By Sharon Robb
WELLINGTON, Fla., April 6, 2018----Audi began its U.S. Open title quest with an impressive victory Thursday at International Polo Club Palm Beach.
The All-American lineup of Marc Ganzi, 2, Nic Roldan, 8, Polito Pieres, 10, and Mike Azzaro, 6 spoiled the tournament debut of U.S. Polo Assn. with a 13-7 win in the opening round of the 114th U.S. Open, the sport's most prestigious tournament.
After trailing 2-0 in the opening chukker, Audi started attacking offensively behind Azzaro, who scored four goals in the second and third chukkers for an 8-3 halftime lead forcing U.S. Polo Assn. (Grant Ganzi, 2, Juancito Bollini, 4, Juan Martin Nero, 10, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) to play catch up for the rest of the game.
"We started off slow in the first chukker but then in the second and third chukker we started hitting it and Mike was coming through and that really helped us a lot," Roldan said.
Audi led 9-5 after the fourth and 10-7 after the fifth and outscored U.S. Polo Assn. 3-0 in the final chukker
"We have good chemistry, every one is playing well," Roldan said. "All in all a good win for us and now we have a week to get ready for the next one."
Audi got balanced scoring. Pieres and Azzaro each had four goals. Ganzi had three goals and Roldan added two goals.
"They are a new team with two young guys who played really well," said Azzaro, who has played with and against Ganzi and Bollini, making their U.S. Open debut as teammates. "Once we got our team lined up to use the power of Nic to hit those big balls and Polito's quickness, I just had to feed off them and use my anticipation when I saw the opening. "This is a really nice team to play on. Marc was on fire today."
Audi shut out U.S. Polo Assn. in the second and sixth chukkers and limited 10-goaler Juan Martin Nero to three goals in two chukkers.
"It was a good first game, it's always tough to play against those guys," Roldan said. "They are a good team. They are still a new team and getting their bearings going. It was a good first game to start off with and now we have a tough one next Wednesday. We have good positive energy going into the next one."
Audi's next game is Wednesday against Valiente at 4 p.m.
Audi converted 9-of-15 from the field and U.S. Polo Assn. was 5-of-12. Audi was perfect at the penalty line, 4-for-4. U.S. Polo Assn. was 2-of-7. Lightning-quick Audi dominated the throw-ins won, 14-7. Audi led in fouls, 10-8.
"I am excited about this tournament, it's always been a big one," said Azzaro, a Hall of Famer and former 10-goal player looking for his tenth U.S. Open tournament win. "It is special to me, especially this year since it's the last year it's going to be 26-goal for a while. To win this would be the icing on the cake for my Open wins. We'll see, this is the beginning."
The 2009 U.S. Open champion has put together one of the tournament's most talented teams. It is the same roster that represented the U.S. in the 2013 Westchester Cup that lost to England, 12-11, in overtime.
"This team is a ton more mature than it was back then," Azzaro said. "Polito is three goals better in the head than he was back then. He is a great player to play with, a lot of fun. Nic is using the team more, he understands. When you have four players that can hit and run and are disciplined. you get to use everybody."
"And you know what, if the English had put an English team together and not brought a New Zealander in we would have won that game," said Azzaro with a smile.
Grand Champions Polo Club-based Flexjet opens U.S. Open play on Saturday at 11 a.m. against Colorado. Flexjet features Melissa Ganzi, the only woman competing in the U.S. Open, Rodrigo Andrade, Gonzalito Pieres and Nico Pieres. The talented foursome is coming off its USPA Gold Cup final appearance where it lost by one goal to defending champion Valiente.
U.S. Polo Assn. will try and bounce back in the Sunday featured stadium game at 3 p.m. when it plays defending champion Valiente, winners of the 26-goal C.V. Whitney Cup and USPA Gold Cup tournaments and riding a nine-game winning streak. Valiente is one tournament win away from capturing America’s Triple Crown in polo for the second year in a row.
USPA Polo Network is live streaming the U.S. Open with content provided by Wellington-based ChukkerTV.
The U.S. Open ends the four-month winter high goal polo season in Wellington.
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.