The United States Polo Association® (USPA) and Greenwich Polo Club presented the 2015 East Coast Open a high-goal polo championship, held in Greenwich, Connecticut with six teams comprised of polo's top players competing in the 20-goal tournament for the coveted Perry Cup trophy over a two week and three weekend period. Intense, fast-paced action made for an exciting tournament for both the players and the spectators!
A little background on the game of polo:
Polo, called the "sport of kings," is a daring, high action, intense sport that takes place on horseback, although it has also been played on camel, elephant, and bicycle, with its beginning around 600 BC. By the year 800, polo had swept Asia, and by 1850 British officers added polo to their sports repertoire.
In 1873 the first club in Europe was established with fixed rules, and in 1876 the first polo match was played in the United States in New York City. In 1890, the United States Polo Association® (USPA) was founded, which "is the national governing body for the sport of polo in North America and is the second oldest sport governing body in the United States preceded only by the United States Tennis Association."
Debra Argen selecting her polo mallet
Played on a 300x160 yard field, (the equivalent of 10 football fields), a polo match consists of two teams riding on horseback at speeds of up to 35 mph charging the field with bamboo mallets held in their right hand attempting to hit a plastic ball through the end goal. Players may swap out their polo "ponies" anytime during or between chukkers.
Polo consists of 6 periods called "chukkers" that last 7.5 minutes each. If a tie results at the end of the 6th chukker, the match goes into overtime with the clock set for another 7.5 minutes with the first team to score winning the match.
Each team has 4 players who are ranked by their skill level, (usually 2 - 10), with the higher the number the better the player. Most players are ranked at 2 goals or less, and only a small group of worldwide players reach the rank of 10 goals. With high-goal tournaments teams have a combined handicap of 20 goals or more. The East Coast Open is one of the highest levels of polo played in the United States.
Edward Nesta and Debra Argen stomping divots
Each player on the team wears a number from 1 - 4 that designates their position. Player 1 is the attacking offensive, player 2 also plays offensive and assists player 1 in the attack, player 3, usually the most experienced player on the team, has the job of passing and hitting the ball down the field, while player 4 plays defense and defends the goal and passes the ball.
Polo is both a participant and spectator sport as between the third and fourth chukkers there is a break and the traditional stomping of the divots by the well-dressed spectators to smooth and replace the grass torn by the galloping hooves of the horses. It is a time to stretch one's legs and mingle on the playing field while providing a needed service.
The East Coast Open 2015
The 20-goal tournament was held over a 2 week period with matches during the week but only open to the public on three consecutive Sundays: August 23, 2015, August 30, 2015, and the Championship Match on September 6, 2015.
Although we did not attend the first weekend match, it paired Team Airstream (20 goals): Peter Orthwein (0 goal), Guillermo Agüero (6 goal), Matias Magrini (8 goal), and Michel Dorignac (6 goal) against the highly ranked Team Kig (20 goals): Bash Kazi (0 goal), Valerio Zubiaurre (7 goal), Mariano Obregon (7 goal), and Pelon Escapite (6 goal).
August 30, 2015
Team Turkish Airlines vs. Team McLaren Greenwich
It was a beautiful blue-sky perfect summer afternoon in Greenwich, Connecticut where the pristine lawn was dotted with festively and fashionably dressed spectators and picnic blankets with wicker hampers overflowing with chilled champagne and hors d'oeuvres to enjoy while matching the match.
Driving the ponies for the elusive ball
The thrill of the speed at which the game is played, along with the high-level of skill of the players added to the overall excitement of watching some of the top-rated players compete in the Turkish Airlines vs. McLaren Greenwich match.
Highly ranked players included Turkish Airlines player Tomas Garcia del Rio (rated 8 goals) competing against Team McLaren Greenwich players Joao Paulo Ganon (7 goals) and Tommy Biddle (6 goals).
Debra Argen and Nick Manifold
Team Turkish Airlines (17-goal handicap) Players:
Bruce Colley (1 goal) and alternate Joseph Meyer (1 goal) position number 1
Joaquin Panelo (4 goal) position number 2
Tomas Garcia del Rio (8 goal) position number 3
Stevie Orthwein (4 goal) position number 4
Team McLaren Greenwich (19-goal handicap) Players:
Christopher Brant (1 goal) position 1
Nick Manifold (5 goal) position 2
Joao Paulo Ganon (7 goal), position 3
Tommy Biddle (6 goal) position 4.
Luke Wilson and Team McLaren on the Podium
As Team Turkish Airlines had a 17-goal handicap vs. Team McLaren Greenwich with a 19-goal handicap, the match opened with 2 points on the board for Turkish Airlines. Halfway into the 2nd chukker Turkish Airlines lead the charge with 4 goals on the board against McLaren's 3.
Team Turkish Airlines and Team McLaren
Going into the 5th chukker, Turkish Airlines had a nice lead of 10 to McLaren 6, however, that was soon to change with heavy action on the field, with McLaren ultimately winning the match 12 to 11. Tommy Biddle, who was celebrating his birthday, was match high-scorer. Actor Luke Wilson presented the awards at the end of the match.
September 6, 2015 Championship Match
Team White Birch vs. Team Audi
September 6, 2015 was another gorgeous summer day and drew a large attendance for the final Championship Match where Team White Birch competed against Team Audi for the coveted Perry Cup trophy.
For the championship match, high-ranked players included Team White Birch's Hilario Ulloa (9 goals) and Mariano Aguerre (9 goals) and Team Audi players Miguel Novilla Astrada (9 goals) and Nic Roldan (8 goals).
Team White Birch (20-goal handicap) Players:
Santino Magrini (0 goal) position number 1
Hilario Ulloa (9 goal) position number 2
Mariano Aguerre (9 goal) position number 3
Peter Brant (2 goal) position number 4
Team Audi (20-goal handicap) Players:
Mark Ganzi (1 goal) position 1
Nic Roldan (8 goal) position number 2
Miguel Novilla Astrada (9 goal) position number 3
Juancito Bollini (2 goal) position number 4
Debra Argen and Miguel Novilla Astrada
This was a very exciting match watching the family-pedigreed talent on the field that included 14-year old Santino Magrini (White Birch) whose father is famed 8-goal player Matias Magrini, Greenwich Polo Club Founder Peter Brant, (son Christopher Brant also played in the East Coast Open, on Team McLaren Greenwich), and Marc Ganzi, (his wife, Melissa also plays polo, and his father Wally Ganzi is a former polo player).
Wally and Marc Ganzi on ChukkerTV
At the end of the 3rd chukker, the score was 7 for Team White Birch, 6 for Team Audi. The 4th chukker was loaded with action on the field ending with 10 points for White Birch, 8 points for Team Audi.
Team White Birch and Team Audi
More action in the 5th chukker had the teams neck and neck until White Birch scored with less than 4 seconds to go on the clock resulting in a score of 12 for White Birch, 11 for Team Audi. A goal by Team Audi tied the score in the 6th at 12-12, which changed with a goal by White Birch followed by a goal by Team Audi for a tied score of 13-13 at the end of the 6th chukker.
Accepting the Winning Trophy
The tied score resulted in overtime with Team Audi ultimately taking the championship after a quick goal by Nic Roldan ending the match at 14-13. Best pony went to owner Mariano Aguerre. Actress Stephanie Seymour Brant, wife of Greenwich Polo Club Founder, Peter Brant, was on hand to present the awards at the closing ceremony.
A little about the tournament: "Not only does 2015 mark the 125th Anniversary of the USPA, it is a key opportunity to bring attention to the sport with this historically-rich and now nationally-televised tournament, taking place at one of the top East Coast polo clubs," said USPA CEO Peter Rizzo. "The East Coast Open joins the likes of The US Open Polo Championship® as one of our signature and most celebrated events of the year."
"The East Coast Open was founded in Rhode Island in 1905 and was played until World War I. It had a renaissance starting in 1978 when Donald Little, then President of the USPA and Captain of the Myopia Polo Club, resurrected the tournament and brought it to Myopia Polo Club in South Hamilton, Massachusetts where it was played until the early 2000's. At its height, 13 teams played in the 14-20 goal tournament including many 10 goal players such as Mariano Aguerre, Mike Azzaro, Tommy Biddle, and Gonzalo Pieres, Sr. who inspired a lot of today's players to pick up their mallets."
See you at the next East Coast Open
"We're very happy that the USPA and Greenwich Polo Club are joining to host the 2015 East Coast Open, which we believe will be a spectacular finish to the summer season of high-goal polo that starts in June," said Peter M. Brant, Founder of Greenwich Polo Club. "We expect this year's East Coast Open to draw the best high-goal players from around the globe to compete for the title and to have their names added to the Perry Cup. Fans will get to experience world-class polo played at a beautiful venue and for the first time, the tournament will stream live and culminate with a nationally televised broadcast."
About the United States Polo Association®: "Founded in 1890, the United States Polo Association (USPA) is the national governing body for the sport of polo in North America and is the second oldest sport governing body in the United States preceded only by the United States Tennis Association. With over 270 member clubs and 40 national tournaments, the USPA governs polo handicaps, tournament rules and safety regulations, to ensure the welfare and being of both horse pony and player. Funded by sales from the officially licensed consumer brand, U.S. Polo Assn., the USPA purposefully re-invests revenue by underwriting numerous association services and player development programs to expand and sustain the sport of polo. For more information, please visit www.USPolo.org or follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook."
About Greenwich Polo Club: "Established in 1981 by Peter Brant, the Greenwich Polo Club is the venue for high-goal polo during the summer season in the U.S. Nestled in the beautiful backcountry of Greenwich, CT and internationally recognized for its rosters of legendary teams and players, Greenwich Polo Club hosts public USPA high-goal polo matches on Sundays throughout the summer."
Greenwich Polo Club
Field Address (location of public matches)
1 Hurlingham Drive, Greenwich CT 06831
Mailing Address (office)
80 Field Point Rd #3,
Greenwich, CT 06830
Contact: Mariana Castro
United States Polo Association®
Telephone: +1- 800-232-USPA
Follow the United States Polo Association® on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/USPoloAssociation
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