Date: Wednesday, September 16, 2020
A balmy September day shone brilliantly as players and fans arrived for the Newport Pro-Am on Saturday, September 12, in the Newport International Polo Series. Challengers from Massachusetts rode south to face the home team, Newport, with each side anchored by a Pro and top regional amateurs to contest the silver prize in the last of three matches in the season. While the distinct twang of the steel guitar accompanying the country hits soundtrack set the stage for the day, enthusiastic fans embraced the boys of summer, Cowboy, theme, clad in plaid and boots, with rustic picnics and gingham decor.
The teams assembled at centerfield to introduce the players, starting with Massachusetts in red & white uniforms, fielding Peter Freidman at #1, Tim Day at #2, Margaux Buchanan at #4, and the team's pro, Fernando Talavera at #4. Meeting the challengers for Newport were Dan Kinsella at #1, Stefanie Boyer and Laurel Howe alternating at #2, with Luke Merrick at #3, anchored by pro Rory Torrey.
Following the national anthem, Ashley Erling, executive producer of CBS's The Rhode Show, presided over the Offical Coin Toss to decide the opening direction of attack for the visiting team. Color commentary during the match was provided by the beloved, William Crisp, regarded as the world authority on polo commentating. Live video action and instant replays were produced on the polo world's first Jumbotron video wall scoreboard.
Careful tending through the season kept the field in excellent condition as the game unfolded on the argyle patterned pitch. The first goal came just over a minute into the match from Torrey for the home team. Talavera evened the score less than a minute later, but two more goals by Merrick put Newport in the lead 3-1, at the end of the first chukker. Tighter defense kept both sides in check until Torrey broke through for Newport half-way into the chukker. Massachusetts picked up momentum with goals by Buchanan and Talavera, ending the second chukker with Newport still leading 4-3. Neither side gained a clear advantage in the third chukker as the minutes ticked down and attempts on goal continually rebuffed. With half the chukker played, Talavera broke through, followed again by Buchanan to put Massachusetts in the lead, 5-4.
Lawn games were resumed and barbecues reignited during the half-time intermission while some fans took a masked and socially-distanced stroll across the pitch to tread in, or replace the divots made by the horses. The time-honored tradition helps restore the field for the second half for a smooth surface and faster play. Ranch Water, the popular Drink of the Day was poured at the Patio Bar in keeping with the Cowboy theme. Mouthwatering delights from the on-site food trucks were dished up, including handmade pizza, gourmet hotdogs, kettle corn, homemade ice cream, gelato, donuts, and shaved ice. New limited edition official sportswear was on offer in the fieldside Pro Shop, with new items added weekly alongside the classic collection of teamwear. Old Glory rippled at centerfield next to the national flag of South Africa in a row of 34 international flags overhead that have participated in former seasons.
After the 20 minute intermission, teams returned to the field, ready to employ newly discussed strategies to take the trophy. Newport continued its pattern of leading from the outset as Torrey evened the score, 5-all. Then, Massachusetts turned up the heat with two goals by Day and another from Buchanan in the last minutes for an 8-5 lead. The fifth chukker brought a Newport shutout as Day and Talavera padded the Massachusetts lead, 10-5. Neither side could make the goal at the beginning of the final chukker. Then, 3 minutes in, Merrick overcame the opposition to add a goal for Newport followed by another as the clock ran down. Day had the final word for Massachusetts though, ending the match 11-7 in favor of the visitors.
The teams took their traditional salutatory lap around the perimeter, giving farewell gestures to the applause of grateful attendees, a tradition originating at the Newport International Polo Series in 2003, and now emulated at polo clubs around the world, followed by the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Toast & Trophy Presentation where the perpetual Liberty Bowl was presented to Massachusetts.
Resident portrait photographer Quison Lawhon captured family gatherings and picnics in Cowboy decor & attire (published online at Cocoa & Co.) in contention for Best In Show honors from Stella Artois awarded by guest judge, The Rhode Show's Ashley Erling, and a chance to grace the party pages of an upcoming issue of Boston Common Magazine, while enjoying one of this season's rare 17 matches, still the only live attended sporting event in New England since the start of the pandemic.
Safety being a top priority, RI State approved COVID-19 safety measures are in effect at the polo grounds this season (plan details) including reduced capacity with socially-distanced tables in the Davitt Pavilion, fieldside Tailgates and Picnic Patches on the lawn from which to view the matches at the polo grounds, sold-out audiences have enjoyed the Newport International Polo Series polo matches every Saturday since Opening Day on June 6, where spectators for nearly 30 years have witnessed the timeless sport unfold on the manicured, emerald green at Glen Farm, home of the Polo Series for the past 28 seasons, in a classic exhibition of horsemanship and valor, with host, the Newport Polo Club, where the home team - Newport/USA - meets challengers each season from around the world and as well as teams representing major US cities and regional rivals in one of Newport's unique traditions & renown attractions.
The Polo Series is scheduled to continue every Saturday through September. The schedule of teams is subject to change, as per RI State mandates in effect at the time, on international travel and Adult Sports. Stay current with the 2020 team lineup & stats, latest news, events, and more by e-scription to the Gameday Briefing (sign up) and weekly eMagazine (sign up). Both subscriptions are private and spam-free.
The Polo Grounds' favorable proximity to the shores of the island's Sakonnet east passage provides reliably cool coastal effects, moderating afternoon temperatures and providing a dependable breeze for the late afternoon polo matches all summer. Minutes from the bustling Newport waterfront, the International Polo Grounds are located on the acreage of Glen Farm, 250 Linden Lane (off of Rte. 138) in Portsmouth, RI. This bucolic setting is the last 100 acres of a pre-colonial settlement from the 1600’s that became the Town of Portsmouth's original gentlemen's farm, an 800-acre manorial estate established during a Gilded Age movement of retreat from the high life into pastoral country acres, that would become the future home of polo in the next century. Its classical 19th century stone barns and its park-like grounds were rehabilitated by Polo Series founder, Dan Keating in the early 1990’s and continue to thrive as an equestrian & community recreational property, and home of the Polo Series.
The Newport International Polo Series is honored to present its 2020 sponsors including Gallo|Thomas Insurance, Davitt, Boston Common, Hotel Viking, The Chanler, The Newport Harbor Hotel & Marina, Vanderbilt International Properties, Veuve Clicquot, Clarke Cooke House, Stella Artois, ROCKSTAR Limo, Atria Senior Living, Goslings, McGrath Clambakes and Catering, and promotional partners including The Cocktail Guru, TYGER | Event Design + Production, Newport Jaguar Tours, Newport Helicopter Tours, America's Cup Charters, International Tennis Hall of Fame, Newport Mansions, Island Surf and Sport, Newport Sport Fishing Charters, Providence River Boat Company, and Newport Harbor Guide. Special thanks to Schultz Marketing Partnerships, Van Liew Trust, Tanglewood, and WCRI Classical Rhode Island. “Our sponsors have been with us since the beginning. Without their support, the Series would not be as extensive as it is,” explains Dan Keating, Polo Series founder.
This is the 29th season of Newport International Polo Series, which has hosted teams from 34 nations including, Ireland, Germany, Spain, England, Argentina, France, Egypt, India, Australia, Costa Rica, Ghana, Canada, Chile, Jamaica, Nigeria, Portugal, New Zealand, Barbados, Scotland, South Africa, Hungary, Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Kenya, Brazil, China, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, Singapore, Monaco, Morocco, Peru, and Poland.
Cover Photo by Kevin Bernard. View the Album
Polo, Since 600 b.c.
Polo is, without doubt the oldest ball game in the world today. First recorded in the 6th century b.c. when the Turkomans beat the Persians in a diplomatic tournament, the alluring game caught on with equestrian royalty and cavalry, and took off with globalization, withstanding the tests of time. By the time Polo arrived on Newport’s shores during the Gilded Age, the sport was nearly 2500 years steeped in tradition, captivating newcomers like Newport's summer sporting set who embraced the new pastime, establishing America's first polo club in 1876. A charter member of the United States Polo Association, the club today is still a trailblazing model polo club, hosting the Newport International Polo Series public exhibition matches, supporting philanthropic causes, organizing tournaments, polo club member services and polo instruction year-round. Experience the king of games in its American landing at Newport Polo.