The goodwill the Polo Training Foundation continues to spread among countries through its Junior Polo Exchange program was never more evident in the recent International Test Match.
The final appearance of the New Zealand Schools team at Grand Champions Polo Club was both competitive and fun among new friends.
A six-chukker round robin, featuring New Zealand Schools against top junior players on Grand Champions and PTF International also showed the home crowd and Chukker TV worldwide audience that the future of polo will be in good hands.
Grand Champions (Riley Ganzi, Mia Novillo Astrada, Santos Bollini, Wes Finlayson) won the round robin. In the first two chukkers, Grand Champions defeated New Zealand Schools (Dean Fullerton/Will Appleby, Adam Haworth, Sam Martin, Jimmy Downes), 3-2.
Grand Champions, New Zealand Schools and PTF International celebrating after the PTF International Test Match. Ami Polo Photography
In the next two chukkers, New Zealand defeated PTF International (Guillerhme Maia, Juanse Olivera, Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini), 2-1, and in the final two chukkers, Grand Champions defeated PTF International, 2-1.
Will Appleby, 15, son of umpire Julian Appleby, and first-timer on the team, won the Sportsmanship Award.
“This was my first time here,” Appleby said. “My dad has told me a lot about it so obviously I was looking forward to this. I thought our team improved and got a lot better when it got used to the fields, horses and everything.
“It was awesome to play in a different country against new people, meeting new people and making friends,” Appleby said.
“The setup of this place is just amazing,” Downes said. “The stables and fields are great to play on. I was pretty blown away by it all really. I definitely would like to have another opportunity to come back.”
Teammate Adam Haworth was selected Most Valuable Player. Gunpowder, owned and ridden by Juancito Bollini, was named Best Playing Pony.
New Zealand Schools coach Guy Martin and his player son Sam Martin honor PTF executive director Danny Scheraga and assistant executive director Jennifer Poor McLeavy for their hard work for the Polo Training Foundation. Ami Polo Photography
“The people who organized everything for us were great, especially the Ganzi family,” Haworth said. “We can’t thank them enough. We are really thankful for all the horses. The polo obviously was very good and we were very lucky to get as much as we could. But it was the hospitality of the people who looked after us we’ll remember the most.
“I hope this exchange program lives on through the years,” Haworth said. “It’s pretty important to look after the younger players coming through so polo lives on.”
“It’s great to come over and meet lots of people and create lots of opportunities for us in the future,” added Sam Martin. “To play on these fields was amazing. I definitely want to come back.”
It was an opportunity of a lifetime for the New Zealand players, coaches and families who made the long trip to Wellington for the first time.
“We met some nice people and we played some good polo,” New Zealand Schools coach Guy Martin. “They have been good ambassadors for New Zealand. We are building good relationships here. We would like to see this continue and we are already planning a reciprocal visit for the U.S. to come to New Zealand for the third time.”
The U.S. and international players enjoyed the experience as well.
“It was cool,” said Argentine Mia Novillo Astrada said. “It was different. For me they were physical. They were bigger. We are happy to win. We thought we would win.”
Said Grand Champions teammate Riley Ganzi, “It’s amazing for us to play international teams. It’s a great opportunity for both of us to get the chance to play against each other. It shows you polo really is an international sport and offers a lot of opportunities.”
The Polo Training Foundation has been instrumental in the growth of junior and youth polo players. It encourages players’ development with training programs, lessons and tournaments.
The international exchange programs have been among the most popular. Two years ago, the PTF took a U.S. team to play in New Zealand.
The Polo School at host Grand Champions Polo Club mounted the New Zealand players in their games and practice sessions at Grand Champions.
Grand Champions Polo Club president Melissa Ganzi, secretary-treasurer of the PTF, is a longtime supporter of junior polo. Her children Grant and Riley have grown up playing in PTF events.
The PTF is led by the hard work and dedication of Executive Director Danny Scheraga and Assistant Executive Director Jennifer McLeavy along with Chairman Richard Riemenschneider; President Tony Coppola; Vice President Gil Johnston and Secretary-Treasurer Melissa Ganzi, president of host venue Grand Champions Polo Club.
Honorary PTF Directors are George Alexander, Jr., Daniel Calhoun, Jr., Karlene Beal Garber, Orrin Ingram, Jesse Upchurch and Eugene Burk, Lyn Jason Cobb, Bob Daniels, Glen Holden Sr., Jesse Pruitt, Thomas Sikes, Lynn Thompson, John Walsh, Ian Angus, Joseph Kozlik, Stephen Orthwein, Russell Sheldon, Jim Zenni, Jr., Robert Donahey, Duncan Huyler, Joseph Meyer and Clifford Sifton.
Grand Champions Polo Club, featuring five world-class fields, has a full schedule of tournaments from January to May. Let our polo experts create a turn-key experience including top pros to bring out the best in you and your team. Lessons are available.
16-GOAL TOURNAMENTS: John T. Oxley Memorial Trophy.
12-GOAL TOURNAMENT: Museum of Polo & Hall of Fame Challenge Cup
8-GOAL TOURNAMENTS: USPA Regional President’s Cup
6-GOAL TOURNAMENTS: Las Acacias Cup
SPRING 2015 SCHEDULE
April 16-19, Grand Champions Cup; April 23-26, USPA Spring Challenge; April 30-May 3, USPA Sun Cup; May 7-10, USPA Eastern Challenge; May 14-17, Polo Gear Challenge Cup; May 21-25,The Memorial; May 24-25, USPA NYTS; May 28-31, Santa Rita Memorial.