By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Professional polo player Nic Roldan is enamored with Scottsdale.
“It’s beautiful,” he says via telephone from Florida.
“There are plenty of things to do day and night. I love hiking and golfing. It has plenty of great restaurants, beautiful people and the energy’s great. It’s a fun place to be.”
He’ll return to the Valley for America’s Greatest Polo Party – The Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships: Presented by Talking Stick Resort, on Saturday, November 5, at WestWorld of Scottsdale.
More than 13,000 fans showed up in 2021 for the one-day event. New for 2022 is Prosecco and Popcorn by Harkins Theaters, Grimaldi’s Pizza Disco, an expanded Scottsdale Charro Lounge, a special appearance by “Elvis,” former Arizona Coyotes Capt. Shane Doan taking the field, and an on-site boat and plane display.
“There is always something for everyone at the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships,” says Jason Rose, founder and owner.
“Whether you are rich or poor, Black or white, or young or old, we provide a diversity of experiences beyond polo. Besides the four action-packed polo matches, guests can also enjoy fashion shows, including those of the canine variety, performances by the Phoenix Boys Choir, Arizona Opera, a top saxophonist, jazz bands, DJs, and displays of dozens of collector and exotic cars led by Bentley Scottsdale and Barrett-Jackson.”
Rose is thrilled that Roldan will lead the Aspen Valley Polo Club again this year, but there are two surprises on tap, he says. From “across the pond,” and for the first time in several years due to COVID-19, the Wales Polo Team will play Royal Berkshire Polo Club, both of whom count King Charles as members, thus the new King Charles III Salute Match.
“It’s in honor of the new king and the return of two of our favorite teams who have played in the event before,” Rose says. “Then there is something unique: the polo debut of former NHL and Arizona Coyotes star Shane Doan. Shane is quite an equestrian but has never played polo before. That’s why he is training in the weeks leading up to the event to debut his ‘horse hockey’ skills with the Arizona Polo Club team on November 5.”
Also confirmed to play in 2022 are Roldan’s Aspen Valley Polo Club, USA Women’s Team, Switzerland, the El Paso-Naranjo Polo Club and Arizona Polo Club.
Roldan has played for the Aspen Valley Polo Club, owned by Marc and Melissa Ganzi, for close to 10 years, he says.
“Marc and Melissa and their organization are like family to me,” he says. “I’ve been working with them year-round for a long time now.”
He is passionate about his sport, citing the horses as his source of inspiration. Travel is next.
“I love to travel,” Roldan adds. “I love seeing new places. I just got back from Azerbaijan. Then, there’s the sport itself. It’s hard to compare it to any other sport. The speed and adrenaline and the complexity of the sport are something I just love.
“Every day I learn new things, and I’m trying to improve and keep up with these young kids. There is an influx of young, insane talent in our sport.”
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 40 now. I say this all the time, but at the end of the day, it’s what kick-started my career.”
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.”