When most people hear the term “polo” they usually either think about Julia Roberts whooping it up in the movie “Pretty Woman” or a clothing line by Ralph Lauren. In fact, polo is regarded as the oldest team sport in history, having been played 2,500 years ago in Persia.
A more modern version will be on display this Saturday when the 2016 Polo at the Point event takes place at the Sonny Hill-Clearwater Polo Complex off U.S. 98 in Point Clear. This continues a Baldwin County tradition that began in 1988.
“Polo at the Point has become one of Alabama’s grandest one-day charitable events,” said Linda Lou Parsons, who is serving as the committee chairperson for the eighth straight time. “It is a wonderful cause. I had come as a spectator for many years. We have close to 100 volunteers at the event, but about 50 to 60 work throughout the year figuring out all the intricate steps. We all just want to give back to the community.”
Polo at the Point has designated Thomas Hospital Foundation and USA Mitchell Cancer Institute as its main beneficiaries. Parsons said 12 to 14 other charities would also receive assistance. Millions of dollars have helped children in Mobile and Baldwin counties during the tournament’s 28 years.
The U.S. Polo Association-sanctioned event, which is presented by Mercedes-Benz of Mobile and Grand Hotel Marriott, will feature two polo matches. A tournament is taking place now to decide the final four. Clubs in the field are Clearwater (Point Clear), Upatoi (Georgia), Fairplay (South Carolina), Parrot Heads (Texas), Botega/Bobcats (Birmingham and Louisiana) and Tiburon (Texas and Louisiana).
Polo is unique among sports for having professionals play next to amateurs. One of the most famous players in previous years was Major Ronald Ferguson, the one-time deputy chairman of the Guards Polo Club of Windsor but better known as the father of Sarah, Duchess of York. The after-party in those early days normally took place at the legendary Judge Roy Bean club on Scenic 98.
For those who have not attended a polo match, think of a sport that combines horse racing, hockey and soccer. The field is 300 yards long and 160 yards wide, with goalposts set eight yards apart at each end. There are four players on each team, who work to drive the ball through for a goal.
Although referred to as “polo ponies,” the players ride on full-sized horses. These animals are highly trained and can make a larger difference in the outcome than the rider’s skills. The games are divided into periods called “chukkers.” Because of the fast action, the horses are swapped after each break.
The gates will open at 11:30 a.m., with the silent auction to begin at noon. The first match — the Charity Cup — gets underway at 12:30 p.m. and will decide the third-place finisher. The clubs will represent tournament sponsors Dream Ranch and Schwing Bioset.
The second match of the day — called the Grand Oak Cup — will start at 3:30 p.m. and be for the overall championship. The award presentation follows at 5 p.m. with music for the player’s party beginning at 6 p.m.
Ticket prices range from $10 for the tailgate side to $150 for the catered luncheon tents. Tailgate tickets can be purchased (cash only) at the gate, while tailgate admission for children under 6 is free. A food truck will be present on the tailgate side. In addition to a “hat parade” and “divot stomping,” there will be a raffle for a Mercedes, a tent for college football fans to watch games and a silent auction with hundreds of items available.
For more information, please visit www.poloatthepoint.com or call 251-928-9704.
● When the football schedule came out for the University of South Alabama, two of the biggest challenges appeared to be Mississippi State and San Diego State. The Jaguars, though, have come up with victories in both games to stand at 3-2 going into Saturday’s showdown at Arkansas State. Quarterback Cole Garvin, making his first career start, has been named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week (POW). In place of an injured Dallas Davis, the sophomore completed 16-of-21 attempts for 242 yards and three touchdowns to lead USA to a 42-24 defeat of the nationally ranked Aztecs.
● The Spring Hill College men’s golf team won the Badger Shootout on their par-72, 7,160-yard home course. It was their second consecutive victory after claiming the Battle on the Bayou at the TPC Louisiana in Avondale. At the SHC course, the Badgers shot a combined 884 (287, 301, 296) to outdistance William Carey by 12 strokes. Individually, senior Jesse Redman (72, 71, 73) of Spanish Fort tied for first place with Stephen Wall (72, 75, 69) from USA. Wall took the championship in the second hole of a sudden death playoff.
● Laura Labuschaigne, a cross-country competitor for USA, has been named the league’s Female Runner of the Week (ROW). The sophomore placed 30th out of 368 runners with a time of 17:29.20 in the women’s 5-kilometer run at the Greater Louisville Classic.
● The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference named Spring Hill’s Nicole Kotval as the Cross-Country ROW for the second time. The junior was second at the Gulf Coast Stampede hosted by the University of West Florida in a time of 19:46.30.
● LaDonna Bonner and Leith Rawson of the University of Mobile swept the Southern States Athletic Conference Women’s and Men’s Cross-Country ROW honors. Bonner, a senior, turned in a time of 21:33 at the Gulf Coast Stampede. Rawson, a sophomore from Satsuma, ran the 8-kilometer course in 28:36.
● SHC freshman Sarah Senft was the SIAC Volleyball Newcomer of the Week. She helped the Lady Badgers win six straight matches with 40 kills, 23 digs, seven aces, five assists and four blocks.
● Jessica Bagwell of the University of Mobile was named the SSAC Volleyball Defender of the Week. The senior had 5.57 digs per set as the Lady Rams went 4-0. She leads the conference with 339 digs.
● The men’s bowling team at Spring Hill finished first at the Green River Classic in Campbellsville, Kentucky. The top individual bowler was Jackson Harris, who was in fourth place. The SHC women were fifth in their division.
● Cecilia Duarte and Tyler-Rae Molloy of the University of Mobile swept the SSAC Women’s Soccer POW honors. Duarte, a senior goalie, picked up four-save shutouts in two wins. Molloy, a senior forward, collected two goals and two assists.