The Team USPA program continues to promote the development of young American players. CLICKPOLOUSA had the opportunity to talk with Finn Secunda, the youngest of the new group of Team USPA hopefuls. At just 15 years old, Secunda will be moving up to a 1.5-goal handicap in December 2022.
“Joining Team USPA is a great opportunity for me to grow as a player. Being part of this group will help me reach my full potential. Also, from the financial point of view, it will assist me with my trips to Argentina,” Secunda told CLICKPOLO from Morocco, where he is currently playing at Patrick Guerrand Hermes’ club, PGH La Palmeraie Polo Club, alongside his father Max.
Secunda divides his time between polo and school, as he attends St. Edwards School in Vero Beach, Florida. He started riding in Vero Beach when he was 4 years old and soon after he was already holding a mallet. Secunda took part in many kids tournaments in Wellington, Florida, as well as Port Mayaca Polo Club in Okeechobee, Florida, where he still plays. Secunda is also the youngest player to win the National Youth Tournament Series Championship at age 13. Exceeding expectations, he played the Wellington Polo Tour with Iconica this past winter season and made his U.S. Open Polo Championship debut this year with Santa Rita Polo Farm.
Secunda competing for Iconica in the 2022 Wellington Polo Tour (WPT) in Wellington, Florida. ©Global Polo Entertainment
Secunda belongs to a third generation of polo, as his father Max is a renowned polo player and teacher and his grandfather is British legend Julian Hipwood, who captained the English national team for fifteen years and won the Queen’s Cup, Gold Cup and U.S. Open Polo Championship and played in the 1978 and 1979 Argentine Open Final with Mar del Plata polo team. “My grandfather played many years in Argentina and he is a big influence. At 76, he still coaches me.”
Finn, you talked about playing in Argentina. Have you played there already?
I’ve been a few times when I was much younger with my father and last year I stayed six weeks with Lucas Criado at Centauros Polo Club. I played a lot and he helped me with my riding skills, he is a great rider. I plan to return this year to keep improving my game. Actually, Lucas made me promise I had to improve my Spanish before I returned.
Secunda made his GAUNTLET debut in the 2022 U.S. Open Polo Championship with Santa Rita Polo Farm. ©David Lominska
This year you had the chance to make your debut in the U.S. Open Polo Championship. Tell us more about that experience.
What happened is that originally Pilot invited me to substitute for Curtis [Pilot] for the GAUNTLET OF POLO. I was there during the C.V. Whitney Cup and the USPA Gold Cup and, although I didn’t play a match, I did practice a lot with Facundo Pieres.
Before the U.S. Open, I received a call from Jared Zenni* because La Elina needed a 0-goal player, so I committed myself to them. But [when] Adolfo Cambiaso got injured, Sapo Caset went to Scone and the team changed. However, I later played a game for Santa Rita against Scone. I was 14 when I played, it was incredible. I really enjoyed it and it was very satisfying to play in the U.S. Open. It is definitely a milestone in my career. I was a bit nervous, but I learned a lot, finally it wasn’t just a practice.
The overall experience was great. The players were very welcoming and friendly. Not only Facundo, but also Gonzalo de la Fuente and Curtis [Pilot]. They leant me their horses, some of which I still have.
When Secunda won the 2020 NYTS Championship Final representing Florida, he was also the youngest player to win the tournament at age 13. ©David Lominska
How did your season continue after the GAUNTLET?
During June and the first part of July, I went with my cousin Ollie Hipwood to England. I played many practices at Black Bears Polo Club in order to establish my handicap. I [am] 1 goal now and hope to play the season next year over there. The fields were great and I even watched the Queen’s Cup Final. It was an incredible experience.
What are your goals for the future?
I start school in August, but before that I’m going to New York to play in Skaneateles. My plan in November and December [is to be] in Argentina. My short to mid-term goals would be to play in the U.S. Open in Florida and the Gold Cup in England. In the long term, I would like to play the high-goal for many years in Argentina.
*Jared Zenni is Team USPA alumnus. 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.