The USPA is on its Way
Every fall the United States Polo Association holds its annual meetings in a different city somewhere in the U.S. This fall, the meetings will be at Newberry Hall in downtown Aiken.
"We try to organize the meetings around a major tournament every fall," says Ed Armstrong, the USPA Director of Tournaments and Clubs. "This year the meetings coincide with the final week of the USPA Silver Cup [at 302 Polo Club]. Aiken is a good spot for the meetings because it's easy for most people to get to. Plus, everyone knows someone that plays in Aiken."
From the players' point of view, the most important item on the agenda is the annual national handicap meeting. This is when all the players in the United States have their handicaps reviewed by their own club delegates as well as by the circuit delegates and the national handicapping committee. Since the composition of every team depends upon the sum of the handicaps of all of its players, accurate and consistent handicaps are crucial to keeping the sport fair and competitive. For players, however, especially for professional players, the goal is often to keep handicaps as low as possible so that they can be considered "cheap" at their rating rather than "heavy", assuring them of more jobs and a better chance of winning.
There are numerous other items on the agenda, including meetings and reports from the various committees. As ever, there is sure to be a fair amount of discussion on topics related to rules changes. The biggest debate is likely to center around the so-called "American rule." For decades, many Americans in the sport have decried the dominance of foreign professionals. Foreign players, they say, are often under-rated, and take playing opportunities away from young American professionals. Over the years, various rules have been enacted that are intended to help Americans get and keep playing jobs. The latest rule, set to take effect on January 1, states that every team entered in a tournament with a handicap of 22 or below must have at least one Registered Player member (i.e., a U.S. citizen), in addition to the "sponsor" who may be of any nationality (foreign players are registered as Affiliate Members.)
USPA officials, delegates and committee members will descend on Aiken from all over the country. They will be staying at several area hotels, including the Willcox, Hotel Aiken and the Hampton Inn on Whiskey Road. Polo players are generally people who like to have a good time. With the Silver Cup finals and the fall meetings going on, expect evenings in downtown Aiken to look like one big party between October 14 and 18.