Standing at a striking height of five feet, the glorious silver-and-gold trophy for the Gulfstream Pacific Coast Open (PCO) is a dazzling sight. Crowned with an eagle supporting a globe and adorned with semiprecious stones the trophy is mounted on a redwood base with side panels depicting lively polo scenes. The cup was commissioned in 1908 by friends and members of the Coronado Country Club in California. First competed for the following year, it was initially called the All American Polo Trophy. While based on the Pacific Coast, the tournament was intended to draw competition from all over the United States with at least two teams coming from outside of California.
Over the last 107 years, the trophy has resided at many clubs. In only the second year of competition it was won by an English team, who proudly took the trophy home across the pond. Fortunately, it returned to Coronado in 1912, where the tournament remained until the early 1920s. Throughout the late 1920s until the early 1940s the tournament was hosted by numerous California clubs, often landing at each club for no more than a few years before switching to another. After World War II, the PCO moved to the posh and glamorous Beverly Hills Polo Club until 1952 when it took permanent residency at the Santa Barbara Polo Club (SBPC), where it remains today.
10-goaler Robert Skene was instrumental in bringing the tournament to SBPC. According to legend, after a five-year hiatus, Skene discovered the trophy in the Santa Barbara Polo Club bank vault – where it had been forgotten. Apart from a short break in competition in the early 1970s, the tournament has consistently been played at the historic club every year.
Hall of Famers inscribed on the silver plaques include: Elmer Boeseke Jr., Hector Galindo, Carlos Gracida, Guillermo “Memo” Gracida, Thomas Hitchcock Jr., William R. Linfoot, Devereux Milburn, John “Jack” Oxley, Robert Skene, Charles Smith, Adam Snow and Tommy Wayman, among others. Eric Pedley, a 1991 Polo Hall of Fame inductee, holds the record for the most Pacific Coast Open wins with a total of twelve titles. An astounding record, considering Polo Hall of Famer Cecil Smith holds the second most titles with an equally impressive seven total wins. In contemporary PCO history, Memo Gracida leads the field with five titles, spanning three decades.
In recent years Pacific Coast Open competition has been dominated by powerhouse Lucchese captained by John Muse. Over the last six years Lucchese has won four titles. From 2010-2012, the combination of Muse and world-renowned 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso led the team to an unprecedented “three-peat” victory. However, following Lucchese’s three consecutive wins Cambiaso has not competed in the prestigious tournament. Despite a trip to both the 2013 and 2014 PCO Finals, Lucchese was defeated both years by back-to-back champion ERG, headed by Scott Wood. The victorious 2014 ERG team featured Team USPA member Remy Du Celliee Muller, Agustin and Sebastian Merlos and Kerstie Allen; only the second woman in the history of the tournament to claim the coveted trophy. Lucchese regained their title last year in an exciting 13-10 victory over Alegria/Valiente.
This year, the Pacific Coast’s most anticipated high-goal tournament of the season will field six competitive teams: Farmers & Merchants Bank, Klentner Ranch, defending champions Lucchese, Restoration Hardware, SD Farms, and Sol de Agosto/FMB Too!. An impressive two-thirds of the competing teams boast Team USPA players on their roster, including Klentner Ranch’s Geronimo Obregon and Jesse Bray, Lucchese’s Steve Krueger, Farmers & Merchant Bank’s Herndon Radcliff and Restoration Hardware’s Costi Caset. The 2016 Gulfstream Pacific Coast Open promises to showcase thrilling competition with a set of formidable teams. Lucchese will aim to uphold their champion status amongst a field of teams eager to garner their first PCO title.