Thursday, March 5, 2009

Westchester Cup at Palm Beach Polo Club

Designed by Tiffany & Co. in 1887, the 396.3 ounce sterling silver Westchester Cup was manufactured at a cost of $840.
England edges US 10-9 to win Westchester Cup at Palm Beach Polo Club
By Augustus Mayhew

Polo fans may never number in the same legions as horse racing, soccer or NASCAR but this past weekend's 2009 Westchester Cup, staged at the exclusive International Polo Club Palm Beach as a benefit for the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, showcased the polo world's often delicate balance of popularizing a sport that some still regard only to be enjoyed by the royal and the wealthy. While there was no Harry or Fergie or Madonna, the afternoon was a mix of ardent polistas, the never-seen with the see-and-be-seen, some of the horse world's dynastic families as well as social personalities, there to witness the revived showdown between the US and UK featuring the sport's best players who provided the 2,000 spectators with a final half exciting enough to fill a stadium ten times as large as the IPCPB's Wellington venue.
Wellington artist Rollin McGrail's poster for the historic 2009 Westchester Cup and the heated halftime hat contest. McGrail's work is often found in Vanity Fair, the Washington Post, and is reminiscent of the flair once found in New Yorker magazine.
The Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame's Westchester Cup organizing committee included: Thomas L. Biddle, Sr., chairman, Stephen Orthwein, committee chairman, George J. DuPont, Jr., Maria Feola, Melissa Ganzi, Julian Hipwood, Merle R. Jenkins, Melanja Jones, Horace A. LaHaye, Brenda Lynn, James A. Newman and Peter J. Rizzo.
The two teams seen moments before the watches, medals and honors were awarded. USA: Jeff Hall, Nico Roldan, Adam Snow and Jeff Blake. England: James Beim, Mark Tomlinson, Eduardo Astrada and Luke Tomlinson, winner of the match's MVP Cup.
First, the winners! The UK team, center stage, James Beim, Mark Tomlinson, 9-goaler Eduardo Astrada and Luke Tomlinson with their coaches, and second from left, Nicholas A. J. Colquhoun-Denvers, Esq., chairman of the Hurlington Polo Association. Britain also won in 1997 when the Westchester Cup was last played at Guards Polo Club.
Stephen A. Orthwein, chairman of the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame, and his wife, Ginny Orthwein, presented the Westchester Cup to England's team. Eduardo Astrada's son, second from right, stands by his father.
Whatever high spirits and exuberance surrounded the weekend's event, there was a subdued undertone, considering the recent tragic fatal fall by Millbrook resident Tracey Mactaggert while playing on a polo league at a Wellington field. Then, USA high-goaler Mike Azzaro was sidelined from play after a fall left him with a broken collarbone. Beyond the gentlemanly rivalry, these accidents are a reminder that for all its incomparable social allure and its repute as a sport of kings, polo is as dangerous as it is thrilling.
A 10-goal player for more than a decade, Mike Azzaro attended the match even though he was scratched from the US lineup following his fall last week, leaving some to believe it left the US team crippled.
Missy Corey, Russell G. Corey and Doli Rodriguez. An accomplished polo player, Mr. Corey comes from a polo family, his father, Alan Corey Jr., is in polo's Hall of Fame and his brother, Alan Corey III, is affiliated with the Aiken Polo Club.
Thomas J. Biddle, chairman of the U.S. Polo Association. When he is not on a polo field, John B. Goodman, International Polo Club founder, heads up Houston-based Goodman Global Inc., the second largest domestic manufacturer of HVAC units.
George J. Dupont, Jr., executive director of the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame. The thoroughbred world's Leverett Miller was given the honor of the coin toss. Grandson of Harry Payne Whitney and nephew of Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, Mr. Miller and his wife, Linda, are supporters of the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame.
Because IPCPB is a private club, I was restricted as to who,what,where I could take photographs. I was permitted to snap people as they arrived and during the divot stomp at halftime. Since many entered through the private club area or were whisked up an elevator directly to their boxes, and since I was not allowed to photograph anyone in a reserved box, I was slightly handicapped. The press box was in the lower NE corner, far from the prime center boxes.
A little history gives the game some perspective.
The 1939 match at Meadowbrook was the last time the Westchester Cup was played in the US.
I was fortunate sitting next to polo savant, Alex Webbe, whose knowledge of the sport increased my appreciation for more than just the history of it. Also, interestingly, I had complete access to both teams pre-match where I would have thought security would have kept cameras and microphones at a distance. Nonetheless, except for a wind-chilled sunburn, it was an historic day for polo.
Jane Ylvisaker, Len Tomaka and Claudia Brandt.
Dee Roldan, US player Nico Roldan's mother, and Nicole Davis.
Katy Amling and Jeffrey Amling. John Parmenter and Aiofe Parmenter came from England to cheer their team.
Melissa Hornung and Rick Bostwick. Mr. Bostwick is a member of one of the horse world's most legendary 20th-century families.
Jamie Gordon and LouLou Gordon came from England to witness the historic match. Art Frigo and Monica Von Glahn.
Polo magazine founder Ami Shinitzky and Binny Jolly.
Meanwhile at the south end of the field, the US and UK teams were encamped in their respective tents prepping for the match, mapping strategy, doing press interviews and having some one-on-one with their trainers.
The British team has brought along just a few accessories. Let's see those fifty mallets must be here somewhere.
USA#3 player Nico Roldan, the youngest player ever to win the US Open in 1998, passes on some last-minute notes to a team member.
Clockwise from above: Jeff Hall; A polista since he was twelve, the UK's #1 James Beim takes a meditative moment before the match; Jeff Blake.
Nico Roldan and team members undergo some rigorous maneuvers from their trainers.
Clockwise from top left: US coach Owen Rinehart, a recent inductee into the Hall of Fame, who played on the US team in 1992, the last year the US won; A trainer gives a US player a last minute massage before the game; USA#4 player, Jeff Hall; Diedre Nardi.
Under their own tent, the ladies enjoy roughing it during the polo match.
Missy Diack, Lee Diack, and Diane Sadowski.
Lady Radford and Mary Ujhelly.
Brenda Lynn and Linda Clarke with Polo Hall of Fame member Fred Fortugno.
John Walsh, America's #1 crime fighter on the scene at Stanford Field. Luke Van Alen.
Saks Fifth Avenue's Elisabeth Munder and Ray Gonzalez.
Carolyn Patton and Catherine Davis.
Stacey Hetherington with Veuve Clicquot in one hand and Buddy in the other waiting to hear of she won the hat contest.
IPCPB security man Larry Coyle. Alex Webbe, polo historian and writer for various polo venues including the Palm Beach Daily News. I had never met him and sat beside him during the match, appreciating his encyclopedic knowledge about polography and game commentary.
Now that the 2009 Westchester Cup is history, Stephen Orthwein and his wife, Ginny Orthwein, can spend more time at their Port Mayaca Polo Club, 45-minutes west of Wellington.
Kilting it on a windy day might sound problematic but does not stop the Palm Beach Pipes & Drums from kicking off the festivities.
Scenes from on the field at the 2009 Westchester Cup ...
USA #3 Nick Roldan’s Argentine thoroughbred, Beijing, was awarded Best Playing Pony.
A view of the IPCPB's prime box seats on the day before the stellar match. The Press-Media box is the lower rail corner. along the rail above the lawn seats.
First row center, where else, huh? These are the hot seats.
During halftime, there's time to drive down to The Tackeria where you'll find an array of traditional equestrian and polo fashion as well as bling. Check out the belts.
Hall of Fame polo player John T. Oxley's portrait hangs in the Great Hall at the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame in Lake Worth, donated by Mr. Oxley's son, John C. Oxley, founder of Oxley Petroleum who along with is brother, Thomas, ran Royal Palm Polo in Boca Raton for many years.

Photographs by Augustus Mayhew. Graphics courtesy of Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame

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