Match recap provided by official Polo Commentator, John Kent.
John Paul Clarkin
Gaston “Mono” Gassiebayle
Mariano “Nano” Gracida (Hawaii Polo Life Ambassador)
As the eight hand-selected All Pro Polo League (APPL) players from around the world landed on the Waimanalo Polo Field in Honolulu, Hawaii, September 19 by way of Hawaii Polo Life helicopters courtesy of Makani Kai for the historic 2017 “Kahala Hotel & Resort Hawaii Invitational of Polo, presented by Cartier,” there was a huge sense of excitement and anticipation across the lush land of the Honolulu Polo Club. The coveted field, sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines World Elite MasterCard, nestled below the towering Ko’olau mountain range with stunning Tesla’s glimmering in the countryside sunlight. Both teams, KEA and ELE’ELE, appeared perfectly prepared and balanced with a game that promised a mixture of flair upfront being consolidated by big hitting game winners at the back.
The much-anticipated historic APPL match led with a Hawaiian cultural opening ceremony featuring Hula Halau Ka Lehua Tuahine led by Kumu Hula Kailihiwa Vaughn; Leiala Cook Pau Riders accompanied by a performance of Pomaikai Lyman who also sang Hawaii Pono’i (composed by His Majesty King David Kalakaua in 1876 honoring King Kamehameha I, founder of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1810), and the National Anthem led by powerhouse singer Tioni Sam Sing.
From the first throw-in, done by former Governor John David Waiheʻe III, it was KEA, led by Captain Jean Paul Clarkin, who were quickest to settle. The innate understanding between the two New Zealand internationals Clarkin and Keyte at the back made it almost impossible for either Laprida or Gracida to force their way through. Although the first chukker ended level at 1-1 through goals from Clarkin and Escobar, it was certainly ELE’ELE, led by Captain Luis Escobar, who had the work to do. The second chukker went much the same way as the first, with Torres and Gassiebayle having plenty of chance to impress picking up the backhands of Keyte and Clarkin for KEA. A goal from Torres and then a wonderful cut shot from Clarkin sent KEA into the third with a 3-1 lead.
From there on, the form of the game began to shift, with KEA struggling to get the ball out of their own half. Taking control for ELE’ELE in particular was Escobar, whose passes to youngsters Gracida and Laprida started to stretch apart the KEA defense. Hall also showed why he is known as one of the fiercest competitors in the sport, not giving opponents any time to settle on the ball. Despite the pressure, it took until the forth chukker for ELE’ELE to finally break through, led by a moment of magic from Laprida, slotting the ball home from a full 150 yards. The game then went into the last chukker with just one goal separating the sides. Despite the relentless nature of the KEA attack throughout the 5th chukker, they could not pierce the wall of white shirted defenders. All the players spoke after the match of the exciting nature of the game despite the relatively low score of 3-2. The fact that it was played under the accreditation of the APPL only added to the excitement, the open nature of the rules making it a speedy affair. The chase down style penalties also caused some of the most breathtaking moments of the game.
Both teams gathered in the winner’s circle for the award presentation surrounded by the local community, statewide polo club members, socialites and several photographers. The winning cup went to KEA who each received Cartier Tank Solo Timepieces. Runners-up ELE’ELE each received Santos de Cartier Cufflinks. Speeches and pictures were conducted with Chris Dawson, Founder and President of the Hawaii International Polo Association (HIPA), event Chairman Paulo Skellon, Honoree Greg Pietsch for his grandfather Charlie Pietsch, corporate sponsors, player’s families and Miss Hawaii USA, Julie Kuo. A magnum bottle of Cartier Brut Cuvee Champagne uncorked with celebration of the historic Kahala Hotel & Resort Hawaii Invitational of Polo, Presented by Cartier.
*Santi Torres is a member of Team USPA. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.