With all the current talk about an economic meltdown, polo organizers in Aiken are looking forward to the spring season with a measure of apprehension. Will people still want to play polo? Will anyone be able to afford to play polo? What will become of all the beautiful fields?
Although the season hasn’t started yet, so far, things look promising on the playing front. It is certainly true that economic circumstances have curtailed the activity of some of the most reliable teams at the medium and high goal levels. There are also very likely numerous lower profile players who will not be spending as much on their polo this year. But Aiken’s playing base is both wide and deep. Early indications are that there will indeed be a polo season this spring, and it might even be a good one. Just to be safe, organizers at various clubs have lowered fees and put together various incentives for players.
For instance, 302 Polo is holding three medium goal tournaments this spring (one 14 and two 16 goals). To encourage participation, they are giving a discount to teams that enter more than one tournament. There is even talk about adding a cash prize for the winners. “We call it our 302 stimulus package,” laughs Barb Uskup, one of the club’s organizers.
Other clubs are looking forward to active low goal seasons this spring. New Bridge Polo Club, now managed by Willie Hartnett, will hold a 12 goal tournament in April, followed by an 8 goal tournament in May and a 6 goal tournament, date to be determined. “We were a little bit worried about what would happen at first,” says Eugene Gibelli, the New Bridge general manager. “But every day I am getting calls from people who are interested in looking at property here, and players who are coming to play. It helps that we have approximately 50 members. I think regardless of the economy, we are going to have an exciting season.”
Aiken Polo Club has made its spring season more affordable by lowering the goal level of the tournaments. Last year, for instance, Aiken held one 4 goal and three 8 goals. This year there will be three 4 goals and one 8 goal.
Poloists who want to play even more economically can choose among three low goal clubs in the area. Wire Road Polo Club is having $10 per chukker practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as a 4 goal league and a 6 goal league. The schedule isn’t out yet for Omar Cepeda’s O.C. Farm, but last fall’s 4-6 goal tournaments there were enjoyable and affordable. There will even be inexpensive polo on some very top class fields at the Brigadoon Polo Club in Windsor. Rebecca Gutierrez, who has been running chukkers and leagues at Edisto Polo in Wagener for the past few years, is moving her operation to the new field at Brigadoon. There will be three 4-6 goal tournaments in April and May, with discounts for teams that enter two or more tournaments.
Interested in polo? Here are some numbers and websites: Aiken Polo Club: www.aikenpoloclub.org, 803.643.3611. 302 Polo Club: www.302polo.com, 803.642.8780 (tournaments) or 803.642.8787 (practices.) New Bridge Polo and Country Club: www.newbridgepolo.com, 803.644.7706. Brigadoon Polo Club: 561.676.2879. Wire Road Polo Club: 561.722.5953. Omar Cepeda: 561.762.4506.