Grand Champions U.S. Wins Season-Ending The Memorial At Grand Champions Polo Club; Sugar Erskine Named MVP

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WELLINGTON, Fl.—May 28, 2019----The spring season came to a successful end Monday at Grand Champions Polo Club.

Grand Champions U.S. (Grant Ganzi, 3, Sugar Erskine, 6, Nic Roldan, 8, Jared Zenni, 6) won The Memorial with a 5-4 victory over Grand Champions Rest of the World (Pablo Pulido, 2, Brandon Phillips, 4, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8).

Sugar Erskine, one of the sport's most colorful players, was named Most Valuable Player. The South African scored two goals in the four-chukker game including the game-winner with 1:12 left in the game.

Erskine was among several players who had an outstanding spring season.

"I had lots of fun this spring," Erskine said. "Obviously, we were very lucky with the weather so we had the best weather ever. No rain, beautiful days, nice cool wind. We got very lucky with that and that made the polo so much more enjoyable."

The close game changed leads seven times before Grand Champions U.S. tied the game, 4-4, on Ganzi's 30-yard penalty conversion in the fourth and final chukker. Both teams had scoring opportunities for the remainder of the chukker before Erskine's heroics. 

"I have played with everybody over the years and I have really gotten to know them," Erskine said. "I love playing with Nic. I played with Jared a few times so it was fun to continue playing with him and played a ton with Grant.

"I've always enjoyed playing with Nic because I can twinkle toes off and cherry pick all afternoon. He just bombs the ball up there. It's like playing with Julio Arellano or Tommy Biddle. He just cracks that ball."

In addition to Erskine's two goals, also scoring for Grand Champions U.S. were Ganzi with two goals and Roldan with one goal. 

"It was fun," Ganzi said. "It was high level polo, 23 and 18-goal teams is a good level. The spring season was great and the level of play was really high and competitive. I was happy to play against Carlitos, Alejandro, Pablo and Brandon. They all played very well.

"Both teams kept the game open and fast," Ganzi said. "It was nice we played the game a little shorter. It was a little hot today. It was good for the horses and good for us. It was a nice way to end the season."

Gracida led Grand Champions Rest of the World with two goals. Phillips and Astrada each had one goal. 

Grand Champions Best Playing Pony was Nala, a 6-year-old mare owned by Kris Kampsen and played by Brandon Phillips. Nala, a 6-year-old off-track thoroughbred was known as Sligoplata in her racing days.

The American Polo Horse Association Best Playing Pony was Pan Amara, played and owned by Grant Ganzi.

The American Polo Horse Association was created in 2006 by the legendary Polo Hall of Famer Sunny Hale to recognize polo ponies in America and encourages events that showcase them and hard-working dedication of grooms.

The post-tournament awards were presented by Michelle Boggs and Sarah Jolley of the Nicklaus Children's Hospital Foundation at Children's Health System, founded in 2004 by Jack and Barbara Nicklaus in an effort to support the health, safety and well-being of children in our local community and to provide families access to world-class pediatric health care.

Winners of this season's first four spring tournaments were Dutta Corp (Timmy Dutta, 2, Carlitos Gracida, 4, Kris Kampsen, 6, Jared Zenni, 6) in the Sun Cup for a club record fourth time; Aspen Valley (Pablo Pulido, 2, Juancito Bollini, 4, Grant Ganzi, 3, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8) in the Spring Challenge Cup; and Sebucan (Pablo Pulido, 2, Juancito Bollini, 2, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Jarred Zenni, 6) in the Polo Gear Challenge Cup; and Palm Beach Equine (Brandon Phillips, 4, Juan Bollini, 5, Alejandro Novillo Astrada, 8, Scott Swerdlin, 0) in the Santa Rita Abierto. The first two tournament finals went into overtime.

Several top and up-and-coming players and patrons competed during the fun and competitive GCPC Spring Invitational League that featured 14-23-goal teams during May.

During the Grand Champions’ spring season, amateur polo players got the chance to play with and against some of the world’s top professional polo players. It was geared towards improving polo skills and having fun with emphasis on fun.

The spring league was also a great opportunity for younger players to develop and hone their skills against their peers and more experienced players.

Grand Champions fall, winter and spring tournaments attract a large international field of players from all corners of the world  including India, Mexico, New Zealand, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Germany, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Venezuela and England.

Grand Champions 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 three polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation including one field for stick-and-ball with plans to build more polo fields in the future.

Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels and ages. 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, created by Grand Champions President Melissa Ganzi when the club first opened in 2007.

The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA-sanctioned polo club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. Headed by Director of Operations Juan Bollini, The Polo School has nurtured several men and women polo players now playing in the pro and amateur ranks since its inception.