Monthly Archives: January 2018

Identity Polo Stays Perfect to Win Officers Cup 4 Goal

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The final of the Coachella Valley Officer’s Cup 4 Goal turned out to be a very fast and open polo game. Identity Polo (Anne Evamy, Alex Green -1, Kyle Fargey 3, Diego Coscio 2) arrived with a perfect record and Palm Desert/Film Finance (Dan Horn, Leigh Brecheen, Remy Du Celliee Muller 3, Antonio Juarez 1) came with just one loss.
From the start it was obvious that both teams were prepared to hit and run and as a result, the large crowd was well entertained throughout.
The first period featured many chances for both contenders with neither able to score.
The fast and open play continued in the second as Fargey counted two field goals and Identity led by that pair at halftime (2 – 0).
Palm Desert/Film Finance counted the first goal of the third frame as Du Celliee Muller ran to score and narrowed the gap to just one. Fargey replied for Identity with a magnificent run and cut shot from 90 yards and ‘way’ left – the announcer’s shot of the day – grabbed the two goal lead back for Identity and it was on to the final chukker with the count still favoring Identity at 3 – 1.
Fargey struck again in the early fourth with another bomb but Du Celliee Muller replied with a missile of his own to again trail by two with ample time left on the clock for a comeback. However, Fargey was the one to take advantage of that time and ran to score his fifth of the day to create a final score of 5 – 2 to favor Identity.
While everyone on both teams played well and displayed the teamwork that got them to the final, the difference was Fargey and as a result, he was appointed as the MVP.
To cap off an extraordinary afternoon for Fargey, his fourth chukker mare Milly was chosen as the Best Playing Pony.

Tony Gregg

Antelope Junior Wins Officer’s Cup 8 Goal

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The January 8 goal Coachella Valley Officer’s Cup Tournament featured an entry of eight teams in a format that would see every team play every other team once with the top two advancing to the final. Over the course of the one month event, Grant Palmer and his Antelope Junior group (Palmer, Patrick Uretz 4, Carolyn Anier 1, Jimmy Wright 3) and Virgil Kyle and Ryan Robertson’s Bush League foursome (Kyle, Robertson, Ulysses Escapite 4, Shane Rice 4) finished one and two respectively and would therefore meet in the Sunday January 28th final. Palmer and Co. defeated Bush League in their January 6th game by a final count of 12 – 7 and as such were considered the favorites to win again and grab the championship trophy.
The contest was played on an unbelievably perfect desert afternoon presented by Bulleit Bourbon – in front of a huge crowd – with an above average high temperature of 85 degrees and nothing but sunshine. While the weather was flawless, the game, although entertaining at times, was restrained often by penalties.
From the start, the younger Antelope group controlled most of the play and led after the first by a score of 3 – 2.
In what would be the situation almost throughout, the – for the most part – younger Palmer group continued to hold the upper hand in the second period as well and led by three going to the third at 7 – 4.
The country boys came back somewhat in the third to outscore the Juniors by one at 2 – 1 and the half was over with the Palmer group leading by two at 8 – 6.
The fourth was Antelope Junior’s as they outscored Bush League 3 – 1 and their lead was now four at 11 – 7 with two to go in regulation.
The penultimate frame was a copy of the third chukker as the orange men grabbed a pair to just one for the young pronghorns and the count was now 12 – 9 with one period left.
Bush League was able to stay with the Palmer group in the final stanza but it wouldn’t be nearly enough and the final count would see Antelope Junior prevail by a final score of 13 – 10.
Scoring for the winners was led by Uretz with eight (six fouls – two penalty fours), Wright with four, and Anier with one.
The reply from Bush League was led by Rice grabbing eight goals (seven fouls – one penalty four) and Escapite with a pair (one foul).
Because of his dominant and controlling style of play Uretz was chosen as the Most Valuable Player to his team.
Black, owned and played by the veteran Anier in the fourth, was selected as the Best Playing Pony.

Tony Gregg

Lakeside Wins Weekend NYTS Tournament

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With two wins over the two days of the USPA National Youth Tournament Series, Lakeside (Riley Jordan, Garrett Bankhead, Thomas Phelps, Cory Williams) grabbed the winner’s spoils.
Victory number one came at the expense of Alegria (Alonso Cruz, Piers Bossum, Hope Kerley, Cassidy Wood) by a score of 10 -2 and the second triumph consumed Antelope (Grant Palmer, Charlie Walker, Zack Coleman, Maya Tantuwaya) by a final count of 4 – 3.
Second spot in the weekend event went to Antelope with a 5 – 1 win over Alegria.
The all-star awards were presented to Palmer, Cruz, Jordan, Bankhead, and Williams.

Tony Gregg

Sunday Polo 2018

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Bill Atkinson Memorial

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On January 7, 2018, one month before his 91st birthday, Bill Atkinson, retired West Coast 7 goal polo player, passed away after a long struggle with cancer. He leaves behind his wife, Connie and his two step daughters, Jenny Vargas and Roxy Keyfauver, his older brother, Glenn (wife, Nancy), and his three children, Joe (wife Cordi), Jennifer Newell (Steve) and Jesse Biglow (Russ) and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.

 “Uncle” Bill Atkinson was born in 1927 in Okeechobee, Florida. Though his legal name was Gordon Atkinson, his father called him “Billy Buck” after a famous Seminole Indian. The nick name stuck and his name was later changed to William Gordon Atkinson. Bill’s early education was spent between Okeechobee and Jacksonville, Florida where he developed his skills as a natural athlete, whether it was shooting marbles on an elementary school playground, to being awarded a full scholarship for track  at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

During his teenage years, Bill’s father, Joe Atkinson, had a famous trick horse named Ot. Bill’s job was to “pass the hat” during Ot and Joe‘s performances at horse shows.  At Hyde Park in New York, Bill spoke of meeting Franklin Roosevelt as he sat in his open air car watching the performance. After the performance, Eleanor Roosevelt, asked Bill how much money Franklin contributed to the hat, then she doubled the amount.

Ot’s fame spread, the decision was made to relocate to the west coast to be closer to Hollywood.  In Los Angeles, Ot proved to be a sensation and landed starring roles in the 1946 movies, “Gallant Bess” and “The Horse With A Human Mind.” Being on the MGM set with Ot and his father, young Bill meet a variety of film stars from Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Jimmy Durante, all wanting photos with Ot.  Ultimately, the family returned to Florida where Bill graduated from Lee High School in Jacksonville with a track scholarship to the University of Florida. In addition to his success as a runner, Bill was equally talented in basketball. As a “Florida Gator”, besides being on the track team, Bill was a high scorer for the Gator’s basketball team and captain in his senior year. He participated in several sports and elected Vice President of his university class, while maintaining an “A” average in his academics.

After graduation from college, Bill returned to California. Though he had been accepted into veterinary school in Washington, he shifted his career when he met his first wife, Carol Smith.  At that time, he was playing on a semi pro basketball team in Santa Maria, CA and employed as an athletic coach at the local army base. Bill and Carol finally settled in Atherton, California and Bill began working with his father-in-law, L.C. Smith, in the road paving industry.

It was L.C. Smith who introduced Bill to playing polo at the age of 27, a sport. Bill played passionately for 43 years.  Playing mostly on the Concar team, Bill’s goal rating quickly grew even though his career limited his playing time to weekends. However, he played with and against the best players of his time such as Roy Barry, Charles Smith, Billy Linfoot, Tommy Wayman, John Oxley , Michael Butler, Ray Harrington, Bobby Beverage, Billy Mayberry ; the list too numerous to mention all polo’s super players of this era. Polo career highlights include winning the US Open in 1969 and again in 1973. He also won the prestigious Santa Barbara’s Pacific Coast Open numerous times.

Through Polo, Bill traveled to many places in the world. He played anywhere there was a polo field and being a scratch golfer, a golf course nearby. From the hunting fields of Mt. Kenya, to Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, England and Jaipur, India, his adventure stories about his polo travels made him a wonderful dinner guest at any table.

Bill’s greatest joy in the sport of polo was playing with his brother Glenn and his son, Joe and nephews. Jeff, Larry and Greg. These Atkinson men and boys made Menlo Circus Club, Santa Barbara Polo Club and Eldorado Polo Club great polo destinations. Following his divorce from Carol, Bill decided to play polo full time. Taking himself and his horses to Santa Barbara Polo Club, he did much to improve the stabling conditions by building the many tack rooms upon the hill.

People who love polo, especially those living on the West Coast, have more than one “Uncle” Bill Atkinson story to tell. He did much to give opportunities to many individuals wanting to be a part of the wonderful world of polo. His long list of those he helped along the way with his infectious smile and words of encouragement; giving players horses when they needed them, tips on their game, sharing his home, made him a super hero. He looks like Captain America, observed Eileen Duffy after looking at the photo walls at the Santa Barbara Polo Club, In 1996, he met Connie Keyfauver through an introduction by her daughters, Jenny and Roxy. They were married in 2002. “These will be the best years of your life” he told her as she was adjusting to her empty nest situation. Bill was right. Over the past 20 years together their adventures included much traveling throughout the world, being with family and watching them grow, raising and training young horses for polo and providing a program for junior polo players living in Coachella Valley at Empire Polo Club. What a man! What a life! What a loss!

A celebration of Life for Bill Atkinson is planned for January 26, to be held at Empire Polo Club’s Lake Medjool beside Field one between 2:30 to 5:00. A special thank you to Al Haagen for providing for this service.

Please bring your stories to share with everyone. Bill would love that.

Bush League Hangs On to Win Jason Memorial

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On another absolutely perfect day in ‘sunny Southern California’, the 2018 Mac & Madelyn Jason Memorial was contested between Chris Maloney’s Twin Palms aggregation (Maloney 1, Graham Bray 3, Mason Wroe 4, Mia Bray -1) and Virgil Kyle and Ryan Robertson’s Bush League group (Kyle, Robertson, Ulysses Escapite 4, Shane Rice 4).
A close game was expected by most and it most certainly was at the end. What was not expected perhaps, were the rather large ‘swings’ that favored both teams.
With a handicap award of one at the outset to favor Twin Palms the anticipated closeness was certainly played out in the first as both foursomes counted a goal and the first ended with the Maloney Group ahead by one at 2 – 1.
Bush League opened it up in the second and the first so-called ‘swing’ occurred as the orange & black scored three times – to none for Twin Palms – to take a lead of two to the third chukker at 4 – 2.
The scoring advantage continued to favor the rural group with a pair of goals to one for Twin Palms and it was 6 – 3 Bush League at halftime.
Maloney and Co. created their first ‘swing’ of the game in the fourth period as they counted two goals to none for Bush League and the country lead was now just one at 6 – 5 going to the fifth.
The momentum changed again in that fifth as Bush League scored four goals and the Maloney crew were only able to grab one. The result was a four goal advantage for the orange men with one chukker left in regulation at 10 – 6.
Twin Palms needed goals in the sixth and they got three of them (one a penalty number 1) as the pendulum swung once again and counting down to the thirty second warning horn they were within one and just several yards away with an opportunity to force an extra stanza. It wasn’t to be however as the horn ended play and Bush League had barely hung on to win the Jason Memorial by a final tally of 10 – 9.
For the winners, Escapite and Rice (one foul) scored four times each and Robertson had a pair.
Twin Palms scoring saw Wroe count five (one foul) and Malony grabbed a pair (one foul). The penalty one and the handicap award completed their total.
With an aggressive effort and two very timely goals in the fifth, Robertson was accorded the honor of Most Valuable Player and Kenny, owned and played by Rice in the second chukker, was selected as the Best Playing Pony.

Tony Gregg

Thermal Runs Away to Win 30th Annual World Gym Title

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Reg Whyte and David Carlson’s Thermal polo team (Whyte, Carlson, Ernesto Ezcurra 2, Felipe Sordelli 2) ‘ran the table’ and went through the 2018 World Gym 4 goal tournament – the 30th annual – without a loss.
While Thermal came to the final undefeated, their opposition, Shannon Smull-Mendez and Lamar Rutherford’s Manolo Polo (Smull-Mendez -1, Rutherford -1, Luis Saracco 3 – sub for Santiago Mendez 2, Rodrigo Salinas 3) arrived via a shootout victory.
The final was a rematch of the previous Sunday’s meeting of the two foursomes which saw Thermal win with little trouble by a score of 6 – 1.5. This weeks offering would not be the same – at least not in the first half.
With Saracco substituting for the injured Santiago Mendez, Manolo Polo started quickly as Salinas scored off the initial throw-in. Thermal jumped back immediately as Ezcurra converted a penalty number 3 award. Salinas regained the lead with his second (a penalty 2 from the spot) but Sordelli scored for Thermal to tie the count going to the second (2 – 2)
The second chukker was open and provided a lot of good team polo as both were able to run with the ball. Surprisingly, only two goals were scored – Salinas for Manolo to briefly lead and Ezcurra for Thermal to get even. The half ended with the count at three each.
The third period was nothing like the first two as Ezcurra scored twice (one a penalty 3) and Whyte – with a great read – struck once for Thermal with absolutely no reply from Manolo Polo and it was 6 – 3 to favor the Whyte and Carlson pairing.
With the Manolo offense all but gone, Thermal was able to keep it going in the fourth with a continuing complete team effort as Carlson – under full sail – grabbed his first and Whyte scored his second. Saracco replied for Manolo but that would be it and Thermal – the 2017 World Gym winners – had successfully defended their title by a final tally of 8 – 4.
On hand to present the distinctive World Gym trophy – as they were 30 years ago – were Mike and Claudia Uretz.
Because of his aggressive play on the front end – whether he had the ball or was making openings for others – Carlson was selected as the Most Valuable player to his team.
Ezcurra’s oft played U2 was awarded the Best Playing Pony blanket.

Tony Gregg

Antelope Jr & Thermal Win on Ketel One Opening Day

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On an absolutely perfect opening day afternoon – presented by Ketel One – in front of a huge crowd, Grant Palmer’s Antelope Junior (Grant Palmer, Patrick Uretz 4, Jimmy Wright 3, Carolyn Anier 1) and Reg Whyte and David Carlson’s Thermal (Reg Whyte, Daved Carlson, Ernesto Ezcurra 2, Felipe Sordelli 2) polo teams were victorious in their 8 and 4 goal games repectively.

Palmer’s win (14 – 10) came at the expense of Gordon Ross and his Remax group (Gordon Ross, Dayelle Fargey 2, Jared Sheldon 4, Felipe Sordelli 2).
The young pronghorns started very quickly and grabbed a first period lead at 4 – 1.
The youngsters continued the pressure in the second and then led by four at 6 – 2.
Remax found some common ground in the third and played Palmer and Company even at three each to keep the deficit at four (9 – 5).
The Ross team jumped out after halftime and outscored the calves in the fourth and narrowed the gap to just three at 10 -7.
The fifth chukker saw Remax continue to push with success to narrow the gap to a pair at 11 – 9 and were ‘back in it’.
The ‘comeback’ however was curtailed as Antelope Jr grabbed three counters in the final to just one for Remax to present a final score of 14 – 10 and in doing so were awarded – with the exception of the very young Palmer – bottles of Ketel One.
Uretz led all scorers with 10 goals (three open goal conversions) with Anier and Wright counting twice. Palmer scored the final goal of the game with a penalty two strike.
For Remax, Sheldon scored five times (three open goal), Sordelli had three (two open goal) and Ross counted one from the field.

With more bottles of Ketel One available, Thermal and Manolo Polo (Lamar Rutherford, Shannon Mendez, Santiago Mendez, Rodrigo Salinas 3) stepped to the line.

With a handicap award of one half, Salinas took the initial throw-in – by Ketel One’s Regional Sales Director Jose Villar – and scored to extend the gap at the outset but Thermal came back quickly and scored twice to lead 2 – 1.5 after the first.
Thermal counted three more times in the second and the halftime score was in their favor at 5 – 1.5.
The second half was quiet with the only goal – in the third – going to Thermal and the result was a 6 – 1.5 final count to favor the Whyte and Carlson partnership.
Sordelli and Ezcurra counted three each in Thermal’s win.
Scott Niwa, Ketel One’s Area Manager, was on hand to present bottles of Ketel one to the victors.

Tony Gregg