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Resurgent Polo in San Antonio Photo: Robbin Cresswell
Polo is once again being played in San Antonio! After several years of inactivity, the San Antonio Polo Club has been installed in a handsome 120 acre facility in Bulverde, and played its first tournament on Saturday, 10 November. The San Antonio Cup was won by Club President Ursula Pari who captained the team comprised of her, Bill Askins, Gal Shweiki, and Keller Henderson during a spirited afternoon duel on the new field.
Photo: Molly Brunet
The Patron of the Club, prominent land developer G.G. Gale, was on hand to present the magnificent trophy and received a toast of champagne from all players and fans for his kindness and generosity which made the afternoon possible.
"Polo is a very addictive sport," said Ursula Pari, who has played since her college days, as she addressed the crowd at the tournament. "It combines horses, and speed in a difficult ball game that challenges the players like nothing else that can be done on horseback."
San Antonio is the birthplace of American polo. The game was first played by former British Army officers who were ranching in the Boerne area in 1876 and spread quickly to both San Antonio and the New York area. The Long Island players discovered that Texas cowponies were ideal for playing polo, being considerably faster and handier than the plugs that they had back east. So trainloads of ponies went north, dramatically improving the Easterners' game.
Since this beginning so long ago, San Antonio has produced some of the greatest polo players in the United States, to include the legendary Cecil Smith, the Barry clan, Ray Harrington, Memo and Carlos Gracida, and the most recent inductee in the Polo Hall of Fame Mike Azzaro. These experts often dominated the game in the United States from the 1930s through the 1990s, working from their home base in the Alamo City while competing in Chicago, New York, Florida and California. In the era of the '70s and '80s San Antonio polo was championed by Steve Gose, who built the absolutely fantastic Retama Polo Center, the biggest polo center in the country with 22 fields, a fine clubhouse, and stabling for 400 horses on 600 acres in Selma. He hosted the Cup of the Americas where the USA played World Champion Argentina as well as several U.S. Open Championships. It was the Mecca for high goal polo during its twenty year run.
The fields were eventually developed into a housing subdivision, and polo here took a nosedive in the 1990s. But Ursula Pari, the well-regarded KSAT anchor and veteran player, was determined to keep polo alive here, as it is her favorite pastime. Working diligently, she has put together a viable club, found it a really nice home in the country and polo is once again being played with great enthusiasm in the Alamo City; albeit not with the same skill that it was in its glory days.
Combining with a handful of experienced players who do not relish trekking to Houston or Dallas to play, plus a growing band of novices and supporters, Ursula has put together a most pleasant club which plays each week at the new club which is located at 285 Obst Road, Bulverde, adjacent to the Tejas Rodeo grounds.
The club is organized as a charitable 501c (3) corporation and will sponsor various fund raising events for worthy children's organizations, Wounded Warriors and the like. The facilities will be available for use by organizers of youth and charitable groups, and the Club will provide polo as entertainment in conjunction with these activities. The San Antonio Polo Club is encouraging riders to join the club, take up the sport, bring their friends and learn to play this game, which is, in the opinion of most players, the best possible thing you can do on horseback!
Resurgent Polo Photo: Robbin Cresswell
Lessons are available at the club at $60 a lesson; this includes both a polo pony and the instructor. Lessons by appointment, and will be available during the week, as well as from 10am on Saturday and Sunday. Doug Brunet, the Club professional (tel 830 708 6537), is an accomplished player with thirty years of experience and an easy manner who will teach novices the game. Facilities include a full board barn at $400 a month, a swimming pool, exhibition arena, a full size field, two practice areas, a lake, a cantina, and a party area; all of which are available for use by Club members. Annual dues are $150; members must also become members of the United States Polo Association which has different levels of membership depending on the degree of involvement in the sport. The aim of the San Antonio Polo Club is to promote the sport of polo, play this demanding and intriguing game, and enjoy our horses.
For further information call the Club at 210-310-9866, or visit the website at www.sanantoniopoloclub.com. You will be most welcome when you join.
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