The Polo Life

Nic Roldan, the youngest player ever to win a U.S. Open Polo Championship, is expanding his brand and inspiring others

Nic Roldan, raised in the town of Wellington, Fla., is America’s leading polo player. With an 8-goal handicap, Roldan has won some of the world’s most prestigious polo tournaments, including England’s 2018 Cartier Queen’s Cup, Argentina’s Copa Camara de Diputados in 2006, and the 2005 Australian Open, to name a few.

(Courtesy of Michele Cardamone)

Roldan, 39, plays professionally for the Ganzi family. Marc and Melissa Ganzi, who also compete in polo tournaments around the world, are the founders of the World Polo League, the Grand Champions Polo Club, in Wellington, and the Aspen Valley Polo Club, in Colorado. Roldan promotes several charities, including the Kids Cancer Foundation, the Buddy Program, and the Neil S. Hirsch Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County.

Nic Roldan at the 1st East Coast Open Game – Audi vs Airstream 2016 (Courtesy of Chichi Ubina)

During his childhood, Roldan showed an early talent for the game, often called the “sport of kings.” He played junior tournaments until he turned 15 in 1998, when he achieved the significant accomplishment of becoming the youngest polo player ever to win a prestigious U.S. Open Polo Championship title—a record that still stands. But Roldan’s love for the game doesn’t just stop in the fields, and he works to inspire young players with polo lessons while dedicating himself to philanthropy.

“I feel like there is more to do besides bringing awareness about polo—the sport that I am most passionate about,” he says. “I believe this new stage in my life is to take care of others, to guide people that have been less privileged than me.

(Courtesy of Nick Mele)

Horses are a big part of Roldan’s life. “When you live in Wellington, we treat horses with the utmost care,” he says. “Here, horses are so important, and we treat them with so much dignity. When I realized that in other countries, that is not the case, it shocked me,” says Roldan, who was born in Argentina.

Roldan’s father is Raul Roldan, an Argentine polo player who was on the Sultan of Brunei’s polo team; he met Nic’s mother, Dee, of German descent, when she came for a visit to Wellington. Nic’s grandfather, Audilio Bonadeo Ayrolo, won the Argentine Open in 1931 and 1938 and was also a champion around the world.

(Courtesy of Barbara Livingston)

These men greatly influenced Roldan’s ability to compete on the field. While his father was based in Brunei, Roldan competed in the junior tournaments in Wellington. He quickly outshone other kids competing in polo, and at 15, winning the U.S. Open earned him a 3-goal handicap.

Early Drive

Roldan greets the staff as he walks around the Santa Rita Polo Farm in Wellington, which has some of the most beautiful stables in the area. His low-key demeanor and elegance translate admirably to the sport of polo.

(Courtesy of Nick Mele)

“I started riding when I was 2 years old,” he says. “Surrounded by horses, it was natural that I would live this life. What people do not realize about this sport is that besides the luxury and glamorous feel it has, it can be very dangerous and demands so much training as well as being in top athletic shape.” Roldan trains several times a week. “You have to wake up early in the morning and be ready to train for several hours to get ready for competition. It’s an old and glamorous sport with so much risk, sometimes it is unimaginable,” he explains.

Roldan has won several major tournaments, and at various times he has also been a 9-goal-handicap polo player. “It’s really hard to achieve that jump from 8 to 9,” he says. “I went back and forth—really difficult and challenging to get to that 9, but I’m so passionate about it. Polo is a big priority in my life.”

(Courtesy of Nick Mele)

Roldan is a spokesperson for several brands including St. Regis Hotels & Resorts and Provident Jewelry, and he has his own High Goal Gin label. “It’s been a lot of fun. The gin comes from South Carolina, and it has started to expand to other areas of the country,” he says. Roldan is also in high demand for fashion features and has made many appearances on television, and in 2010, he taught Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian how to play polo. He has recently made forays into real estate, and just launched his lifestyle brand, Roldan Lifestyle.

His skill, good looks, and charisma have established him as a household name of several brands, including Italian fitness company Techno Gym. “It’s very upscale, sophisticated equipment that enables you to stay fit—a priority in my lifestyle,” he says. “You don’t have to overwork yourself; you just have to do it right. I exercise three times a week only. I also rest.”

Inspiring Youth

“In selfish times, we have to be selfless,” Roldan says.

Although Roldan is no stranger to the limelight, he is a down-to-earth person who simply loves playing polo and helping others. His philanthropy work often sees him play in front of crowds of young kids at the polo fields in Wellington, and he’s helped charities raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Carbondale and Aspen, Colo.-based Buddy Program that he supports empowers youth through mentoring experiences that help them achieve their full potential. Since 1973, this nonprofit has helped thousands of little buddies, and Roldan has been very influential within this community.

(Courtesy of Nick Mele)

“I travel the world, I live in the most beautiful polo settings, and I meet amazing people, but there is no bigger reward than the smiles of underprivileged children when they get to meet you, or to watch the horses we try to aid after toiling in tough terrain and hard weather,” comments Roldan, who was named one of the country’s most eligible bachelors by Town & Country magazine.

This year, Roldan plans to travel to St. Moritz, Switzerland to play snow polo, and he will play during the World Polo League season in Wellington as part of the Grand Champions Polo Club team.