Adolfo Cambiaso has achieved worldwide fame as a polo player, but in the finals of the Bombardier Pacific Coast Open on Sunday, his teammate Jason Crowder, whose fame extends from Carpinteria to Summerland, shared the spotlight.
Crowder scored six goals in the run of play – most of them set up by Cambiaso – and the Lucchese team capped a perfect summer by winning the 101-year-old PCO trophy with a 10-8 victory over ERG.
Cambiaso, the 10-goal superstar from Argentina, was deemed the outstanding player of the season after leading Lucchese to three local tournament titles and a 10-0 overall record. One of his horses, a nimble 10-year-old chestnut mare named Noruega, was honored as the best playing pony.
When it was announced that Crowder, a 27-year-old Carpinteria native with a five-goal rating, was chosen the outstanding player of the championship game, Cambiaso led the cheers. “You saw [why],” said Cambiaso, a man of few words.
John Muse, the CEO of the Lucchese boot company and patron of the team, was more effusive in praising Crowder.
“What’s great about him is he always gives you 110 percent,” Muse said. “He had better horses today. I gave him some of mine, and he played the wheels off them. As Churchill said, he never, never, never, never quits. I’m so happy for him.”
Andres Weisz, the fourth member of the winning team, said, “Jason was the reason we were peaking. Today he escalated to an amazing level.”
Crowder was motivated not to let Cambiaso down. “If you screw up, it’s your fault,” he said. “If he doesn’t win, it’s your fault.” Crowder scored three times in the first two chukkers. His goal after a long whack downfield by Cambiaso put Lucchese ahead, 5-2. “He trusted me,” Crowder said. “You know he could do it himself.”
ERG suffered a setback when its top player, nine-goaler Paco de Narvaez, was injured after Cambiaso bumped into him. Fortunately, there was another nine-goal player in the house. Hilario Ulloa of the Zacara team subbed for de Narvaez, and he pulled ERG even with Lucchese at 5-5 when his approach shot set up a goal by 16-year-old Santi Torres, another player who grew up on the Carpinteria field.
Lucchese took a 7-6 lead at the end of the fourth chukker and expanded it to 10-7 in the sixth and final chukker when Crowder tapped in a ball that Cambiaso centered along the goal line. Ulloa made it a two-goal game with a minute remaining, but ERG’s last-gasp attacks went for naught.
Despite its perfect record, Lucchese did not waltz through its competition this summer. “We won by an average of 2.5 goals,” Weisz pointed out. The team came away twice with one-goal victories.
Cambiaso, 35, continued a year of triumph in which he also led teams to victories in the U.S. Open and the British Open. This summer marked his first appearance in Santa Barbara. He was non-committal about returning next year, although he did say, “Great weather.” Muse said he would try to bring the superstar back but doesn’t expect an answer for months. Cambiaso is expected to leave very soon for Argentina, where his wife Maria Vazquez, one of South America’s top fashion models, is expecting their third child.
A crowd estimated at 3,000 watched Sunday’s game, including polo aficionados from several states and Barry Bonds, who was once known for bashing baseballs.