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Prince William's team wins polo match, Tiffany trophy

By Michael Martinez, CNN
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Britain's royals in California
  • Prince William scores four goals in final, pivotal match
  • "I'm not a good loser," he had joked before playing
  • Competition raised money for charity, publicized the sport
  • William, Catherine to go to dinner Saturday night in Los Angeles

Carpinteria, California (CNN) -- Prince William and his polo team won a round-robin match Saturday, garnering them a sterling silver and gold trophy -- weighing 14.7 pounds in the precious metals -- after he scored four goals in the final game. His team won the pivotal game 5-3.

"A storybook ending here at Santa Barbara!" the announcer told hundreds of spectators at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club.

A confident prince had predicted he would win the 18-inch-tall trophy, exclusively created by Tiffany silversmiths for the match.

His wife, Catherine, awarded the trophy cup to William and his three teammates after the royal couple exchanged congratulatory kisses on both cheeks. She also gave Tiffany gifts to all 12 polo players who played on the three teams participating in the six chukkars, or six periods, of Saturday's play.

Before the game, the prince declared he and wife Catherine arrived at "one of the most beautiful polo grounds anywhere in the world" to raise money for charity and compete.

"I'm not a good loser," he joked with hundreds of guests under a white tent as they prepared to eat lunch, adding he wanted to win.

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Three polo teams competed at 3 p.m. PT at the polo club, which is the third-oldest polo facility in the United States and is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

"Here's to the next century and a very happy birthday!" the prince saluted the crowd and the polo club's leaders at a pre-game reception.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived about noon by helicopter from Los Angeles, where they're staying during their three-day U.S. visit. The duchess was wearing a knee-length dress, without a hat.

The prince's visit to the polo grounds was an effort to make a royal sport more accessible to Americans accustomed to football and baseball.

"A major misconception is it is only something princes play," Ebe Sievwright, a player and coach with the California Polo Club who said he has played with Prince William, said in an interview with CNN.

"It's not just something you can pick up overnight, but it is something pretty much anyone from any socio-economic strata could play if they just knew more about it," Sievwright said.

At his noon reception, the prince highlighted how sport can affect people.

"Catherine and I have had a busy few days, so the prospect of being able to let loose this afternoon is wonderful for me," the prince told his guests.

"But that's what sport is all about, be it polo or football -- sorry, I mean soccer -- or whatever your preferred sport is," he continued, prompting laughter.

"How sport helps young people to find purpose in life is a key element to the foundation that Catherine, Harry and I have established," he said.

Saturday's play benefitted the American Friends of the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry, which was just established in April. The foundation supports disadvantaged children and young persons, conservation and sustainable development, and veterans and military families.

Tickets for the lunch and a VIP seat to the game cost $4,000 each. About 400 persons had been expected to buy such tickets, ensuring at least $1.6 million being raised for charity.

Before the game, experts said the Duke of Cambridge would experience a faster game than he's used to.

"There's huge differences," Sievwright said. "Polo in England is very Argentine-influenced, and in America there is a great history of cowboys and riding from their own history out in the Wild West.

"In England everyone is very proper and tucked in," he continued. "The game flows out here in America. In England lately, there's been a lot of stopping and controlling the ball, which kind of slows it up. So it will be interesting for William out in Santa Barbara to play in a game where it's really flowing like a pinball game."

Among those playing Saturday was Nic Roldan, captain of the U.S. polo team. His father and grandfather were professional polo players, and Roldan grew up playing the sport in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the game is popular, he said.

The prince played for the Foundation Team, sponsored by Royal Salute Scotch Whiskey, and Roldan played on Team American Express Centurion. The Audi U.S. Polo Team, currently ranked second in the World Polo Tour standings, rounded out the three teams playing Saturday.

The prince's team beat the Audi U.S. Polo Team in the final two chukkars.

The day's activities included a private drinks reception and three-course luncheon prepared by chef Giada De Laurentiis, who's also the granddaughter of film producer Dino De Laurentiis. The menu featured sweet corn lasagna with blistered tomatoes as well as a pea pesto and beef tenderloin crostini. The lunch benefitted the royal brothers' charity and the Polo Training Center of Santa Barbara, organizers said.

"In terms of publicity and the sort of hype that this event is getting, I don't think I've ever experienced anything" like it, Roldan said this week, before the match.

Celebrities who came to see the match included actresses Jennifer Love Hewitt and Rosario Dawson and game-show host Pat Sajak.

The game allowed Americans to size up how the prince played polo. He's known as being competitive but a good sport, Sievwright said.

On Saturday, the prince had a slow start in his first match, but he finished strong in the second, pivotal game.

The games opened the summer polo season.

"Will is disciplined," Sievwright said before the game. "One of the aspects of the game is marking, and it's really important to stay with your man, shadow your man. It's like basketball in that way: Always be blocking, always be shadowing your man. And Will does that very conscientiously. He plays the defensive role."

"He takes the man first and then plays the shots to his team, usually defensive shots. He's very good with backhand. Backhand is when you hit the ball backwards in defense. But he can also hit a clean, full, right-up-the-field as well."

But when compared to his father, Prince Charles, William is "a challenged player," Sievwright said. Charles played the game so hard that he often suffered injuries, Sievwright said.

"Charles was crazy, crazy about polo. He really loved the game as his father did before him. And I think William loves it, but he also has an eye on many other things like flying helicopters," Sievwright said.

As in American pro sports, polo has its share of "polo wives," and that would include Catherine, William's wife, who will be enjoying the game from the viewing stands.

"I think Kate would enjoy polo because if she didn't, she may not have stuck around," Sievwright said. "You get to know the rules if you are a wife or a girlfriend, so you root for your team. She may be holding the spare stick in case it breaks, but it's my suspicion that there might be someone else doing that on the day."

After the game, the royal couple were scheduled to return to Los Angeles, where they have been staying since Friday, and attend a British Academy of Film and Television Arts reception and dinner. The event will recognize 42 emerging British artists working in film, television and video games and promote relationships between Hollywood and the United Kingdom. William is president of BAFTA.

CNN's Lindsey Brylow, Emma Vaughn and Don Eicher contributed to this report.