players on the field scored at least one goal for their respective teams during the match.
The highlight of opening day was the new and innovative grass turf installed over the summer. The new TifTuf Bermuda grass held up well under the demands of high-goal playing conditions and is the first of its kind for top polo play, requiring less water and fertilizer throughout the season.
Tackeria’s Wesley Finlayson was very impressed. “The field was remarkable, and the best I’ve ever played on,” he said. “The ball bounced and rolled in a straight line though out the game.”
MVP Matt Coppola echoed Finlayson’s remarks about the new footing at IPC.
“We had a great win today. The field played unbelievable today, probably one of the best fields I’ve ever played on in my life. If you miss the ball, it is definitely your fault,” he laughed. “We had a lot of fun out there today, and there were a ton of spectators for the first game of the season, which was very exciting to see.”
Alfred “Herbie” Pennell was an American polo player who reached a rank of 6 goals outdoor and 8 goals indoor. He was the winner of several prestigious tournaments and also manager of the Meadowbrook Polo Club and Palm Beach Polo & Country Club, among others. He passed away in 2000, and the United States Polo Association honored him by naming the season-opening polo tournament in his memory.
The 2018 high-goal season promises to be one of the best seasons in many years at IPC with a record number of teams entered in the 20-goal tournaments and a strong presence of the top high-goal polo players in the world participating and competing at the venue throughout the winter. The 20-goal season will next feature the Joe Barry Memorial Cup, from Jan. 7 through Jan. 21.
For more information about the International Polo Club Palm Beach, visit www.internationalpoloclub.com.