The 2022 winter season is in full swing at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Wellington, Florida, and the 18-goal tournament series (Iglehart Cup, Joe Barry Memorial, Ylvisaker Cup) has exceeded everyone’s expectations. In the second leg of the series, the Joe Barry Memorial ended with Patagones defeating Beverly Polo (Bill Ballhaus, Lucas Diaz Alberdi, Jorge “Tolito” Fernandez Ocampo Jr., Hilario Figueras) 11-10 in a breathtaking overtime victory.
It was a special moment for Gonzalo Avendaño, owner of the organization, as his younger sons Benjamin and Joaquín fill out the Patagones roster alongside Santiago Wulff (Benjamin and Joaquín’s uncle) and Tomas Garcia del Rio.
Avendaño started playing in Argentina when he was a child and later when he moved to the United States. After quitting polo for many years, he started Patagones in 2005 alongside his brother Carlos. During these years he won several 16-goal tournaments and even conquered the Copa Republica in Argentina in 2014, something he was unable do when he was young.
Gonzalo Avendaño founded Patagones with his brother Carlos Avendaño in 2005.
“It seems like it was yesterday, but I think we entered what I call the second stage of Patagones. Patagones is not [myself] anymore, but Joaquín, Benjamín and Santiago, my three sons. I´m very proud of this, but I’m sure that the future with them will be even better,” Gonzalo told CLICKPOLOUSA.
How did you feel when you saw your sons win the Joe Barry Memorial?
“I felt very proud to see Joaquín and Benjamin win the Joe Barry Memorial, the same way I felt two years ago when they won the Ylvisaker Cup. Seeing them playing today makes me proud and also accomplished as a father. They are young, Joaquin is twenty-one and Benjamin twenty-three, and now have everything better than [I did], something every parent wants for his sons.”
What can you say about Patagones?
“Patagones started in 2005 for the Palm Beach season. Of course, not every season had the same intensity, but the Patagones from 2005 was not the same as we are today. We now have a second field, four pony lines and our house. Our horses are better, we have more players. We’ve kept growing at a steady pace during the last seventeen years. I was in charge of the first stage of Patagones, and it is now time for my sons to continue. They will be the main actors and I will be there to help them as much as I can.”
Patagones’ 18-goal roster: Benjamin Avendaño, Tomas Garcia del Rio, Santiago Wulff, Joaquín Avendaño.
Patagones is also playing the new 16-goal Wellington Polo Tour (WPT). What can you tell us about that series?
“The WPT is an initiative that started last year when a group of field owners from Wellington, Florida, which I am a part of, assembled to create a new competition. We are very happy with the results so far. We have 11 teams competing now and every match takes place with a full field of spectators. The matches are very competitive, and the level of the players is extraordinary. Above all, people are here to compete, yet there is a teamwork spirit. Every team is willing to give up something in order to make this work, I think that is the best thing the WPT has.”
“The WPT is helping Wellington live its best season of all time. Besides the WPT we have the GAUNTLET OF POLO®, the World Polo League led by Mark and Melissa Ganzi, and the tournaments at Port Mayaca Polo Club (Okeechobee, Florida). This is something extraordinary. Today you won’t find a free pony line or trailer in Wellington. There is no player with horses without a job. I am grateful and very happy to be part of this.”
The youngest of three brothers, Joaquín was born and raised in Miami. Growing up on a farm surrounded by horses, it was only a matter of time for the brothers to start playing polo. After moving to Argentina for a couple of years to hone their skills, the Avendaño’s have returned to the United States, where they’ve played regularly in Florida and California during the summer. Carrying a three-goal handicap, Joaquín continues to display his skills in the 18-goal tournament series at IPC.
Joaquín Avendaño competing in the 2022 Joe Barry Memorial Final at International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida.
“Our father did everything he could for us to have the possibility to play at a high level. My goal in polo is to play like a 10-goaler someday. I know this is not something easy to achieve but, if you are consistent and intelligent, I think that it is something achievable. I am now trying to play the best I can and to win everything I can. I would love to travel the world playing polo,” Joaquín shared with CLICKPOLOUSA.
What does it mean to win the Joe Barry Memorial?
“[It’s] very important for our team. We started training the first days of December to have an advantage over the other teams. Many times, when you enter the first tournament you are out of rhythm, both the teams and the horses. That happened to us in [our] first match. After that game we noticed we had to make a few position changes and we were lucky enough to adapt to the new formation and stay organized.”
“The Joe Barry Memorial is also very important for Patagones. We had the chance to show that we have a good team that knows how to be patient and organized. We never go back and forth, and we always try to avoid risky plays. We had already played the Joe Barry Memorial Final in the past, so we had to take our chance now and do everything it took to win the tournament.”
Gonzalo embraces Joaquín following Patagones’ 2020 Ylvisaker Cup victory at International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida.
How will your season continue?
“I am now playing the 18-goal (Ylvisaker Cup) at IPC, and the 16-goal in the WPT. They are both very fun and competitive. The WPT is a new tournament series with many teams, and Patagones will be taking part in the three events, with Jesse Bray* replacing Tomas Garcia del Rio.”
You will also be playing in this year’s GAUNTLET OF POLO® with Dutta Corp/Show+?
“Yes! The 22-goal season starts in February, everybody knows the GAUNTLET OF POLO®! I will be playing with Tomas Garcia del Rio, Iñaki Laprida and Timmy Dutta*. It will be a great experience to face-off against [players] such as Facundo Pieres and Adolfo Cambiaso. I [hope] to learn a lot from this, and by the end of the season, I will be playing [better] than I am today. We have a very good team and if we work [hard], I’m confident we can win a trophy.”
*Timmy Dutta is an Active Team USPA Member and Jesse Bray 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.