By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fl., March 12, 2017---The Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club of Wellington was the big winner during the fifth annual Great Futures Celebrity Polo Charity Cup Sunday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
The star power of Nacho Figueras and some of the world’s top polo players helped to raise funds for the facility that serves hundreds of children.
Grand Champions won the the round-robin tournament with wins over Sebilion and two-time defending champion Equuleus.
It was hard to figure out who was having more fun, the players or the Boys & Girls Club kids who celebrated with the after the game, got autographs and saw the world-class polo ponies up close and personal.
Grand Champions (Jeff Desich, Rich Desich, Nacho Novillo Astrada, Nacho Figueras) defeated Sebilion (Charlie Jacobs, Will Jacobs, Nico Pieres, Juan Bollini), 2-1, and Equuleus (Riley Ganzi, Martin Pepa, Nic Roldan, Joe DiMenna), 2-1, to clinch the Cup. Equuleus defeated Sebilion, 2-1, in the other two-chukker game.
Rich Desich, a product of The Polo School at Grand Champions, was named Most Valuable Player. Desich was all smiles after the game signing autographs for the kids.
"This is the first time in my life I have signed autographs," Desich said. "This is a great thrill. I am involved with the Boys & Girls Club in Cleveland so this is a charity that's very close to my heart."
Asked the last time he was named MVP, he smiled "probably never."
Desich took up polo in high school and returned to the sport in the last few years at Grand Champions.
"I am very thankful for Grand Champions and all that they provide here, it is amazing," Desich said.
Monarcha, ridden by Nacho Novillo Astrada, and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was Best Playing Pony.
"There's no pressure today, it's a lot of fun," Novillo Astrada said. "It's always great to have this opportunity to help kids. We had a great time. I know Nacho Figueras for a long time so playing again with him was a lot of fun. The idea was to enjoy it and we did."
Figueras, the face of Ralph Lauren and polo's ambassador, was the most popular player signing autographs, posing for pictures before and after the game and during the Great Futures Brunch at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
Figueras said there are two reasons why he keeps coming back every time he's asked.
"First, the kids and the fact we can help these wonderful kids," Figueras said. "And then Neil, who is the biggest supporter of this foundation and this Boys & Girls Club. Neil is a polo friend of mine and he has been a big supporter of mine for a long, long time so it is an honor being by his side."
Hirsch was one of the first to arrive with his trademark golf club, greeting players, posing with players and sponsors and making sure the Boys and Girls Club kids were having a good time.
The annual event is one of Figueras' favorite events. Between the game and brunch, there was also an added bonus getting the chance with his wife Delfina to watch their oldest son, Hilario, compete for Beverly Equestrian in the $50,000 National 12-goal semifinal which they won.
"I think all these events help put polo as a platform for helping," Figueras said. "So many see polo as an elitist sport and I think events like this prove that polo is a great sport and can be used as a platform for so many wonderful things.
"Look at the new guys in the sport like Rich Desich, coming here and having fun, playing well and he gets MVP, this is wonderful," Figueras said. "And to see the smiles, all the smiles, on these kids faces and to open their world a little bit more is what we are here to do.”
Players on all three teams were awarded by the club original prints designed by Brazilian-born renowned artist Romero Britto of Miami Beach. The signed prints feature a polo player in full swing on a polo pony surrounded by a palm tree, heart and whimsical designs of color.
Proceeds from the game and IPC brunch benefitted the Neil S. Hirsch Boys and Girls Club of Wellington, one of thirteen Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County and 1,100 across the U.S., located at 1080 Wellington Trace.
The Boys and Girls clubs, open year-round, provide services during non-school hours, as well as summer camp opportunities for nearly 7,000 boys and girls from ages 6 to 18 throughout the nation.
World reknown announcer Jan-Erik Franck called the action. Popular local artist Tom Blake sang the National Anthem.
Polo Gear was the official supplier for the event, supplying players’ jerseys and t-shirts for all the kids. Polo Gear, one of the top supporters of polo established in 1993 and incorporated in Florida, manufactures, distributes and sells polo products to players, teams and polo events worldwide. For more information on Polo Gear and to order products, visit www.pologearusa.com.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 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.
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation's largest club with 11 well-manicured fields, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events.
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.
During the 2017 winter season Grand Champions attracted a record 72 teams and another 18 teams during the spring season.
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.
The Club Hotline is 561-644-5050. It will be updated every day at 8 a.m. for both players and fans.