It’s in his Blood

Grant Ganzi finds his peace on the polo grounds

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Grant Ganzi is busy.

Ganzi balances studying international business at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, and sharpening his polo skills for events like the 2019 Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships at WestWorld on Sunday, November 3.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Ganzi says. “It’s not easy. It’s easier in the fall semester than the spring. In the fall, I only play two games a week and have one practice. In the season, it’s two to three games a week plus practice.

“The easy thing is, with the fall, my schedule is set—Friday and Sunday games and ride during the week. The polo schedule is always set in the season. You don’t know until the draw of the tournament or until the tournament starts. You have to play on those dates and figure out the rest. If I have a test that day, I have to work it out.”

Ganzi, his mother, Melissa, and polo star Nacho Figueras will join the Aspen Valley Polo Team in the event’s featured matchup when the reigning champs take on The Royal County Berkshire Polo Club, which is making its first appearance in Arizona.

“Fans can expect to have a good time,” Ganzi says. “That’s for sure. They can see some pretty good up-and-coming players, and some familiar faces they recognize.

“I don’t mean the best in the world. I mean the most recognizable faces. You can see them at the event, like Nacho. Many, many people know who he is. It’ll be a good time. There is also a bunch of fun tents and things to do. They make sure the schedule is packed for the whole day. There are many polo matches and activities. I hope people come out for at least a couple days. I know fall is a busy time of the year, but it’ll be a fun time.”

Coming to Scottsdale

The annual event is more than just polo.

Now entering its ninth year, polo week begins Thursday, October 31, with a player’s reception for all ticket purchasers at Legacy Gallery during the Thursday night Scottsdale Art Walk.

Then the evening before polo, high-end ticket purchasers and sponsors are invited to Molina Fine Jewelers for a VIP players and sponsors reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, November 1.

The matches are Saturday, November 2, and from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, November 3, guests can enjoy a polo clinic by the Arizona Polo Club on the polo fields at WestWorld of Scottsdale.

The diverse entertainment includes a half-time rugby match, the World’s Longest Catwalk Fashion Show presented by Phoenix Fashion Week, performances by the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, the Canine Couture Dog Fashion Show, a preview of the 2020 Barrett-Jackson’s World’s Greatest Car Collector Auction, as well as field-side experiences and DJ-infused party tents.

The Fried & Fizzy food truck returns with its signature fried chicken and champagne, a combination that exemplifies the casual yet classy vibe of The Polo Party. Those going for the luxury experience can indulge in one of three VIP tents, including the Barrett-Jackson Champagne & Jazz Lounge, which is serving up French fries and mimosas.

The Polo Party is known for upping the ante with new events each year. This year introduces one-of-a-kind musical performances, including oboe, acoustic guitar, a “hip-hopera” fusion, and songs from an intriguing new musical “Americano” coming to the Phoenix Theatre in January.

The highlight of the weekend is the four matchups on the field:  U.S. Air Force versus U.S. Marines; Centtrip Wales Polo Team versus the Arizona Polo Club; The Arizona Equine Rescue versus Southwest Wildlife, a charity match for a $10,000 prize; and the Aspen Valley versus Berkshire match.

“I went for the first time last year and it was an interesting event,” he says. “It blew me away, honestly—the whole spectacle of it. It’s a well-run event.”

Family affair

For Ganzi, polo is in his blood, starting with his grandfather. The first time he remembers playing polo was before the age of 4.

“Before I knew it, I kept playing and playing,” he says. “Eventually, by 12 or 13, I put more work in and learned to love the game a little more than I did when I was younger.

“Since I was 13, I’ve been playing pretty seriously. I’ve been competing at a good level and trying to improve my game every season.”

Ganzi and polo weren’t immediately smitten.

“When I was a little kid, I played the kids’ tournaments and all that,” he says. “I didn’t really love it. All of a sudden, the kids in my age bracket were a lot better than I was. It bothered me. I didn’t like it and I wanted to get better. So, I started riding every day one summer and improved that summer. My improvement literally happened in a matter of two or three months.”

When he was contemplating life after high school, Ganzi wasn’t quite sure if he was going to pursue polo.

“My mom wanted me to continue playing. My dad wanted me to do what made me happy,” says Ganzi, who took a month off polo this summer to travel Europe with his family. “I thought about going to go to school in Dallas and not playing polo that much. But I like where I am and being able to play.

“I think it’s a good thing for me to do at the moment. I thought a lot about it. I didn’t want to not play and then look back and say, ‘I wish I would have played in the peak of my athletic age bracket. At the end of the day, I’ll still study and, once I get out of school, get a job and work.”

Ganzi says the game’s competitive nature has kept him—and his family—invested in the game.

“It’s a good way to compete and it’s a very unique sport,” he adds. “I love riding my horses and getting out there and clearing my head. If I don’t have the best day maybe in school or in general, I play polo. It’s been for me—for a long time—an escape from reality.” 

Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships

WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale, 480.360.5845, thepoloparty.com, 10 a.m. Saturday, November 2, general admission tickets start at $30; free for children 17 and younger as well as veterans. For a complete list of events, visit thepoloparty.com.

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