Grand Champions USA Wins PTF International Day Feature Game; Grand Champions Argentina Captures Round Robin
By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
The future looks bright with so many talented young up-and-coming players competing at the PTF International Day hosted by Grand Champions Polo Club.
On a chilly, windswept Wednesday afternoon, Grand Champions USA (Justin Daniels, Grant Ganzi, Matt Coppola, Juancito Bollini) defeated Grand Champions Great Britain (Alex Webb, Thomas Coid, Rob Fleming, Malcolm Borwick), 8-4, in the feature game.
Daniels and Ganzi each had three goals and Borwick added two.
In the three-team round-robin, Grand Champions Argentina (Poroto Cambiaso, Mia Cambiaso, Santos Merlos, Segundo Merlos) finished first followed by Grand Champions USA (Mackenzie Weisz, Riley Ganzi, Timmy Dutta, Benji Daniels) and Grand Champions Brazil (Guilherme Warwick Parker Maia, Joao Pedro Souza Aranha, Alexander Melo, Felipe Alves Garcia).
Mia Cambiaso had three goals and Secundo Merlos added two. Benji Daniels scored three goals and Mackie Weisz added two.
Coid and his junior teammates were part of the PTF’s popular PTF Exchange Program that featured the annual International Cup at Polo West Arena earlier this year.
“These opportunities are tremendous,” Coid said. “Playing against different players from different countries you see different styles of play and helps you progress. The U.S. team had amazing players. I was very grateful to play them.
“Riding horses you haven’t ridden before makes you a better rider so in the long run you are going to become a better player. And playing with Malcolm Borwick was amazing. I’ve never played with him before but seen him play a lot back home. He always gets the best out of you.”
Borwick is one of Great Britain’s top pro players. For more than 10 years he has been a member of the national team.
Borwick is also the Royal Salute World Polo Ambassador and will be competing in the May 4 Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup featuring Prince Harry on May 4 at Valiente Polo Farm.
Borwick enjoys playing and coaching junior players.
“All the time in all the youth polo we are doing both with the HPA in England and here with PTF and Grand Champions all around the world trying to get the kids to play together is really beneficial.
Most of the players were sons and daughters of former and current polo players.
“You’ve got two types of learning with the children. You’ve got when they play with grownups and when they play amongst their peers. I think both are really valuable.”
Borwick was impressed by the talent level at the PTF International Day.
“I have watched youth polo in Argentina, England and here and all around the world, the level is getting better,” Borwick said.
“I enjoy playing with the next generation. The horses and kids are getting better. They are learning more from watching and playing together. I think the future of polo is going to be very, very competitive for the kids who want to go into the professional marketplace.”
“Sadly, now I think there are only two avenues into polo and that’s going to be the son or daughter of a patron or player,” Borwick said. “We need to keep casting that net wide. The schools and university programs are really important for that to give the other children a chance to play polo. As long as we keep the net wide hopefully we will catch a few fish later in life.”
Mackenzie Weisz, 13, a student at King’s Academy, is the son of top pro Andres Weisz and grown up playing the sport. His riding skills and playing ability are far beyond his age which were illustrated during the round robin games against Argentina and Brazil.
“I love playing the international players,” Weisz said. “It helps me get better as a player especially playing against people that are better and bigger than me. All these players are playing really well. They are really focused and put a lot of effort into it. My dad has helped me a lot. He coaches me, plays with me and is my groom. He is the reason I am here.”
Argentina’s Segundo Merlos, 16, is part of a polo family tradition dating back to his legendary grandfather.
“This was great, so much fun playing all the players from different countries,” Merlos said. “First of all you make friends. Everyone played amazing. It was a beautiful day playing until the night came.
“It helps a lot growing up in a polo family,” Merlos said. “If I need my family to teach me whatever I need they help me. You need a lot of discipline and self-effort and places like Grand Champions and PTF to do this for us.”
The Polo Training Foundation has been instrumental in the growth of junior and youth polo players by encouraging the sport’s development with training programs, lessons and tournaments for boys and girls. The international exchange programs have been among the most popular.
Grand Champions Polo Club President and USPA Florida Circuit Governor Melissa Ganzi is a longtime supporter of grass roots polo and Polo Training Foundation. She has played a key role in developing young players with the The Polo School at Grand Champions and Aspen Valley (Colo.) Polo Clubs.
Event organizers praised the efforts of everyone involved in planning the star-studded PTF event on short notice including parents, grooms, horse providers, players and Grand Champions Polo Club’s staff along with Tony Coppola of The Tackeria for providing the trophies and shirts; PTF Executive Committee chairman Richard Riemenschneider; President Tony Coppola; Vice President Gil Johnston; and Secretary-Treasurer Melissa Ganzi; PTF Executive Director Danny Scheraga and assistant executive director Jennifer McLeavy; Lou Cuthbertson of The Tackeria, who went the extra mile at the last minute to make new jerseys for Great Britain; and awards presenter Tincho Merlos of Flexjet.
Ganzi praised the tireless efforts of McLeavy.
“The PTF is fortunate and honored to have Jennifer Poor McLeavy as our full-time executive director’s assistant,” Ganzi said. “Her dedication to the PTF and the sport of polo is unprecedented. She has a keen knowledge of the game and an enthusiastic ability to work with our youth.”
The games were live streamed around the world by ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV is exclusively live streaming International Polo Club Palm Beach and Grand Champions Polo Club games along with other games around the U.S. during the 2016 season with polo broadcasters Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz calling the action.
Grand Champions Polo Club is the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo clubs. The USPA-member club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 20-goal in addition to special events.
The club also features The Polo School, dedicated to teaching polo, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
GRAND CHAMPIONS 2016 WINTER SCHEDULE
SPECIAL EVENTS: April 13-16, Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT) Season 11 Finals and Women’s Polo Week.
12-Goal, April, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Challenge Cup
8-Goal, April, USPA Association Cup
6-Goal, April, Las Acacias
GRAND CHAMPIONS 2016 SPRING SCHEDULE
April 21-23: Grand Champions Cup
April 29-May 1: Spring Challenge
May 6-8: Sun Cup
May 13-15: USPA Eastern Challenge
May 20-22: Polo Gear Challenge Cup
May 26-29: The Memorial