Growing up together, they have played with and against each other in youth and adult tournaments on the polo fields of Wellington. Now they will represent the United States as newest members of Team USPA.
By Sharon Robb
Grant Ganzi, Tony Calle and Justin Daniels, representing Grand Champions Polo Club and Lucas Arellano of Everglades Polo Club were recently named to the team after a three-day tryout in Aiken, S.C.
Team USPA’s mission since it was created in 2010 is “to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the U.S. by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher-rated amateur and pro players” while giving back to the sport.
|Newest Team USPA members with Adam Snow, Carlucho Arellano, Bob Puetz and Owen Rinehart.|
Ganzi, 20, a third generation polo player, will be a junior this fall at Lynn University. He has represented the U.S. in two victorious International Cups at Grand Champions and Royal Polo Match in Toronto.
“I was happy to make the team and it was fun to make the team with my friends,” Ganzi said. “It’s something I have always aspired to do ever since I was young and that’s to be able to represent the U.S.
“To have four players from Wellington speaks volumes about Wellington polo and what a great place it is to play year-round and for generating good up-and-coming American players,” Ganzi said. “I’m really proud to be a part of this.”
Ganzi has already played with and against some of the world’s greatest players which has given him valuable experience at a young age. This past season his U.S. Polo Assn. team made it to the U.S. Open semifinals before being eliminated.
“That was a great milestone and stepping stone in my career,” Ganzi said. “Making Team USPA is right up there with the U.S. Open. I am ready for this next challenge.”
Ganzi and the other three local players got the opportunity to work with with polo greats Adam Snow and Owen Rinehart during the tryouts.
“It’s interesting to hear different takes from different polo legends,” Ganzi said. “There is no better advice I could get than from the top Americans who have ever played the game. I have had the opportunity to play with a bunch of really great players including Juan Bollini, my main mentor.”
Calle, 23, recently graduated from Lynn University and is beginning a career in business with two of his former college roommates. The trio have started a high-end furniture business, BlackTree, based in Florida.
|Grant Ganzi and Lucas Arellano.|
“I am just starting my business career but I wish to continue playing polo,” said Calle, who started competing seriously at Grand Champions five years ago and is currently rated 3-goals. “Team USPA will help me facilitate the process to achieve high goal status.”
Calle said he was “excited more than anything else” for the opportunity to try out and enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces.
“It is a small world, you’re always playing polo with friends,” Calle said. “Having them there made the whole experience even greater. More than anything I wanted to give my best and tried to do everything they asked me 100 percent which I think I accomplished.”
Daniels, 19, a St. Andrew’s School alum, attends Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University in Jupiter. His father, Bob Daniels, was his mentor and patron of Pony Express and avid polo player.
“I am very happy about making Team USPA,” Daniels said. “To make Team USPA means to me that I am supported and that the USPA believes in young players like me and to make our dream of being high-rated American players come true.”
Daniels said his teammates were all supportive of him during tryouts.
“To me having my great friends around helped me feel part of a friendly group that are looking to make each other play better instead of just beating each other,” Daniels said. “We want the best for each other. We were all focusing on doing our best. Being on Team USPA is really going to help me improve my game and competitive attitude.”
Arellano, 18, the son of one of America’s top players, Julio Arellano, is finishing his last year of home school and hopes to attend UC-Aiken in the fall.
“I think I was a combination excited and nervous at the tryout,” Arellano said. “They made me feel very comfortable. It was awesome to work with Adam Snow and Owen Rinehart one-on-one.
“It definitely means a lot to represent the U.S.,” Arellano said. “It was nice to see players I knew and grew up with. Having familiar faces around made it a really fun experience. It seems like such a great program. I’m glad I made it.”
The foursome was among nine players selected after the final stage of selections on May 18-20. They are joined by Molly Agee, Lauren Biddle, Mia Bray, Jake Klentner and Sloan Stefanakis.
|Tony Calle. Photos by USPA/Alex Pacheco|
Ganzi, Daniels and Arellano grew up together playing at Grand Champions, which has become a launching pad for junior players, and other Wellington clubs including Everglades Polo Club, Arellano’s home base during the season. They also competed in Polo Training Foundation and USPA tournaments.
The Team USPA tryouts were held at Langdon Road, home of New Haven Farm, owned by Adam Snow, Team USPA co-chairman and Isinya Farm owned by Owen Rinehart. In addition to Snow and Rinehart, Carlucho Arellano and Julian Daniels were coaches.
All Team USPA players benefitted from the additional mentoring during tryouts.
“This was an assembly of experienced participants who have played at all levels of polo ranging from intercollegiate to high goal, and each player had different needs and interests,” USPA CEO Bob Puetz said.
“This gathering, and the education and mentoring it provided, gave the USPA an opportunity to determine how to best help each individual with their own personal goals both on and off the field. I look forward to watching these young Americans grow and develop within the sport.”
Wellington-based Santa Rita Polo Farm provided horses for Ganzi, Calle and Daniels. “I want to thank the Ganzis, the horses were great, first time I ever rode them,” Calle said. Arellano played his own horses.