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Polo in the United StatesPolo in the United States

Polo in the United States

$100,000 World Cup Returns To Grand Champions Polo Club After 2017 Debut

February 1, 2018
February 1, 2018
The  $100,000 World Cup, that showcased the sport of polo and players at every level, returns to Grand Champions Polo Club April 1-14 with the richest prize purse in the club's 11-year history. One of the sport's most prestigious tournaments featured a club record sixteen teams from 0-to-26 goal rating and record crowds last year and more importantly, showcased young American players.

Last year's inaugural champion was Palm Beach Illustrated, a 21-goal underdog with players Jared Zenni, Santi Torres, Agustin Obregon and Tommy Collingwood, all young, talented rising stars. "I am glad they are doing it again," said Zenni, raised to five goals this season. "They had a lot of teams last year and I am sure they will have a few more teams this year. The World Cup was a lot of fun, probably one of the most fun tournaments I've played in," Zenni said. "I've known these guys forever and we're all friends. We had great chemistry."

Said Torres, a 6-goaler who will play in next month's Ylvisaker Cup With Valiente: "It was too much fun, we had a blast. The tournament was awesome and they were fun guys to play with. I am very glad it's coming back. It's a great idea. I think it makes it more appealing to play for prize money more than a trophy. There's more incentive to play. I think more tournaments should be like that."
 
The tournament was resurrected by Grand Champions owners and polo players Melissa and Marc Ganzi thanks to the generosity of Glenn Straub of Palm Beach Polo, where it was last played in the late 1990s. 

What makes the tournament so unique is the fact it's open to teams 0-26 goal on handicap, similar to the Copa Republica in Argentina where teams of any handicap from 0-to-40 can compete. Last year the lowest rated team was Equuleus at four goals and highest ranked teams were Orchard Hill, Audi, Valiente and Flexjet at 26 goals. The tournament also featured 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso playing with his son Poroto in a U.S. tournament for the first time.

"In Argentina they find that more teams in the 20-goal range end up winning the tournament," said Tony Coppola, USPA President and voice of polo.

In last year's final, Palm Beach Illustrated won the eight-day, winner-take-all tournament with an impressive 13-7 victory over Valiente I. Valiente entered two teams. "Marc and Melissa did an incredible job," said Bob Jornayvaz. "They have shown that we can put together a different kind of tournament and have a lot of fun doing it."

Added Marc Ganzi: "I think we showed everyone a great tournament. I think we demonstrated what's great about polo. You saw great sportsmanship and horsemanship. Two great teams that battled it out and worked their way through a big bracket of 16 teams."

Many players and sponsors said the tournament was a great opportunity to showcase the sport's younger players. "Not all up-and-coming players have that kind of opportunity to play against the high level teams," Zenni said. "It is a great showcase because everyone can play in it."

Each player received $25,000 in prize money. Zenni and Collingwood put it right back into their horses. Obregon bought toys for his young infant daughter. Torres paid bills.

"Last season I didn't have many jobs, I had to pay bills," Torres said. "I came down to Florida with my horses and I was ready to go but nothing came up. I had bills instead of jobs. This year has started out great."

Zenni said he would love to get the team back together and return to defend the title, depending on other team and tournament commitments including the 26-goal tournaments at IPC.

"I talked about it a little with the guys," Zenni said. "I'm not really sure yet. Agustin and I may not have the horse flesh to play both tournaments. We'll figure it out."  Added Torres, "It would be great if we got the team back together. We need to talk about it to see if everyone is on board to do it and see what everyone says."

The prestigious World Cup is a tournament steeped in tradition. American businessman and polo player Bill Ylvisaker, then CEO of a Fortune 200 battery company in Chicago, created the Gould World Polo Championship with a prize purse of $150,000.

It was first held in 1976 at the Butler Polo Grounds in Oak Brook, Illinois. Ylvisaker's staff sent out invitations to countries all over the world known to have top-ranked pro polo teams.

Three teams from the United States were recruited and joined Mexico, India, England and Argentina in the field. The inaugural event was won by Argentina, attracted great crowds and was deemed a success.

In 1977, Ylvisaker bought 2,000 acres to develop a polo resort. The Palm Beach Polo and Country Club was built with 14 polo fields and soon became the polo capital of the world.

The first season at the new club featured the $150,000 Michelob World Cup Polo Championship. Held April 3-15, it was the highlight of the season attracting top players and sponsors from around the world. It was the world's richest and most premier polo event and one of the most significant polo championships.

In 1988, Landmark purchased the club for $25 million and continued the club's growth until it was sold at auction in 1993 to Straub.