WELLINGTON, FL., January 4, 2018---Grand Champions Polo Club's 20-goal team will make its 2018 winter season debut Friday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The team will have a new look this season with Argentine 8-goaler Nico Pieres, legendary Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Mike Azzaro and up-and-coming players Grant Ganzi, 2-goals, and Juancito Bollini, 4-goals.
Pieres, a member of a legendary polo family and youngest son of Gonzalo Pieres Sr., is rated 10 goals in Argentina. He is coming off the Argentine Open, where he finished runner-up with Ellerstina and St. Regis World Snow Polo Cup in Aspen. Pieres, along with his brothers Facundo and Gonzalito Pieres won the 2009 U.S. Open with Ganzi's father Marc.
Azzaro, inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 2013, held the sport’s top ranking of 10 goals in 1994 for 14 years. He won seven U.S. Open Championships, third most of any players. He also won three Silver Cups, Butler Handicap, Iglehart, and World Cup.
Ganzi, 19, a sophomore at Lynn University and third generation player, and Bollini, 21, a senior at Florida Atlantic University, are coming off an outstanding fall season that included winning the USPA North American Cup, USPA National 20-Goal and St. Regis World Snow Polo Club in Aspen. Ganzi was also a member of Team USA that won the International Cup in November. Bollini is the brand ambassador for U.S. Polo Assn.
After a rainout day on Thursday, the Joe Barry Cup Tournament, that features eleven teams, begins Friday with a tripleheader. Travieso plays SD Farms at 10 a.m., Coca-Cola meets Tonkawa at 12:30 p.m. and Grand Champions will take on defending champion La Indiana at 3 p.m.
La Indiana features Michael Bickford, 2, Victorino Ruiz, 5, Facundo Obregon, 6, and Jeff Hall, 7.
Last year's Grand Champions team of Ganzi, Bollini, Nic Roldan and Inaki Laprida made it to the semifinals of the Joe Barry Cup before being eliminated by Mt. Brilliant, 11-10. Grand Champions had finished 3-0 in its bracket with wins over Goose Creek, Coca-Cola and Postage Stamp Farm.
Ecuador-based Travieso, which got its start at Grand Champions in league play, and Coca-Cola are in Grand Champions' bracket three. Bracket One features Colorado, Modere, Goose Creek and Postage Stamp Farm. Bracket Two has Pilot, SD Farms, La Indiana and Tonkawa.
The tournament team rosters are:
(Bracket I) Colorado: Rob Jornayvaz, 1, Santino Magrini, 3, Diego Cavanagh, 9, Juan Britos, 7.
Goose Creek: Maureen Brennan, 1, Peke Gonzalez, 5, Matias Magrini, 7, Mariano Gonzalez, 7.
Postage Stamp Farm: Annabelle Gundlach, A, Brandon Phillips, 5, Mariano Aguerre, 9, Kris Kampsen, 6.
Modere: Jim Zenni, A, Agustin Obregon, 5, Jared Zenni, 5, Hilario Ulloa, 10.
(Bracket 2) La Indiana: Michael Bickford, 2, Victorino Ruiz, 5, Facundo Obregon, 6, Jeff Hall, 7.
Tonkawa: Jeff Hildebrand, A, Sapo Caset, 10, Julian de Lusarreta 7, Cody Ellis/Sterling Giannico, 3.
SD Farms: Sayyu Dantata, 2, Adam Snow, 5, Inaki Laprida, 7, Peco Polledo, 6.
Pilot: Curtis Pilot, A, Facundo Pieres, 10, Gonzalito Pieres, 9, Timmy Dutta, 1.
(Bracket 3) Travieso: Teo Calle, 1, Tony Calle, 3, Sebastian Merlos, 9, Tomas Garcia del Rio, 7.
Grand Champions: Grant Ganzi, 2, Juancito Bollini, 4, Nico Pieres, 8, Mike Azzaro, 6.
Coca-Cola: Gillian Johnston, 2, Sugar Erskine, 6, Julio Arellano, 8, Steve Krueger, 4.
Last year's Joe Barry Cup winner was La Indiana, 13-10 winners over Mt. Brilliant. Both teams were making their finals debut in the tournament.
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.
USPA Polo Network is live streaming the IPC winter season, including the entire Joe Barry Cup tournament, with content from Wellington-based ChukkerTV.
Grand Champions is the nation's largest and most innovative USPA-sanctioned polo club nestled in the heart of the world's winter polo capital. It features monthly 6, 8 and 12-goal tournaments and women's weekly league play during the winter season in addition to two 16-20 tournaments, $50,000 National 12 Goal, $100,000 World Cup winner-take-all 0-40-goal tournament, WCT Tournament and USPA National President's Cup.
During the 2017 winter season the club attracted a record 72 teams. The club hopes to equal or top that success in 2018.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in five self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.
Grand Champions 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.