WELLINGTON, FL-Sept. 26, 2013–-Hall of Famer Mike Azzaro will team with rising young stars Juancito Bollini, Grant Ganzi and Wes Finlayson on Casablanca in the Prisa Invitational when the fall polo season gets under way Thursday at Palm City Polo Club in Boca Raton.
Azzaro, raised to 8-goals in June, is coming off an outstanding 2013 high goal season earlier this year that included a U.S. Open title with Zacara.
One of the few top-rated American players, Azzaro, 48, a former 10-goaler for more than ten years, will now get to share his expertise playing with three young teammates, Bollini, 18, Finlayson, 18, and Ganzi, 15, a sophomore at St. Andrew’s, as the “Dream Team” makes its debut.
Audi’s Grant Ganzi (1) pressures Juancito Bollini (2) as he hits the ball. Photo by Scott Fisher
The teenagers are coming off an outstanding spring and summer highlighted by winning the inaugural USPA National Youth Tournament Series Championship in Upperville, Va. over Labor Day weekend along with Justin Daniels for the Florida Zone 3 All-Stars.
Finlayson, who grew up in the equestrian world and began playing polo at the suggestion of a family friend, was named Most Valuable Player of the NYTS tournament.
In Thursday’s opener at 4:30 p.m., Casablanca will play Newport comprised of Gene Goldstein, Marc Ganzi, Guille Aguero and Luis Escobar.
On Friday at 10 a.m. at Palm City, Paladin (David Krantz, Leo Mandelbaum, Nic Roldan and Juan Bollini) will play Beluga (Misha Rodzianko, Carlitos Gracida, Joey Casey and Brandon Phillips).
The winners advance into Sunday’s final at 10:30 a.m.
Azzaro and Roldan will use the tournament as a tuneup for the Oct. 1-5 Fortune Heights Super Nations Cup at the Tianjin Polo Club in Hong Kong. Azzaro, Roldan, and 4-goalers Ulysses Escapite and Tommy Collingwood will represent the United States against Argentina, England and Hong Kong in the 24-goal tournament.
Azzaro was last year’s Super Nations Cup MVP.
After a successful spring season, Grand Champions Polo Club is hosting what promises to be the most competitive fall season in the club’s seven-year history.
Nine tournaments are scheduled, including two 20-goal tournaments in November for the club’s sixth fall season.
The Prisa Invitational is the first of seven medium goal tournaments, and only tournament scheduled for Palm City Polo Club.
The fall season-opener will serve as warm-up matches to shake the rust off and fine tune for the season.
The remaining fall tournaments will all be hosted at Grand Champions Polo Club. They are the Oct. 4-6 USPA Fall Classic, Oct. 13-15 USPA Kay Colee Memorial; Oct. 18-20 US Trust Cup, Oct. 25-27 USPA Fall Plates; Nov.1-3 Pedro Morrison Memorial and Nov. 8-10 Palm Restaurant Invitational.
The two 20-goal tournaments are the prestigious Oct. 30-Nov. 9 USPA North America Cup and Nov. 13-24 The National 20-Goal Championship.
Joining Azzaro on the pro roster for Grand Champions are Roldan, Bollini Sr., Joey Casey, Phillips, JJ Celis and Kris Kampsen. The newest player to join the lineup is Guille (Gigi) Aguero, a former 7-goaler.
During the 2012 fall season, Audi dominated the season winning back-to-back USPA North America Cup and USPA National 20-Goal Tournament titles with Marc Ganzi, Carlitos Gracida, Nic Roldan and Hall of Famer and former 10-goaler Carlos Gracida. In the national 20-goal final, Audi edged Piaget, 10-9.
For the fall season, more than fifty invitations were sent out to patrons who have competed at the club in the past five seasons. High goal team owners were also invited.
The fall season is great preparation for the 20- and 26-goal seasons for 2014 in Wellington.
The fall season is fun and competitive. Rosters and lineups change from tournament to tournament. Evenly-matched teams are put together to help build players skills and performance.
All tournaments are USPA-sanctioned and have grown in stature since their start in the mid-1990s.
GRAND CHAMPIONS FALL SCHEDULE
Sept. 26-29, Prisa Invitational, Palm City, Boca Raton
Oct. 4-6, USPA Fall Classic
Oct. 13-15, USPA Kay Colee Memorial
Oct. 18-20, US Trust Cup
Oct. 25-27, USPA Fall Plates
Oct. 30-Nov. 9, USPA North America Cup
Nov. 1-3, Pedro Morrison Memorial
Nov. 8-10, Palm Restaurant Invitational
Nov. 13-24,The National 20-Goal Championship
PALM CITY POLO CLUB
WHERE: 18000 Jog Road, Boca Raton, 561-289-9099 (Club entrance is the first flashing light north of Clint Moore Road).
GRAND CHAMPIONS POLO CLUB
WHERE: 13444 Southfields Road, on the corner of South Shore Boulevard and Lake Worth Road, Wellington, 561-644-5050.
INFORMATION: There are great field side views for tournament action at the home base of pro teams Audi and Piaget. Everyone is welcome to watch high and medium goal polo in a relaxed atmosphere during the spring and fall tournament season and other special events including the International Cup in November, Buzz Welker Memorial Junior Tournament in March, Women’s Championship Tournament and Gay Polo League International Tournament, both in April.