On Sunday, August 31, the Santa Barbara Polo Club here hosted the Bombardier Pacific Coast Open Final, the summer’s final 20 goal polo tournament.
20 goal matches are considered “High Goal” polo and features a faster, more open and more advanced match. In the US, there are only 5 clubs that play 20 goal polo during certain parts of the year, and Santa Barbara Polo Club is only one west of the Mississippi.
Under a warm afternoon sun, crack teams sponsored by ERG and Lucchese took the field and battled it out through 6 chukkas. While both teams kept the score close throughout, ERG hoisted the trophy and popped the champagne afterward with a 12-10 win.
The “goal” rating of a player is a type of handicap/ability rating. Minus 2 is the lowest for a beginner and plus 10 the highest. There are only 19 ten goal players in the world, and the ERG team showcased one of them, Agustin Merlos, from Argentina.
While many in the crowd made a fashion statement, the men divided about 50/50 between completely casual—shorts and polo shirts—and what you might expect at an English polo tournament. Most of those dressing up were in the many sponsored cabanas and host tents.
However, the real stars in this universe were the stellar polo ponies ridden by both teams. Amazingly groomed, these horses exuded class and control. The handlers obviously conditioned them to the level of world-class athletes – their strength and power instantly apparent. When paired with the great ERG and Lucchese team members, the ability of both to maneuver and change direction on a dime astonished even the seasoned spectator.