Argentina, with a rich tradition in polo at every level, defeated PTF USA, 6-2, to win the fourth annual Polo Training Foundation (PTF) International Cup Thursday at Grand Champions Polo Club.
After a thrilling 3-2 sudden death victory over Girls International (Riley Ganzi, Hope Arellano, Lolly Stanhope-White, Mia Novillo Astrada) in the opening round, the talented foursome of Santos Merlos, 11, Poroto Cambiaso, 11, Lucas Criado, 13, and Juanse Olivera, 14, bounced back with a convincing win.
Winning Argentina teammates Poroto Cambiaso, Juanse Olivera, Lucas Criado and Santos Merlos.
It was the first time the Argentine foursome played together as a team.
Argentina jumped on PTF USA (Mackie Weisz, Clark Mayer, Kristos Magrini, Malia Bryan) for a 3-1 opening chukker lead and never relinquished it in the championship final.
PTF International Cup finalists Argentina and PTF USA.
Poroto Cambiaso, the son of 10-goaler Adolfo Cambiaso, who was watching and coaching from the sidelines, was named Most Valuable Player.
Heroina played by Magrini was named Best Playing Pony by the tournament committee.
Cambiaso clinched the opening round win with a 30-yard penalty goal and finished with five goals in two games.
Poroto Cambiaso of Argentina hits the ball out of the air.
“It was a lot of fun,” Cambiaso said. “I am happy with the way we played. We played better in the final.”
Added Merlos, “We almost lost against the girls. We came back harder in the final. We have a very good team. In the final the key was we just hit the ball, we didn’t tap it because you lose it when you tap it.”
Adolfo Cambiaso having fun while watching his son Poroto.
Cambiaso and Olivera were members of last year’s winning Boys International team.
“We weren’t intimidated after watching them win their first game with seven goals,” Olivera said. “We went and played our game. We talked and tried to minimize the fouls. We attacked strong and luckily we won. I’m very happy we won.”
Argentina players Santos Merlos, Poroto Cambiaso, Juanse Olivera and Lucas Criado.
Criado, son of 8-goaler Lucas Criado, currently playing for Orchard Hill, was making his PTF International Cup debut.
“I like this, it’s a good idea having all these good players on the teams playing against each other,” Criado said. “It helps me get better. I wasn’t so nervous, it was fun to play with everybody.”
Mackie Weisz of PTF USA works his way through a crowd of England Jr. Colts players.
It was the most competitive tournament in Cup history. In the other opening round game, PTF USA defeated England Jr. Colts, 7-2. Weisz led scoring with three goals. Bryan and Mayer each had two.
“I knew it was going to be tough in the final because all four are really good players,” Weisz said.
“They all played really good. We could have played better. Polo in Argentina is growing a lot, they have a lot of players.
England Jr. Colts players Freddie Jodrell, Jack Aldridge, Tom Jodrell and Archie Fuller.
“This was a really competitive tournament,” Weisz said. “They had a lot of good teams and having England play was pretty cool. It was super fun.”
England Jr. Colts (Jack Aldridge, 16, Archie Fuller, 15, Freddie Jodrell, 16, Tom Jodrell, 14) were making their U.S. polo debut. It was also the first time they played together as a team.
Jack Aldridge of England Jr. Colts working the ball out of a crowd.
They may not have been in the win column, but relished the invaluable experience playing on top-caliber horses and fields against some of the best youth players in the world, part of the PTF-HPA’s annual exchange program. The team is scheduled to return to England on Monday after competing in the Avendano Memorial Tournament.
“It’s been quite amazing being here,” Freddie Jodrell said. “The grounds are exceptional here and the horses we’ve been given are too good to be true.
Lolly Stanhope-White of Girls International hits a neck shot past Argentina players.
Added younger brother Tom Jodrell, “It’s been absolutely incredible having the opportunity we have been given. We have watched some incredible polo here in Florida.”
The Jodrell brothers are following in the footsteps of their father who played polo in the Army. The family lives a minute away from the local polo club.
Riley Ganzi and Hope Arellano of Girls International working together with Freddie Jodrell of England Jr. Colts defending.
“To meet and play with all these players has been an incredible experience,” said Archie Fuller. “We want to come back.”
Unlike many of the youth players in the sport, Aldridge is the first polo player in his family.
“This has been an amazing experience, especially the weather, we don’t get this in England,” Aldridge said. “You don’t often get the opportunity to come out here and watch and play polo. This has been the dream of a lifetime.
Championship game MVP Poroto Cambiaso with Alejandro Novillo Astrada.
“I have always been with horses and did a lot of hunting. I thought I would give it a go and I liked it.”
In the consolation final, Girls International avenged last year’s lost to USA Boys with a 2-0 victory over the England Jr. Colts.
For the second year in a row, Mia Novillo Astrada was selected Most Valuable Player. Astrada scored both her team’s goals to send the opening game into sudden death overtime.
Consolation game MVP Mia Novillo Astrada with awards presenter Alejandro Novillo Astrada.
X-box, owned by Santa Rita Polo Farm and ridden by Fuller, was selected Best Playing Pony.
The MVP honor is the Peter Perkins Best Young Player Award. Perkins was a war veteran and polo champion. The former 9-goaler was a two-time U.S. Open champion. He died at age 78 in Delray Beach, Fla.
Sportsmanship Award winner Jack Aldridge of England Jr. Colts.
Sportsmanship Award honors went to Bryan and Aldridge.
One of the most-anticipated youth events of the winter season featured four teams in a mini-tournament of eight chukkers.
The games were live streamed worldwide by Wellington-based ChukkerTV, leaders in polo broadcasting with popular announcers Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz.
Sportsmanship Award winner Malia Bryan of PTF USA.
The Polo Training Foundation, celebrating its 50th anniversary, has been instrumental in the growth of junior and youth polo players by encouraging the sport’s development with training programs, lessons and tournaments for boys and girls. The international exchange programs have been among the most popular.
The PTF was created in 1967 to teach the game of polo to youth by promoting youth clinics, interscholastic and intercollegiate competition, good sportsmanship and good will through friendly competition.
Grand Champions’ awards table for the fourth annual PTF International Cup.
Grand Champions Polo Club President and USPA Florida Circuit Governor Melissa Ganzi is a longtime supporter of grass roots polo and Polo Training Foundation. She has played a key role in developing young players with the The Polo School at Grand Champions and Aspen Valley (Colo.) Polo Clubs. Ganzi also serves as secretary for the PTF.
Most of the horses in the tournament were provided by Grand Champions Polo Club and Santa Rita Polo Farm.
Grand Champions Polo Club caters 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, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
The participants of the PTF International game. Photos by ChukkerTV.
The Polo School at Grand Champions, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.
The USPA 12-Goal Sieber Memorial, Top Pony 8-Goal Series and Halo Polo Trophy 6-Goal Tournament are currently under way this month at Grand Champions.