By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fl.—April 26, 2017----The celebration of the 150th anniversary of modern polo had its launch Wednesday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
Eight players made history by participating in the inaugural game of Polo 150, a celebration of 150 years of modern polo. In a fun, four-chukker game under sunny skies, Grand Champions (Brandon Phillips, Mark Cann, Ashley Busch, Pablo Dorignac) defeated Aspen Valley (Melissa Ganzi, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Juan Bollini), 6-5.
Busch, brand ambassador for U.S. Polo Assn., scored a game-high four goals including what turned out to be the game-winner after Juancito Bollini and Melissa Ganzi scored two late goals for a one-goal margin of victory.
"It was so much fun," Busch said. "I'm happy to be out here celebrating the 150th anniversary of polo played around the world and to play with friends is so much fun. I love being at the Ganzis' farm, it's amazing, and our team won."
Longtime player Brandon Phillips also enjoyed the idea of celebrating polo with a spirited game between friends.
"We play so many games so many months of the year that are so serious and pressure-filled that it's nice to actually sometimes do this and actually enjoy the sport of polo with friends and just have fun," Phillips said. "It was a great day and amazing we were able to play after the amount of rain we got yesterday. This field played amazing. It was exciting to be involved with this."
Grand Champions teammate Mark Cann is promoting the Polo 150 milestone throughout the U.S. and around the world with an early launch of the 150th anniversary (1869-2019).
Cann, a retired British Forces Major, is the director of the United Kingdom Armed Forces Polo Association, the historical custodian of the sport. Both want to identify the milestone beginning of modern polo with a celebration of polo next year at various clubs. In July, 1869, players from two British Army units played the first modern polo game and Cann would like to celebrate its origin and showcase the sport, horses and players.
"This is exactly what I was looking to do, start the conversation," Cann said. "We've only got seven months to get the word out and then it's going to be 2019 and it will be gone before we know it. We just want anyone who thinks they can do something, they want to get involved and have a bit of fun with this and use it as a celebration of all the good we do."
Cann said polo clubs around the world will celebrate it during their seasons. In July, 2019, it will be formally toasted at a special event in England where the Prince of Wales will be invited to participate. Similar Polo 150 events are set for this summer at Aspen Valley Polo Club, the sister club of Grand Champions Polo Club, Virginia and Greenwich.
"We want every club and every country's association in the world to do something," Cann said. Any club interested in hosting a Polo 150 event can email Cann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Busch and her Virginia-based Altair Polo team is scheduled to compete in this weekend's USPA Eastern Challenge in her team's final spring appearance at Grand Champions. Busch, best known as the face of U.S. Polo Assn., has been busy working on her swimwear line with La Isla's Founder and CEO Enrique Sanchez-Rivera, along with following her husband on the NASCAR circuit including Sunday's Talladega event.
"I have been busy, we travel a lot," Busch said. "I have been working hard on the swimwear line. I do miss polo. I try to play a lot in January and February and again in April so it works out.
"I am going to play this weekend and then I think I am going to go to his race in Talladega and then we head back up north," Busch said. "My horses will go to Virginia and have a few months off and then I will play a couple exhibitions this summer."
Busch is scheduled to play in a charity match in England in July.
Grand Champions is in the midst of its six-tournament spring season. Several top and up-and-coming players and patrons will compete during the fun and competitive GCPC Spring Invitational League that features six 12-16-goal tournaments in April and May.
During the Grand Champions’ spring season, amateur polo players get the chance to play with and against some of the world’s top professional polo players.
The spring season is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV.
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 10 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, Sunny Hale's Legacy WCT Final 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.
2018 Spring Schedule
(Subject to change because of weather and scheduling conflicts).
Friday-Sunday: USPA Eastern Challenge
May 4-6: USPA Sun Cup
May 11-13: The Spring Challenge Cup
May 18-20: Polo Gear Invitational
May 25-28: The Memorial