The Face of American Polo: Nic Roldan looks forward to Scottsdale’s beauty

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Nic Roldan has played polo around the world, but every year he’s drawn to the energy of the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Presented by Talking Stick Resort.

“I’ve played all over the world,” says Roldan, who is also a model. “You get to see some of the most incredible places, meet some incredible people and see some of the most beautiful fields and backdrops — Scottsdale being one of them.”

This year, the event will celebrate its 10th anniversary with Roldan suiting up for the Aspen Valley Polo Club, owned by Marc and Melissa Ganzi. The club will face off against La Mariposa Argentina Polo Team, which is making its event debut.

Among the additional teams scheduled to play in 2021 are Jet Set Women’s All-Star Polo Team, Bogota Polo Team, Arizona Polo Club, Grand Champions Polo Club and Wine Country Polo.

“We love the spectators,” Roldan says. “We love the way they get behind the event and the whole party scene. It’s definitely one of a kind in the United States. ASU is close by, and the younger demographic goes as well. It’s always a fun event, definitely.”

Fourth-generation star

Born December 4, 1982, in Buenos Aires, Roldan grew up with horses in Wellington, Florida, and Boston, as he started riding at age 2.

He comes from a long line of polo players: his great-grandfather, Audilio Bonadeo Ayrolo, won the Argentine Open in 1931 and 1938, while his grandfather and father also played.

“He pushed me, in a way, to play polo, but he wasn’t forcing me,” he says about his father. “He really pushed me to follow my dreams, work hard and pursue my passions. I have a hugely supportive family. My father played polo his whole life.”

Roldan played in his first tourney when he was 6 and turned professional at 15, when he became the youngest polo player to win the 1998 U.S. Polo Open with the Escue Team. When it became too hard to balance school and polo, his parents hired a private tutor to educate Roldan.

“It’s historically one of the most important tournaments in the world,” Roldan says about the U.S. Polo Open. “I was the youngest to win the U.S. Open at 15 years old, but it feels like a lifetime ago. I’m 38 now. I say this all the time, but at the end of the day, it’s what kick-started my career.”

Now with an 8-goal handicap rating, Roldan is the captain of the American polo team and is the country’s leading player.

Winston Churchill once said, “Polo is a passport to the world.” Based in Wellington, Roldan enjoys the travel and the adrenaline associated with playing polo.

“I’m a huge sports fan,” says Roldan, who also enjoys soccer, golf, tennis, biking and hiking. “That’s all I ever do, is play sports, but to be able to create a bond with the horse and travel the field at 25 to 30 miles per hour and hit a little ball flying in the air is incredible. It’s such a complex sport.”

Polo is comparable to hockey, as it’s electric, fast, physical and rough, yet it’s the perfect spectator sport, he says.

‘The beauty of polo is it gives me a lot of free time,” he says. “As an athlete in general, you can’t be training every day nonstop. I really started to grow a passion for real estate and interior design and architecture. As I was getting older — in my mid-20s — I started to invest money in houses, gutting and flipping them and selling them. I did really well with it.”

Roldan is now invested in the building and design of homes, a clothing line, PoloGear, Super Coffee, and he co-founded High Goal gin.

“They’re all brands that align with my passions and what my life is all about,” he says.

‘Crazy concept’

Jason Rose, who founded the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Presented by Talking Stick Resort, is looking forward to the 10th annual event.

“That’s a milestone I never thought would have been the case when we launched this creative, funky, crazy concept in 2011,” he says with a laugh.

“We have never seen ticket sales like this year. To put it in perspective, we are 310% ahead of 2019’s numbers. I think that really speaks to the longevity of the event and the pent-up demand. People know when they come to this event that they’re going to have an exceptional unique time.”

Featuring Roldan, this year’s event will see its biggest footprint, as “every possible piece of grass will be utilized,” Rose says. Peripheral events include dog fashion shows, dance clubs on the field of play, the world’s largest catwalk fashion show, rugby and the inaugural Morning Beer Festival. 

“We’ve identified beers that may taste a little better before noon,” Rose says. “If you want to get an early start, check out the first Morning Beer Festival.

“And what would be a more dramatic and fun way to enter the event than by a zip line. It makes for a pretty interesting setup. You can enjoy the zip line throughout the day, too. You’ll be staring at the polo action when you’re zip lining.”

Rose says the goal is to create the unexpected so it may pique the public’s interest.

“The strength of the event has been there’s something for everyone — the very young, older folks, gay, straight, Black, white,” Rose says. “It’s been a melting pot of experience out there that has allowed this concept — now a major event — to continue evolving successfully.”

 

The Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Presented by Talking Stick Resort

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, October 23

WHERE: WestWorld of Scottsdale,
16601 N. Pima Road

COST: Tickets start at $30

INFO: 480-423-1414, thepoloparty.com, info@thepoloparty.com

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