Story Courtesy of Grand Champions Polo Club/Sharon Robb.
The high-goal tournaments, featuring star-studded lineups, began Tuesday, November 19, 2019, with the USPA National Twenty Goal® at Grand Champions Polo Club (Grand Champions) in Wellington, Florida.
In what promises to be one of the most competitive tournaments in club history, Flexjet played Aspen Valley in the tournament opener on Tuesday at 10:00am ET. On Wednesday, November 20, 2019, Audi faces Montemar at 3:30pm ET.
The semifinal round will take place on Saturday, November 23, 2019, with games at 10:00am ET and noon. Tuesday’s winner will play Sebucan at 10:00am and Wednesday’s winner plays the French Team at noon. The winners advance into the November 27 final at 3:00pm ET.
Six teams are entered in the four-day tournament.
Among the field are four members of the French Team that will be competing in the November 30 International Cup against seven-time defending champion Team USA at Grand Champions Polo Club. The 17-goal team features captain and 6-goaler Pierre Henri Ngoumou, coming off Sunday’s Pedro Morrison Memorial tournament win; 4-goalers Julien Reynes and Edouard Pan and 3-goaler Louis Jarrige.
Argentine Camilo Castagnola, son of former 10-goaler and six-time Argentine Open winner Lolo Castagnola, will make his debut at Grand Champions Polo Club as a member of Flexjet. The 6-goaler will join Melissa Ganzi, Pablo Spinacci and Juan Bollini in the lineup.
Camilo and his brother Barto won the 2019 British Open as members of the Dubai Polo Team. Castagnola, coming off Palermo, was called one of the sport’s “breakout stars” of the 2019 British season. The 5-goaler has been dominant offensively and consistently generates scoring opportunities. He ranked third in scoring in the Cartier Queen’s Cup (7.0 goals per game) and fourth in the Gold Cup (5.3 goals). In the Gold Cup final, Castagnola scored the winning goal for Dubai with a 13-12 overtime victory King Power.
Casablanca’s Nico Roldan keeping control of the ball.
Castagnola was scoring at a higher rate than top players Sapo Caset, Pablo MacDonough, Tincho Merlos, Nico Pieres and Juan Britos. He was third in scoring behind Facundo Pieres and Facundo Sola.
Horacio Segundo Heguy, who won six Argentine Opens, including four with his brothers, Gonzalo, Bautista and Marcos, saw his first action at Grand Champions Polo Club in Sunday’s Pedro Morrison Memorial Final. Heguy will join Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini and three-time U.S. Open Polo Championship® champion Jeff Blake on the Aspen Valley roster.
Team rosters are:
Flexjet (17): Melissa Ganzi, 0, Camilo Castagnola, 6, Pablo Spinacci, 6, Juan Bollini 5.
Aspen Valley (19): Grant Ganzi, 3, Juancito Bollini, 4, Horacio Heguy, 6, Jeff Blake 6.
Audi (20): Marc Ganzi, 2, Sugar Erskine, 6, Nic Roldan, 8, Brandon Phillips, 4.
Sebucan (19): Pablo Pulido, 2, Kris Kampsen, 6, Jason Crowder, 6, Tommy Biddle, 5.
France (17): Louis Jarrige, 3T, Julien Reynes, 4T, Pierre Henri Ngoumou, 6T, Edouard Pan, 4T.
Montemar (16): Mackenzie Weisz, 2, Pelon Escapite, 6, Pablo Dorignac, 5, Sterling Giannico, 4.
All games will be live streamed on USPA Polo Network.
The past two years Casablanca has captured the coveted title.
In 2018, Casablanca defended its title in a tightly-contested game. Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Whistle Uys, Julio Gracida, Pablo Spinacci) defeated Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Jeff Blake, Juan Bollin) 11-9. Spinacci was awarded Most Valuable Player (MVP).
In 2017, Casablanca (Grant Ganzi, Juancito Bollini, Mike Azzaro, Jeff Blake) defeated defending champion Flexjet (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Pablo Dorignac, Juan Bollini) 13-6. Blake was MVP. Casablanca, one of the winningest teams in club history, ended up winning four of six tournaments during the 2017 fall season.
The National Twenty Goal® was first played at the Royal Palm Polo Club in Boca Raton, Florida, in 2007. Won by Houston-based team BTA (Chrys Beal, Mariano Gonzalez, Francisco Lanusse, Santiago Trotz) in a narrow victory over Audi 13-12, the trophy then went on hiatus until 2011.
Grand Champions Polo Club resurrected the tournament and it has been played there ever since.
The tournament has consistently fielded four to six competitive teams over the past seven years. Audi has dominated the competition with three total wins, including back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 with an identical team (Marc Ganzi, Carlos Gracida Jr., Nic Roldan, Carlos Gracida). With four titles to his name, Nic Roldan holds the record for most National Twenty Goal® tournament wins.
In addition to Casablanca, past winners of the USPA National Twenty Goal® Tournament include BTA, KIG, Audi, Flight Options and Flexjet.
Winding up for a powerful hit.
During the 2019 fall season, the nation’s largest and busiest polo club hosts both medium and high-goal polo. It is highlighted by the International Cup featuring Team USA against France; Legends of Polo Carlos Gracida Memorial, inaugural Wellington Open 20 and USPA National 20-goal tournaments.
The well-organized fall tournaments attract players from all over the United States and world including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, England, France, India, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Uruguay, Switzerland, Nigeria and South Africa.
Grand Champions had its finest fall season in club history last year. It was the only club in the nation to stage two USPA-sanctioned 20-goal fall tournaments.
The fall season serves as a tuneup for the winter season for players and green horses. The winter season will feature the second season of the highly successful 26-goal World Polo League at Grand Champions and Valiente Polo Farm with the best polo players in the world.
The Grand Champions Fall Invitational League is geared toward improving a player’s polo skills at every level. Roster lineups change from tournament to tournament with evenly-matched teams featuring pro and amateur players.
Club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi, both accomplished players, take pride in teaching and sharing the exciting sport of polo with anyone interested in learning. The husband and wife team are coming off their most successful and historical summer season at Grand Champions’ sister club Aspen Valley Polo Club.
The fall league features: stick-and-ball sessions during the week; two tournament games every weekend; ambulance and umpires for all tournament games; world-class polo fields; club-sponsored social events every weekend for all players; and top-of-the-line trophies for all teams every weekend. Food and refreshments are available for players and fans after the finals.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm in Wellington, Florida, cater to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. The expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of the Polo On Demand program at the turnkey facility.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. The mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School, a stand-alone USPA club, operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099.
Spectators get a front row seat to Pablo Dorignac racing along the sidelines.
All photos courtesy of ©Grand Champions Polo Club.GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB