WELLINGTON, Fla., November 15, 2021—On a beautiful day for polo, Grand Champions won the inaugural Royal Poinciana Trophy Saturday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
By Sharon Robb
With 6:48 left in overtime, Larry Austin scored the winning goal to give Grand Champions (Juancito Bollini, Agustin Obregon, Sugar Erskine, Larry Austin) a thrilling 9-8 victory over World Polo League (Waqaas Al-Siddiq, Pablo Spinacci, Brandon Philips, Santi Toccalino).
Austin, who scored a game-high six goals, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
“I truly cannot remember the last time I was MVP,” Austin said. “This was my first time playing with all three of my teammates. Sugar was really helpful in directing me on positioning and Juancito played above his handicap, so overall it was a really fun team to be a part of.”
Austin played polo for eighteen years and then took a 10-year break after the birth of his son. It was only his second day back playing on the Grand Champions and Santa Rita fields
The lead changed 11 times before the game was decided in overtime. World Polo League jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening chukker before Grand Champions tied it with back-to-back goals from Bollini.
After a scoreless second chukker, the lead changed hands three times before Austin scored with 48 seconds left to enable Grand Champions to lead 5-4 at halftime.
The teams battled back and forth before Spinacci won the bowl-in and connected with Toccalino, who scored and tied the game at 8-8. Grand Champions had two chances to go ahead in regulation but could not capitalize, sending the game into overtime.
“I felt we got better as the game went on,” Austin said. “I’m always happy to score.”
In addition to Austin’s six goals, Bollini added three goals. For World Polo League, Al-Siddiq led his team with three goals. Spinacci and Toccalino each had two goals and Phillips added one.
Native to Madagascar, royal poinciana trees are known for their showy flowers. The botanical name is derived from the Greek words delos (meaning conspicuous) and onyx (meaning claw), referring to their appearance. In many tropical parts of the world it is grown as an ornamental tree and in English it is given the name royal poinciana, flamboyant, flame of the forest, or flame tree.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with 120 stalls in several self-contained barns, exercise track, five climate-controlled tack rooms, vet room, staff quarters, guest house and polo fields with state-of-the-art underground irrigation and stick-and-ball fields.
During fall, winter and spring seasons, Grand Champions Polo Club, the nation’s largest club with 13 well-manicured, world-class fields at GCPC and Santa Rita Polo Farm, hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal including the 26-goal World Polo League in addition to special events.
During the 2022 winter season, Grand Champions and Santa Rita will host 23 tournaments from Jan. 15 to April 15.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its’ mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo at every economic and ability level. Scholarships are available. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through May and September through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Director of Operations Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099.
The entire fall season is being live-streamed on Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting with cutting-edge technology including 4K TV currently making its’ debut. ChukkerTV also features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its’ expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.