The Regional President’s Cup came to a close on Sunday, September 18 at Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Carpinteria, California) with an exhilarating final that pitted tournament newcomer Big Hitters (Cory Williams, Martin Tassara, Karl Hasz, Tomas Ussher, sub. Florencio Curti) against FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan (Henry Walker, Sy Zahedi, Bayne Bossom*, Santiago Wulff, sub. Nico Piex).
An unshakeable offensive powerhouse, FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan’s Bossom kept his foot firmly on the gas pedal the entire game while his teammates were able to create and implement an effective defensive strategy to propel Zahedi Chogan/FMB Too! to an assertive 13-8 victory.
FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan’s Bayne Bossom on a breakaway.
Both teams entered Sunday’s final with player substitutions. Big Hitters was joined by Florencio Curtis in place of an injured Martin Tassara, and Nico Piex played in place of Henry Walker on FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan. A 6-goal team to FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan’s 7-goals, Big Hitters was awarded one goal on handicap at the start of the match.
A team that had been in the works for a while, Bossom described how FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan came together and adapted in spite of injury, sharing, “We started playing in August – it was me, Santi Wulff, Sy and Will Busch, and we won all through August. Then we came into September, Will sat down to rest his horses, and Henry came back. It was great, but in our first game Henry pulled his hamstring pretty badly after the second chukker, and it was disappointing because we were just starting to get our rhythm. It was a bummer, but Nico played very well!” Wulff added, “I played with Henry Walker for a long time and unfortunately, he missed this game, but I was happy to play with Nico, he’s a friend of mine and every game he’s been supporting us and its fun to have him with us and to win with him.”
Florencio Curti led Big Hitters with five goals in the final.
At the start of the game, FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan took control, with Bossom finding the goal three times in just the first chukker. Their early offensive drive was met only by a single conversion off the mallet of Ussher to end the chukker 3-2 in favor of FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan.
Finding success on the defensive front as well, FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan forced a shutout in the second chukker while Bossom and Wulff were both able to generate scoring opportunities to expand their team’s lead, 5-2.
Santiago Wulff brought his experience and leadership to direct FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan’s team strategy.
Detailing their early success, Zahedi noted his appreciation for Wulff’s ability to create an effective strategy. “I think we came out to play in unison. We had a great conversation with Santi, he put a plan together for us and we executed it exactly the way he wanted. He has very good vision of the field and he’s good at telling us what to do and where to go.”
Despite their strong start, FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan was met with a formidable offensive drive from Big Hitters in the third chukker, with Curti converting one penalty and scoring once from the field along with a successful field goal from Williams. Aside from one goal from Bossom, FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan’s momentum had been effectively stifled, giving their team just a narrow 6-5 lead going into halftime.
FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan’s Sy Zahedi with a deep neckshot.
Noticing a need for change, Bossom described how his team was able to regroup. “The third chukker, they switched it up and started playing with a lot of rotation, where one player constantly comes behind. We started to go down a little bit, so we changed.”
Zahedi echoed a similar message, sharing, “I was covering the back and we noticed some gaps in their offense, so Santi changed me and said, ‘Okay, now I want you to start becoming a real number one, and go forward.’ I started going forward, we switched Nico to the back, and it just clicked. We couldn’t have executed it any better.” Piex added, “First they sent me with one of the good players from the other team, I played the first half doing that. Then they sent me back in the second half, that’s the way we played the other two games. We knew we needed to do something different.”
FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan’s Nico Piex switched to playing back for the second half of the match.
Emerging from halftime with a new strategy in mind, FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan quickly got to work, with Bossom striking first from the field. Curti responded with a goal of his own, only to be met with another successful drive from Bossom. As the fourth chukker ended, FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan had increased their lead to 8-6.
Recognizing the turning point, Wulff attributed their second half success to their change in strategy as well. “Of course, they have Cory, she’s a runner, a natural player and it’s tough to stop her, so we had one guy completely dedicated to her. The idea was to make them hit the ball, so I can get the ball in the middle of the field. We tried at the beginning, it wasn’t easy, but all of a sudden, we made it happen.”
Most Valuable Player Bayne Bossom contributed seven goals to help deliver FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan’s victory.
Finding the ultimate sense of team synergy and focus, FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan delivered a three-goal performance in the fifth chukker while also holding Big Hitters scoreless. Curti found the goal twice in the final chukker, but his efforts were matched by Zahedi and Wulff. As the final horn blared, FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan clung to a decisive 13-8 lead to claim the Regional President’s Cup victory.
A stellar seven-goal performance earned Bayne Bossom Most Valuable Player. A hard-worker and dedicated player, Bossom’s focus has been on improving and getting as well mounted as possible. “My polo has been steadily progressing, I’ve been pushing as hard as I can to get the best horsepower under me and I think that’s a big part, because I’ve gotten a couple of new ones this year and it’s made a big difference, and I’m very grateful for that.” Wulff applauded his teammate, sharing, “I’ve played against him a lot. He’s listening and he wants to learn, so it’s fun.”
Most Valuable Player Bayne Bossom, presented by Andrew Broeren.
Martin Tassara’s stunning nine-year-old black mare, Maria Luisa, was awarded Best Playing Pony honors. Played by Curti in the second chukker, Tassara shared, “She’s a mare I brought three years ago. Francisco Elizalde played her a bit when we were about to play the U.S. Open when COVID hit. She’s quiet – everybody can play her. She’s a bit small for me, because I’m a big guy, but she’s easy and she has power.”
Best Playing Pony Maria Luisa, played by Florencio Curti and owned by Martin Tassara. Presented by Fred Lewis, Dennis Cisterna and Andrew Broeren, pictured with Julio Vidal.
Though he was a newcomer to the team, Piex adapted phenomenally, which he largely attributes to the horses. Belonging to Henry Walker, Piex has been the primary caretaker of the string he played. “I take care of those horses. That’s a big advantage,” he shared. Also, thankful to be playing alongside his long-time friend Wulff, Piex added, “I know Santi. I play a lot of practice with him. That made it way easier.”
FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan’s Nico Piex brought his knowledge of Henry Walker’s string in his three appearances in the Regional President’s Cup.
With the Santa Barbara season nearing its end, FMB Too!/Zahedi Chogan has a few more opportunities to reach the podium. Wulff shared, “Justin Klentner is going to replace Henry Walker, so it’s fun because he’s a friend of ours and we’ve played together many times.”
*Bayne Bossom is a Graduating Team USPA Member. 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.
All photos courtesy of ©David Lominska.