Audi captured the final 20-goal tournament of the fall season Wednesday at windswept Grand Champions Polo Club. Playing together for the first time ever, the foursome of Marc Ganzi, Jeff Blake, Sugar Erskine and Carlucho Arellano defeated FlexJet (Melissa Ganzi, Jason Crowder, Nic Roldan, Juan Bollini), 11-8, to win the coveted USPA National 20-Goal Tournament.
After a close opening chukka with Audi taking a 3-2 lead, Audi maintained at least a two-goal cushion until the fourth chukka when FlexJet started reeling them in. FlexJet tied Audi, 7-7, to end the fourth chukka but was unable to ever take the lead.
“I don’t think we let them back in, they earned their way back into the game,” Ganzi said. “They played really well and we made a few mistakes. Every time we made a mistake down there, they scored. You can’t let up against Nic. He just keeps coming, he’s relentless.”
Arellano’s goal with 3:17 left gave Audi back the lead, 8-7. Ganzi added a penalty goal to end the chukka with a 9-7 lead. Audi maintained its lead for the remainder of the game. “We kept our composure and kept hitting away from Nic,” Ganzi said. It was FlexJet’s second 20-goal tournament championship appearance in a final in two weeks.
“We have all played together but the four of us have never played together,” Ganzi said. “Every game we developed more chemistry. It was a lot of fun, great tournament and great teams.”
Erskine, a former 8-goaler who grew up playing polo on his father’s sugar cane farm in South Africa and was mentored by Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Tommy Wayman, was named Most Valuable Player. Little Boy, a 7-year-old Dark Bay gelding owned and ridden by Erskine, was named Best Playing Pony.
Erskine scored a team-high five goals, all from the field, and played well defensively turning back several scoring attempts. Roldan scored all eight of his team’s goals. Ganzi added three goals and played well defensively for Audi.
“I knew this would be a lot of fun, these are great guys,” Arellano said. “We have all played with each other and knew how each other played. We matched up well as a team.”
The regular season fall finale kicked off the biggest weekend of fall polo at Grand Champions, a holiday weekend tradition marking the end of the fall season. On Saturday, a polo doubleheader is set with the Carlos Gracida Legends of Polo game at 1 p.m., featuring eight members of the Gracida family including his brother, Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Memo Gracida. The game honours the legacy of Carlos Gracida who died tragically in February, 2014 at age 53.
In the second game, the fourth annual International Cup will pit Team USA against South Africa in a 24-goal game. Team USA has won the first three International Cups against England, Chile and Mexico. This year’s U.S. team features Marc Ganzi, Jeff Hall, Julio Arellano and Nic Roldan. South Africa’s lineup is Selby Williamson, Chris MacKenzie, Gareth Evans and Tom de Bruin. The holiday weekend ends on Sunday with the Kids’ Polo Turkey Trot at 11 a.m.