With memories of their devastating double overtime loss to Farmers & Merchants Bank last year, Klentner Ranch was prepared to leave everything on the field and win the 2018 Silver Air Pacific Coast Open Final. Despite being defeated by Lucchese once in bracket play and losing Justin Klentner to a hand injury, Klentner Ranch was determined to make their second chance count. Played on Sunday, September 2, at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria, California, the final showcased fierce competition until the end, Klentner Ranch ultimately earning the win they sought 8-6.
Coming out strong from the first chukker, Klentner Ranch carried their momentum throughout the first half against the formidable and well mounted Lucchese team. Both teams struggled for possession foreshadowing another tight match, however Klentner was able to capitalize on numerous Lucchese fouls to gain the edge. Early in the second Jesse Bray* converted a Penalty 3, but was met by an answering field goal from Jeff Hall who broke through a clustered pack to score. Intensifying in the third, the pressure of the game was felt as the third yellow card fell on a dangerous riding call. Fresh off a semifinal win in the National Youth Tournament Series (NYTS) Championship, substitute Jake Klentner* brought his game sense from Colorado, scoring a smart field goal to keep his team up by one at halftime 4-3.
Adding a Penalty 3 conversion each to their respective tallies, both sides continued to go all out in the fourth, remaining within one. Slipping out of the pack to make a coast-to-coast breakaway on 12-year-old Thoroughbred mare Fondue, Facundo Obregon made a strong statement with an open backshot tap to goal. Ending the fifth still neck-in-neck at 7-6 in favor of Klentner Ranch, the game came down to the wire. Defending their end line well and capitalizing on a pivotal foul, Klentner Ranch’s Mariano Obregon put the final Penalty 2 goal on the board, cementing their well-deserved victory 8-6.
Although he could not be with his Western Region team for the NYTS Final earlier in the day, Jake Klentner was eager for the opportunity to step in for his dad in the Pacific Coast Open Final and help bring home the win. “The whole situation is surreal! I’m so thankful to my dad for letting me come out to California to play in this tournament,” Jake Klentner exclaimed. Made by Tara Grey Jewelers, each 2018 Pacific Coast Open winner received a striking ring to commemorate the experience. Showing off his Pacific Coast Open ring, that bore a striking resemblance to a Super Bowl championship ring, Klentner beamed, “Who doesn’t like a ring? I feel like Tom Brady right now!”
Watching his son win such an important tournament, Justin Klentner was proud to see him play in his place. “After last year, we needed to win this,” Justin Klentner remarked. “My hope is that we win it the next 10 years in a row, but after last year’s double overtime, we needed to win it this year. To have Jake win it is better than having me win it to be honest with you. We are looking for the future of American Polo, and here it is! We had three Team USPA players on our team, Remy*, Jesse and Jake. That’s the whole idea and proof that it is helping. NYTS is helping, the USPA is helping, the kids are getting better and they are contributing. I couldn’t be prouder of the whole organization and our organization.”
Most Valuable Player was awarded to Klentner Ranch’s Remy Du Celliee Muller*. “This is my second Pacific Coast Open win and it’s best to win it with friends,” Muller said. “Today I played my best horse, Phoebe, in three chukkers. I got her from Tom Gose and bought her in the spring of 2015 as a five-year-old.”
Best Playing Pony honors were presented to Jesse Bray’s 10-year-old bay mare Venice played in the first and the fifth chukkers. “I got her as a two-year-old off the training track and my dad made her,” Bray shared. “She has been playing well in this tournament and is just starting to peak now.”
*Jesse Bray, Remy Du Celliee Muller and Jake Klentner are members of Team USPA. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.