Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Townsend Cup

Back in March of 1923, a team of three American polo players in Manhattan played an international arena polo match against a team of three British players. The John R. Townsend International Cup was put on in conjunction with the national arena polo championships in the Squadron A Armory which once stood on Madison Avenue between 94th and 95th streets.

The British team arrived a month before the tournament started and spent the intervening weeks practicing the indoor game as it was played in America. The Americans were beating the British pretty badly in practice, until a few days before the tournament when the British were able to ride their own horses which had been brought over by ship. Then, they surprised everyone by beating an accomplished American team by a score of 10 to 4. But when it counted, the Americans came out on top, winning all three games by decisive margins (41/2-1, 11-2, 10-4.)

The British didn't return to contest the cup again until 2004, when again they lost, playing at the Empire Polo Club in California.  They lost once more in 2008, playing against a team that included John Gobin, an Aiken resident and 6-goal arena player.

The Townsend Cup returned to Empire this March 26. The American team consisted of two players with Aiken connections, John Gobin and Tommy Biddle (9 goals), who played along with Shane Rice, a 7-goal arena player who has been a part of the Aiken scene in recent years.

Once again, the American team was dominant, downing the British by a score of 15 to 9.

Aiken Dry Goods

Polo players will have a new place to shop for mallets, boots, tack and other equipment this spring at Aiken Dry Goods, a store that has just opened on Laurens Street, right next to the Hotel Aiken.

Aiken Dry Goods offers an eclectic mixture of clothing that ranges from designs by Free People and True Grit to riding clothes by Euro-Fit and Gersemi. There is also jewelry and various décor items. The back wall is devoted to tack, mostly imported from Argentina, and the back room will soon stock polo mallets, boots and other gear of the game.

Jami Chandler, who moved here recently from Saratoga Springs, is in charge of the clothing and décor part of the store, while her partner Matthew Fonseca, a 3-goal player based in Aiken, will be looking after the polo equipment. Matthew is planning to stock Tato's Mallets as well as hard-to-find Argentine brands such as Sebastian Ucha and Casablanca Polo Gear.

Aiken Dry Goods is on Facebook.