His Cup Runneth OverBy Paula Parisi July 14, 2011
Prince William scored an impressive four goals, leading his team to a victory at the Foundation Polo Cup July 9 at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. The match, a highlight of the royal visit to Southern California, saw the sporting sovereign knock back four pivotal goals, propelling his team to victory in the closing chukkers.
“We were down 2-0 to Audi in the fifth, and we changed our strategy a bit,” Glen Holden, Jr., who played on the team Royal. “Prince William was playing No. 4, a defensive position, but Santi (Trotz, the captain) started sending him to the front. Since Andy Busch and I usually play the back, there wasn’t any question of the defense being covered, and he scored four of our five goals in the rest of fifth and the sixth.” Busch scored the final goal that closed it 5-3.
The tournament was played round-robin style, with three teams facing off against each other for two rounds, for a total of six chukkers. The Prince’s team, Royal Salute, carried the day 2-0, winning against Audi (1-0) and American Express (0-0), playing before 2,000 people in a spectacular kick-off to Santa 2011 high-goal season.
“Our team had quite bit of pressure,” Holden said, recalling that before the event, the Prince – whose formal title is the Duke of Cambridge – “said to us, ‘I don’t want to put any undue pressure on you gentlemen, but I really want to win.’ We reassured him that we were on the same page.” The first match of the day saw Audi beating Amex 7-3. Then Prince’s team, Royal Salute, won the second match, against Amex (6-4). But in the final match, “when we were down 2-0 to Audi, things got a little tense,” Holden laughed.
When all was said and done, the Royals carried the day and the Prince earned MVP honors. “The Duchess was quite pleased,” Holden recalled, alluding to the kiss with which Kate Middleton rewarded her husband when presenting the trophy, designed for the occasion by Tiffany & Co.
Representing team Audi was patron Marc Ganzi, a tech investor who winters in Wellington and summers in Santa Barbara; polo club president Wesley Ru; professional player Juan Bollini (8 goals) and entrepreneur Scott Devon. Playing for American Express was Santa Monica real estate mogul Patrick Nesbitt, secretary of the USPA; Glen Holden III, Argentina-born professional Nic Roldan (9 goals) and Melissa Ganzi, Marc’s wife and one of only a handful of female high-goal players in the sport. The idea was to put together 10-goal teams. (Trotz is handicapped at 5 goals.)
“So many times, in charity games people just go out and ride around, and I can tell you that was not the case in this polo match,” Daniel Walker recalled. A club official and polo player, Walker provided color commentary for the match, working alongside legendary announcer Andy White, “the voice of Santa Barbara polo.” “These teams played to win,” Walker said. “That Tiffany trophy was treasured.”
Walker said what impressed him most about the Prince’s game was “he was out there with people who regularly play at the 20-goal level, riding horses he had never ridden before, and he more than held his own. Over and over I saw Prince William challenging, riding it off. Not only was he defending, but he was looking around to see who was free to receive a pass, and then making those four goals.”
For his efforts, the Prince received Most Valuable Player honors. “Unequivocally on July 9, Prince William was the best player,” Walker enthused. “He was the star. If we were writing it out in storybook fashion, it couldn’t have been better.”
Prince William’s achievement was the more notable in that he is a lefty, but United States Polo Association rules require that, for safety reasons, all players hold the mallet in their right hand. He wasn’t the only one with obstacles to surmount. The Duchess is allergic to horses! Holden said the Prince’s equerry confirmed as much when they were chatting in the VIP tent before the game. “But she is very interested in learning to ride. Being allergic to horses can be nothing more than a matter of wearing a long sleeved shirt and taking care to wash your hands after you touch them.”
For the Foundation Polo event, the Santa Barbara Polo Club was outfitted with a line of bleachers installed for the occasion opposite the permanent seating. “We had people everywhere!,” club president Ariana Rothstein-Fisch said. “It was a fantastic day, and I think it did a lot of wonderful things for the club – got our name out there and helped people realize we are open every Sunday for the public.”
Addressing the crowd prior to the game, Prince William characterized the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club as “one of the most beautiful polo grounds anywhere in the world. My father, the Prince of Wales, and my brother, Harry, were as green as that grass out there when I told them I’d be here.” Describing himself as “a keen polo player,” William said it was an honor to be invited by Ambassador Glen Holden (U.S. envoy to Jamaica 1989-93) to take part of the festivities celebrating the 100th anniversary of the club this year.
“Catherine and I have had a busy few days, so the prospect of being able to let loose this afternoon is wonderful for me,” the Duke said. “But that’s what sport is all about – be it polo or football. More specifically how sport helps young people to find purpose in life is a key element to the Foundation that Catherine, Harry and I have established. But today is about Santa Barbara polo – a hundred glorious years. Thank you Ambassador Holden. Thank you Tiffany for the beautiful Foundation Cup. Here’s to the next century – happy birthday!”
The Foundation Polo Challenge was a benefit for the Santa Barbara Polo School and the American Friends of The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry, which supports disadvantaged children and young people, conservation and veterans and military families.
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