WELLINGTON, Fl., January 6, 2017—Grand Champions Polo Club won its’ team debut with a thrilling 12-11 victory over Goose Creek Thursday in the Joe Barry Memorial Cup.
On a perfect day for high goal polo at International Polo Club Palm Beach, the foursome of Grant Ganzi, Nic Roldan, Inaki Laprida and Juancito Bollini, playing together for the first time, held off talented Goose Creek (Maureen Brennan, Peke Gonzalez, Tomas Garcia del Rio, Mariano Gonzalez) in both teams’ season-opener.
“That was a tough team to play the first game of the season,” said Nic Roldan, one of America’s top-ranked players at eight goals. “I’m glad we won.
“I really liked the way we played,” Roldan said. “We had a lot of great moments. We were a little bit lucky, too. The horses went well and we played well as a team.”
In front of a good crowd on Field 5 and USPA Polo Network audience, Grand Champions led for most of the game.
Grand Champions took a 2-1 lead in the opening chukker on Roldan’s penalty-four conversion and Ganzi’s goal from the field when he got loose and weaved his way through defenders at the 1:08 mark.
Looking more in control in the second chukker, Grand Champions pulled away for a 5-2 advantage when Ganzi scored again in a crowd, and Roldan hit back-to-back penalty shots. Roldan converted a long angle shot for his first goal from the field to give Grand Champions a four-goal lead (6-2) before Goose Creek cut it to one (6-5). Roldan converted his fourth penalty shot for a 7-5 halftime lead.
“It’s great to win our first game, it gives us a lot of confidence for the tournament,” said Bollini, who played back for the first time in any high goal tournament. “This was a good team we beat. I like the dynamic of our team and the fact we can put the two best players up front.”
In the second half, Roldan continued his perfect penalty shooting with his fifth conversion of the game in the fourth chukker for an 8-5 lead. Goose Creek was relentless forcing Grand Champions into fouling for a pair of penalty-two conversions by Mariano Gonzalez, again cutting the lead to one (8-7).
Laprida scored on a breakaway after winning the throw-in and hitting the ball out of the air for a goal to give his team a 9-7 lead after four chukkers.
After Grand Champions lost its’ second-half challenge, Gonzalez converted another penalty-two to again trail by only one. The next three minutes was all defense. Bollini had some outstanding back shots to stall offensive drives. Laprida cleared out a Goose Creek goal attempt. Laprida then poked Gonzalez’ penalty-three out of the air that resulted in a safety but Gonzalez’ 60-yard goal attempt sailed wide right.
For the first time, Goose Creek shared the lead, tying the game at 9-9 with 4:06 left in the fifth chukker when Grand Champions was assessed a right-of-way foul and Gonzalez converted another penalty-two.
Grand Champions regained the lead, 10-9, on Laprida’s penalty-two shot. With 1:01 left in the chukker, Roldan connected with Bollini on a big pass downfield enabling the Argentine to score his first goal of the game. Roldan then hit an incredible nearside neck shot from the corner of the field for a 12-9 lead going into the final chukker.
Early in the sixth chukker, Roldan avoided serious injury when Roldan’s horse hit his head knocking him off. After regaining his composure during an injury timeout, Roldan then cleared out Garcia Del Rio’s goal attempt followed by Laprida blocking Gonzalez’ goal attempt.
With 3:51 left, Peke Gonzalez scored his second goal of the game and Garcia Del Rio scored again at the2:54 mark to cut the lead to one, but Grand Champions used the clock to its advantage. Roldan hit a booming 130-yard goal attempt that just went wide. Garcia del Rio had one last hit at the ball with less than a minute left but Roldan regained possession and hit the ball across the field as time ran out.
The teams combined for 19 fouls, 11 by Grand Champions. Goose Creek led in throw-ins, 17-14. Grand Champions converted six of seven penalty shots while Goose Creek scored on seven of 10. Grand Champions led in field shot conversions (6-of-9) and Goose Creek could convert only 4-of-12.
Roldan and Mariano Gonzalez shared high scoring honors, each with seven goals. Gonzalez’ were all on penalty shots. Roldan had five penalty shots and two from the field. Ganzi and Laprida each had two goals and Bollini added one.
“We were up by a lot and then we got comfortable and let them back in the game three times,” Roldan said. “There’s still a lot to learn going into the next game. Now we have to go back to the drawing board and get ready for Sunday.”
For a first-year team, Grand Champions was well-poised and worked well together. Roldan, Ganzi and Bollini have played together for years at various levels. Laprida made a quick transition after only four practices.
“It was really important to win this first game because it is always the toughest,” said Laprida, rated at seven goals in the U.S. “We are a new team and had to get to know each other. It’s good to start with a win.
“We knew Goose Creek would be tough, we knew we could lose it. Luckily, we were up for most of the game. I like our team. It’s really fun. My three teammates are amazing, you can tell they have been playing together a long time. Let’s hope we do this the whole season.”
Added Ganzi, “I love playing with Inaki. He is a great player. He uses all of us. He’s smart and has crazy hand-eye coordination. He plays for the team and that showed today.”
Grand Champions’ next bracket game is Sunday’sfeatured game against Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, Julian de Lusarreta, Julio Arellano, Del Walton) on Engel & Volkers Field at 3 p.m.
In the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader, Coca-Cola lost a 13-12 overtime decision to Postage Stamp Farm, making its IPC debut this season. Kris Kampsen scored a game-high ten goals and Mariano Aguerre scored the game-winner in overtime. Julian de Lusaretta had seven goals for Coca-Cola.
In a battle of first-year teams, Grand Champions plays Postage Stamp Farm (Annabelle Gundlach, Brandon Phillips, Mariano Aguerre, Kris Kampsen) next Thursday at noon.
“This was a great way to start the season,” said Ganzi, a freshman at Lynn University and one of the youngest players in the eight-team tournament. “It was an amazing way to start. They were a tough team. We all scored goals and made some good plays.
“Our fouls we have to cut down but I feel we did well because they scored seven of their goals on fouls,” Ganzi said. “This gives us a lot of confidence. I like this team, I like its mentality. We have good chemistry and all trust each other and that’s most important.”
The tournament, created in 2005, is named after Joe Barry, a big-hitting 9-goal ranked American player, born and raised in Truscott, Tex., and one of the most well-liked players in the game. He dominated polo in the 1960s and 1970s.
The six-time U.S. Open winner was inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 1999. He also won three Gold Cups, three Silver Cups as well as Coronation and Camacho Cup trophies. Barry died on May 18, 2002 at age 58.
For the first time, USPA Polo Network is live streaming the IPC winter season with content from Wellington-based ChukkerTV, the production company for the USPA.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. 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, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
2017 WINTER SCHEDULE
(Subject to change because of weather and scheduling conflicts).
Women’s Wednesday Polo at Pony Express Field 2: Jan. 11, 10 & 11 a.m.; Jan. 18, 10 & 11 a.m.
Metropolitan Cup (6 goal): Friday, 3 p.m., Designer Hair By Nikki vs. Hawk Hill, 3 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m., Grand Champions Polo Club vs. Pony Express at Santa Rita; Jan. 11,Wednesday, Banks Mills vs. Willow Farm, 12:30 p.m.; Jan. 13,Friday, Banks Mills vs. Hawk Hill, 3:30 p.m.; Jan. 14, Saturday, Grand Champions vs. Designer Hair By Nikki, 11 a.m.; Jan. 15,Sunday, Pony Express vs. Willow Farm, noon; Jan. 20, Friday, Hawk Hill vs. Pony Express, 3:30 p.m.; Jan. 21, Saturday, Bank Mills vs. Grand Champions Polo Club, 10 a.m.; Jan. 22, Sunday, Designer Hair By Nikki vs. Willow Farm, noon; Jan. 28,Saturday, Championship Final and Handicap Final.
Aspen Valley Cup (8 goal): Sunday, 10 a.m., Hawk Hill vs. Patagones; Jan. 13, Friday, Seacap vs. Dutta Corp, 1 p.m.; Jan. 15, Sunday, Hawk Hill vs. Dutta Corp, 10 a.m. and Odosan vs. Patagones, noon; Jan. 17, Tuesday, Seacap vs. Grand Champions Polo Club, 3 p.m.; Odosan vs. Grand Champions Polo Club, 3:30 p.m.; Jan. 21, Saturday, Patagones vs. Seacap, 11 a.m.; Jan. 22,Sunday, Hawk Hill vs. Grand Champions Polo Club, 10 a.m.;Jan. 24, Tuesday, Dutta Corp vs. Odosan, 3:30 p.m.; Jan. 29,Sunday, Final 10 a.m., Handicap Final, noon.
The Limited Edition 12-Goal Series: Jan. 11, Wednesday, Dutta Corp vs. Flexjet, 3 p.m.; Jan. 12, Thursday, Palm Beach Equine vs. Patagones, 3 p.m.; Jan. 14, Saturday, Beverly Equestrian vs. Flexjet, 3 p.m.; Jan. 15, Sunday, GSA vs. Park Place, 10 a.m.;Jan. 18, Wednesday, Patagones vs. Park Place, 3 p.m.; Jan. 20,Friday, Audi vs. Beverly Equestrian, 3 p.m.; Jan. 21, Saturday, Palm Beach Equine vs. GSA, 3 p.m.; Jan. 22, Sunday, Audi vs. Flexjet, 10 a.m.; Jan. 22, Sunday, Dutta Corp vs. Beverly Equestrian, noon; Jan. 24, Tuesday, Palm Beach Equine vs. Park Place, 1 p.m. and GSA vs. Patagones, 3 p.m.; Jan. 26, Thursday, Audi vs. Dutta Corp, 3 p.m.; Jan. 28, Saturday, Handicap Final, 1 p.m. and Final, 3 p.m.
FEBRUARY: 1-26, Halo Polo Trophy (6 goal) and Top Pony 8 Goal Series; 1-25, USPA Sieber Memorial Trophy.
FEBRUARY 22-March 11: Sterling Cup (20 goal) and John T. Oxley Memorial Trophy (Subs. Handicap).
MARCH: 1-26, Madelon Bourdieu Memorial (6 goal) and The Limited Edition 8-Goal Series; 1-25, The Top Pony 12-Goal Series.
MARCH 1-11: $50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament (Single elimination).
MARCH 15-April 1: National 20-Goal; Santa Rita Abierto (Subs. Handicap).
APRIL 1-15: $100,000 World Cup Tournament (0-26 Goals), winner-take-all single elimination.
APRIL 1-25: Las Acacias (4-8 Goals).
APRIL 5-8: WCT Finals and Women’s Polo Week.
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 33414.
INFORMATION: For spectators, there are great field side views for tournament action and also the Grand Champions Polo Club Boutique. The club is home base for pro teams Audi, Flexjet and first-year team Grand Champions Polo Club. Everyone is welcome to watch every level of polo in a relaxed atmosphere that includes complimentary food and refreshments during the featured games of the winter, spring and fall tournament seasons and other special events. Admission is free except for some special events.