BY Sharon Robb
Grand Champions Polo Club-based pro team Audi (Grant Ganzi, 2, Nic Roldan, 8, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, Marc Ganzi, 2) and Ecuador-based Travieso, which got its U.S. start at Grand Champions, (Tony Calle, 3, Teo Calle, 1, Sebastian Merlos, 9, Tomas Garcia del Rio, 7) advanced into the final with two impressive semifinal wins.
Audi, playing some of its best polo of the season in the first four chukkers, defeated Coca-Cola (Gillian Johnston, 2, Nacho Novillo Astrada, 8, Sugar Erskine, 6, Steve Krueger, 4), 12-9, Friday at Everglades Polo Club.
Travieso advanced with a 9-8 victory over Prestige Worldwide in the first semifinal on Thursday at IPC.
Audi took advantage of early Coca-Cola forced and unforced errors and playing with a new lineup for a 3-0 opening chukker and continued to build momentum in the first half. Audi led 4-1 after two chukkers and 7-2 at the half after Grant Ganzi scored a goal in the final seconds.
Audi extended its lead to 11-4 in the fourth quarter before Coca-Cola tried to reel them in scoring three consecutive goals to cut the lead to 11-7, but it was the closest Coca-Cola would get.
Nacho Novillo Astrada replaced veteran starter Julio Arellano, sidelined for the season with a broken right hand suffered in an Ylvisaker Cup game against Postage Stamp Farm.
"This is the way we want to play," said Grant Ganzi. "We just have to get organized. When we are organized and we listen to each other and when we play like a team we're good. But when we don't listen to each other and make bad plays and we don't play as a team we are not very good. There are two sides to us and we have to find a way to limit the bad team that comes out. I am happy with the result and it was nice to get another win with my dad."
For Ganzi, it will be bittersweet playing Travieso in the final. Ganzi and Tony Calle have played polo with and against each other ever since the Ecuador team started playing at Grand Champions. Both are students at Lynn University.
"It will be fun," Ganzi said. "Either way it turns out will be fine. I will be happy if they win and they'll be happy if we win. We are all good friends. Teo is a great friend of my dad's and Tony is one of my best friends. I just want the best for both of us and to have fun."
Roldan scored a team-high nine goals. Alejandro Novillo Astrada had two goals and Grant Ganzi added one. Nacho Novillo Astrada led Coca-Cola with four goals. Johnston and Krueger each had two goals and Erskine added one.
"We played well today," Roldan said. "When you are up by that many goals it's tough to keep the momentum going. They improved and got better towards the end.
"We had fun. Marc and Grant played great which really helped myself and Negro stay organized. It helped Negro and I played since we are going to be playing in the next tournament (C.V. Whitney). It was a fun, good win and now we are in the finals on Sunday."
The last time Audi won the George Haas Cup was in 2014. At 15, Grant Ganzi was making his 20-goal debut with teammates Nic Roldan, Fred Mannix and Lucas Lalor and defeated Faraway, 11-9. Roldan was MVP after scoring a game-high seven goals. Marc Ganzi helped Audi qualify with a semifinal win over Tonkawa and sat out the final to enable his son, who was playing for Casablanca, to prepare for the Iglehart Cup opener.
In last year's George Haas Cup final, Mt. Brilliant defeated Goose Creek, 11-10. Mt. Brilliant’s Bo Goodman was named MVP. Lusiano, played by Goose Creek’s Mariano Gonzalez, was named Best Playing Pony. Jason Crowder led Mt. Brilliant with six goals, five on penalty shots. Teenager Peke Gonzalez had six goals for Goose Creek.
George Haas was an American businessman and polo player. He won the East Coast Open three times, Monty Waterbury Cup three times and Arena Sherman Memorial. He served as president of the Gulfstream Polo Club, chairman of the Polo Training Foundation, member of the Executive Committee of the Federation of International Polo, chairman of USPA’s Safety and International Committee and board member of the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002 and died in 2006.
Also on Sunday in the Ylvisaker Cup final at 3 p.m., Valiente (Bob Jornayvaz, 2, Bautista Panelo, 2, Santi Torres, 6, Adolfo Cambiaso, 10) the only undefeated team in the 13-team field, will play underdog GSA (Henry Porter, 2, Dylan Rossiter, 4, Mariano Gonzalez, 7, Matias Magrini, 7). Valiente advanced with a 13-8 win over previously unbeaten Tonkawa. GSA knocked off Colorado, 9-8, in overtime.
Rated No. 1 by Consumer Reports as the best auto brand overall, Audi is a valued sponsor with a rich winning tradition in polo. The German automobile manufacturer designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury automobiles throughout the world. Audi, founded in 1909, oversees its worldwide operations from its headquarters in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, Germany and local distributorship in West Palm Beach.
USPA Polo Network is live streaming the IPC winter season with content from Wellington-based ChukkerTV.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique 100-acre 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.
The club 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.
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.