The Jake Kneece Memorial Tournament was played for the first time at Aiken Polo Club this May 19-28. The tournament was established to honor the memory of Julian Pace Kneece IV, who was the son of Pace and Barbara Kneece. Pace, Barbara and their daughter Lindsay sponsored the tournament as a way of giving back to the horse community and as a tribute to Jake’s generous and caring spirit. Jake died in November 2011 at the age of 27.
The Kneeces own and run Aiken County Farm Supply on Park Avenue in Aiken. Established in the 1960s by J.P. Kneece Jr., Pace’s father, ACFS started out with items for farmers and gardeners. When the equestrian world began to grow in Aiken, the store adapted to the times, selling an increasing array of horse feeds, hays and supplies. Today, it has a full assortment of horse health items as well as varieties of hay, many different brands of horse and other farm animal feed, a selection of vegetables for planting and other gardening items.
“Jake was a big part of the business,” said Pace. “Our intention, mine and Barbara’s, was for Jake and Lindsay to run the business after we retired. That changed. But we always try to give back to the community as much as we can, not just to polo but to the Aiken Steeplechase and the Hitchcock Woods Foundation. That is why we decided to have the tournament.”
Jake was an animal lover and a big supporter of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare, and today there is a room dedicated to him in the facility. His family also established a tradition of doing random acts of kindness in his memory every year on the anniversary of his death, November 5.
“He was a great son,” said Pace. “I wish he would have been here with us for longer. But we will see him again someday.”
The tournament itself, a 4-goal, attracted several teams with players who were united in their desire to honor Jake. Some of the professional players put together their own teams and played without a fee. El Cedro Azul/Banks Mill Feed teamed Gabriel Crespo, an established professional player, with Kylie Sheehan and Connor Deal who are members of Team USPA, the United States Polo Association’s training program for aspiring young players. The fourth member of the team was Malia Bryan, a teenager who also played this year in the National Youth Tournament Series where she was named an All Star.
El Cedro Azul/Banks Mill beat all comers to make it to the Sunday finals on Whitney Field. There, they faced Livin’ the Vision, an extremely tough foursome put together by Scott Brown. In their first meeting, El Cedro Azul/Banks Mill had eked out a narrow, 6.5-5 victory. By finals Sunday, however, Livin the Vision was working smoothly as a team, and they were pretty much unstoppable, shutting out their young adversaries until late in the second half on the way to a decisive 7-4.5 victory.
At the trophy presentation, there were Best Playing Pony and MVP honors for both amateurs and professionals. On the pro side, Matthew Fonseca, who seemed to be everywhere for Livin’ the Vision, was the MVP, while Gabriel Crespo’s Encemado was the BPP. On the amateur side, Malia Bryan took MVP honors while the horse she rode in the third chukker, Rhyo, owned by Owen Rinehart, was the BPP.
It should be no wonder that the Livin’ the Vision team was dominant in the tournament. After all, the 4-goal team would become a 6-goal team on June 1, since both Jesus Ontiveros and his brother Manuel Ontiveros Lara would go up a goal, Jesus from 2 to 3 and Manuel from 0 to 1. By next January, it will be a 7 goal team, since Matthew Fonseca is scheduled to go back up from 2 to 3 on January 1.
For complete tournament roster and results, click here: Jake Kneece Memorial 2017
For more photos of the finals. click here: Jake Kneece Final Photo Album 2017