Villa del Lago Modere defeated Postage Stamp Farm 12-9 in the Herbie Pennell final Sunday at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC). The win was especially tasty for Villa del Lago Modere, who lost last year in the final.
The lineup was a strange juxtaposition for Hilario Ulloa (Villa del Lago Modere) and Mariano Aguerre (Postage Stamp), longtime White Birch teammates at Greenwich Polo Club. “It was special to play against Mariano,” said Ulloa. “I’ve been playing with him the last five years in the U.S., previously for Alegría and the past three years with White Birch. That made this a really fun game.”
Capitalizing on the guidance of 9-goaler Aguerre, Postage Stamp held their own Sunday from start to finish. The score was tied several times in the first half, with Postage Stamp containing Villa del Lago Modere to a 1-goal lead throughout. Villa del Lago Modere owned the second half, steaming ahead to a 9-5 lead in the fourth chukker and keeping Postage Stamp off the board. The gap remained at a 4-goal advantage for Villa del Lago Modere in the fifth, but Postage Stamp tightened it to 3 in the final chukker. Ulloa, who scored for Villa del Lago in every chukker, was game high-scorer with eight goals.
Ulloa said he was happy to return to IPC with Villa del Lago Modere. “We played last season here together for the first time and lost two finals in a row. It was great to start 2017 with a win,” he said. “Today showed us that we have a great team and a strong chance in all the remaining 20-goal games. All the people working for our organization deserve to win a 20-goal tournament.”
It was Postage Stamp’s debut at IPC. Patrona Annabelle Gundlach, who used the 2016 summer season at Greenwich to prepare for Florida, said her first time playing on Engel & Völkers stadium field at IPC was beyond thrilling. “I have been dreaming of playing at IPC ever since I began playing polo, and for it to become a reality three years later feels surreal.”
With her typical self-deprecating humor, Gundlach continued, “I didn’t embarrass myself, which is always nice. It was an honor to have Hilario chase me down the field and hook me. I think our team played great, and at the end of the day they had one game under their belt, which also makes a difference.” (Postage Stamp got a bye to the final, making Sunday their first game of the season.)
The official 2017 season opener attracted throngs of spectators to the New Year’s Day extravaganza, which featured a myriad of social festivities before and after the match. “We were delighted with the turnout today,” said Mark Bellissimo, whose partnership purchased IPC after the 2016 U.S. Open Polo Championship®.
“Polo is alive and well in Wellington,” he added. “International Polo Club Palm Beach has and will continue to devote a great amount of resources to make polo better than ever. Opening day reflected a great effort on the part of the polo community in Florida, and we hope this facility will be the hub of it for many years to come.”
The 20-goal tournament series at IPC resumes Wednesday, Jan. 4, with the Joe Barry Memorial Cup opener.