Annual polo match funds local scholarships

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Aug 22 – WILLIAMSBURG – Unless you were lucky enough to attend the Gatsby-esque Governor’s Island polo match in New York, chances are that in the United States you haven’t seen a match. polo shirt or you don’t know anything about the game.

But a few hundred at Flintfields Horse Park in Williamsburg were able to witness a “The Sport of Kings” game between the University of Michigan and Michigan State Polo clubs up close on Saturday afternoon – all for a small donation of $ 10.

The annual charity event brought several “Go Blue” and “Go Green” chants to the Turtle Creek Casino International Ring from residents of Traverse City wearing Kentucky Derby-style hats and stylish outfits on a hot summer afternoon. ‘summer.

Organizers didn’t have an exact dollar figure for the money raised between sponsorships, VIP tables, and entry fees on Saturday, but they planned to give more than a dozen scholarships to students in the five Grand Traverse counties that planned to attend Michigan’s two lighthouses. schools after graduating from Northwestern Michigan College.

Scholarships were also collected for exclusively NMC students.

“I think we are probably looking at five scholarships that will come to NMC and 10 to each of the other institutions, but which will be played out depending on the funds raised,” said NMC chairman Nick Nissley.

NMC recently completed its “Be What’s Possible” fundraising campaign. Its initial target of $ 35 million was surpassed by the $ 40 million raised, hitting it by 114%.

“One of the things I heard when I interviewed was that people were saying that NMC is not just a college, it is the college of the community. When I interviewed, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. But being here a year and a half now, it became very clear to me, “said Nissley. “I’m just looking at a 90 degree day here at the equestrian park, the fact that there are so many people here is because they think this is the college of the community.”

Described by polo professional Nacho Figueras – the face of Ralph Lauren – as “playing golf during an earthquake”, points in the sport are scored when the ball crosses the goal posts at the end of the game. arena. If a player shoots a goal from more than half of the arena, it counts as two points.

The game is divided into “chukkers” which last 7.5 minutes. After playing a chukker, the riders exchange their horses.

The Spartans won the three-on-three exhibition match 13-5. The team consisted of Becca Stevens, Kevin Stevens and Paul Knapp. The Michigan team consisted of Sarah Knapp, Shamus Dillon and Caleb Pilukas.

Pilukas plays for the Detroit Polo Club. Becca and Kevin Stevens play at the Grand Rapids Polo Club. Sarah and Paul Knapp have their own barn and travel as the “Flat Out” team, and they also coach the MSU team.

“We do it because we love horses,” said Sarah Knapp of Rockford, who is actually a 2001 Michigan state graduate who traded jerseys for the day and played for UM. “They say a polo pony is about 80% of the game.”

Obviously, the ball is out of play a bit. A regulatory field is 300 meters long and 160 meters wide, which is enough to accommodate nine football pitches. The Flintfields ring was roughly an eighth of this typical size.

“We’re playing four on four and the horses are going 30 to 45 miles an hour so you need the space because when you’re at full blast you run out of real estate if you want to,” Knapp said. .

The event was hosted by President Ross Childs, who led it in 2017 and 2018. It took a year off in 2019 and the 2020 event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Childs, a UM alumnus, met Chuck Benson, an MSU alumnus, in 2017 with the idea of ​​starting a fundraiser to bring Wolverines and Spartans together in the TC area. Benson assumed the role of vice president. The whole event is run by volunteers.

“I think we are perhaps the only fundraiser that is hosting these two universities at a joint event,” Childs said.

In its first year, the Go Blue / Go Green 501 © Polo Match (3) awarded five scholarships to students from Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Kalkaska, Antrim and Benzie counties. The following year, in 2018, they awarded eight scholarships. Childs predicted that number would drop to between 10 and 15 this fall.

Childs, too, had never seen a polo match before. He became intrigued after speaking with the president of the University of Michigan Polo Club.

“He said give it a try, and it was a rarity. People love to come and see him,” Childs said.

Many businesses and entities in Traverse City supported the event. Chukkers were sponsored by North Peak Brewing Company. Speakers during the intermissions were Traverse Connect, the Downtown Traverse City Association (DDA), and the Traverse City Visitors Bureau.

Barrel races and line dancing followed the polo match between MSU and UM until the event ended around 7 p.m.

There was also a hat competition separated into categories for school colors for each of the three schools.

Kimberly Purdy, a UM alum from Traverse City, came prepared with a 2-foot-wide blue hat.

“My sister was having a Kentucky Derby party, so I had a few hats. I saw there was a hat contest, so I grabbed one and walked out,” Purdy said. “I had two hats. One was red and the other was blue. But because I went to Michigan, I thought, ‘I’m going to bring the blue hat’ and here I am.”

She didn’t know anything about the polo rules until Saturday, but understood enough to feel repugnance for one thing.

“I didn’t like the start because State was getting ahead,” she said as the Spartans held a 4-0 lead after the first chukker. “We were talking because we didn’t want to see Michigan State progress, and she kept reminding us, ‘Hey, there’s a game going on. “”

Follow Andrew Rosenthal on Twitter @ByAndrewR

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