WELLINGTON, Fla. November 16, 2022—In one of the closest games in International Cup history, GCPC USA kept its winning streak alive.
GCPC USA held off Switzerland in the final three minutes of the game for a thrilling 6-5 victory and 11th consecutive International Cup title Tuesday at Santa Rita Polo Farm.
Switzerland (Luca Meier, 1, Sugar Erskine, 6, Tomas Ruiz Guinazu, 5, Fabio Meier, 1) gave GCPC USA (Daren Tamplin, A, Jack McLean, 1, Grant Ganzi, 3, Nic Roldan, 8) a run for its money in the hardfought five-chukker battle.
Guinazu, 39, a member of the 2022 Swiss National Team, was named Most Valuable Player after dominating the game. Guinazu grew up playing polo in Argentina since he was 8. His mother is Swiss. It was the third time Guinazu represented Switzerland internationally this year.
„I was very happy with the honor, we really enjoyed the game,“ Guinazu said. „We had a lot of chances to win this game. Unfortunately, it went the other way. It was a really nice game to play. The horses were amazing and field was beautiful.
„I think we probably missed a couple of goals in some chukkers and made some mistakes,“ Guinazu said. „Every goal they took they put it through. It was very close. We had our chances to win. It was a very close game for both of us. We would like another chance here to see if we can win next time.“
Little Nell, played by Ganzi in the first and fifth chukkers, and owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm, was named Best Playing Pony for the third time this season.
It was the closest game GCPC USA had since its‘ 9-8 victory over France in 2019.
Roldan was making his ninth appearance and Ganzi his seventh.
„Today was a tough one,“ Roldan said. „I don‘t know if we just came out real soft. They definitely played better than we did. They probably deserved it. But we stuck to it. We were strong in the last few minutes and Jack scored that great goal in the end.“
Added Ganzi, „It was really a tough game. I wasn‘t sure whether we were going to pull through in the end to be honest. I‘m happy we were able to, but it was a really tough game. My hat is off to the Swiss team for coming and putting in a really good effort.“
McLean, 21, a University of Virginia graduate and Stephen A. Orthwein Male Intercollegiate Player of the Year, and Tamplin made their GCPC USA debuts.
„To come into a situation like this you just have to stick with the fundamentals and stay with your man,“ McLean said. „I just tried to add value to the team and thankfully we were able to pull through. I have to say a huge thank you to Marc and Melissa Ganzi for the horses, for the field and organizing such a great event.“
Veteran pro Tito Gaudenzi served as team captain for the Swiss. Gaudenzi was recovering from injury and unable to play.
„To be honest I think the Swiss played the better game, but at the end of the day it‘s who makes more goals and the U.S. converted better and that‘s what made the difference in the end,“ Gaudenzi said. „I think teamwise we had the better team play for sure.
„I was planning upset, not thinking it,“ Gaudenzi said. „They did amazing.“
The lead changed hands six times with GCPC USA leading by two, 5-3, early in the fourth chukker. The Swiss clawed its way back behind Erskine‘s two goals with 2:31 left in the fourth and 3:46 in the fifth to tie the game, 5-5.
Both teams had opportunities to score in the final three minutes. After Roldan‘s 30-yard penalty conversion bounced off the right goal post, McLean came through scoring the game-winner with 1:25 left in the game. McLean then backed away Fabio Meier‘s game-tying goal attempt, came up with the ball and ran out the clock.
The statistics illustrated just how close the game was. Each team had 12 shots on goal. GCPC USA led in knock-ins 7-5 but Switzerland led in throw-ins, 9-5. GCPC USA led in fouls, 3-1. „Stats are great, goals are better,“ Gaudenzi said.
The teams were limited in practice because of Hurricane Nicole. Before that, Swiss players had not trained for a month because of bad weather in their homeland. Guinazu, who arrived from Argentina on Monday, had one day to adjust to the borrowed world-class horses from Santa Rita during one practice session.
„Tomas played an outstanding game, we are very proud of him,“ Gaudenzi said. „We started integrating him onto the Swiss team this year. We are definitely going to plan the European championship team building between the Meiers, myself and him for next year.“
Roldan scored a team-high three goals. McLean had two goals including the game-winner. GCPC USA, a 12-goal team, received one goal on handicap. Erskine led Switzerland with three goals and Guinazu had two goals.
Since 2012, the U.S. has beaten England, Chile, Mexico, South Africa, Uruguay, Brazil, Azerbaijan, France, Argentina twice and now Switzerland in the annual battle for the coveted cup.
Brenda and George Dupont of the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame presented the post-game awards designed by legendary Brazilian artist Romero Britto.
Proceeds from the game will benefit The Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, a non-profit educational organization, dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the development, history and tradition of the sport of polo by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting its collections as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport.
One of the nation‘s busiest and innovative polo clubs celebrating its 16th anniversary, is hosting both medium goal and high goal tournaments. Among the remaining highlights of the season is the upcoming final of the USPA National 20-Goal Championship. The final fall medium goal tournament is the Banyan Final.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm is the largest and most unique private 100-acre polo facility in Wellington with more than 150 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.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV is live streaming the entire fall season. ChukkerTV‘s state-of-the art technology features team challenges and instant replay which made their debut at Grand Champions in January, 2014.
Grand Champions and Santa Rita Polo Farm hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 26-goal in addition to special events at its well-manicured fields during the fall, winter and spring seasons.
Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm cater 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 at the turnkey facility.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization and stand-alone USPA club based at the former Pony Express property, 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. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and October through November. For more information on the Fall Leagues or Polo School contact Juan Bollini at 561-346-1099 or Cale Newman at 561-876-2930.
By Sharon Robb
Photos by Candace Ferreira