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Known as the “Sport of Kings,” it’s inherent that polo is not for everyone. It’s expensive. It’s high maintenance. A perfect day of polo requires a well-manicured lawn stretching three football fields, a stable of spry ponies raised and trained for quick bursts of speed and infinite maneuvering, and perhaps the factor that keeps polo [...]
Kevin J. Elliott

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Known as the “Sport of Kings,” it’s inherent that polo is not for everyone.
It’s expensive. It’s high maintenance. A perfect day of polo requires a well-manicured lawn stretching three football fields, a stable of spry ponies raised and trained for quick bursts of speed and infinite maneuvering, and perhaps the factor that keeps polo furthest from the reaches of commoners are sponsors with deep pockets who can assemble a team of all-stars and provide them with the sport’s elaborate regalia and faculty.

In Ohio, it’s certainly not a common sight, but on this, the first Sunday of June, in the shadow of Granville’s famed Bryn Du Mansion, the Columbus Polo Club begins its season. Today, the grass is too high for long shots, the field about 120 yards shy of regulation, there are few spectators in attendance, and each team is mounting three players instead of the usual four. Despite the shortcomings, the club makes due if only for the love of the game.

While the Columbus Polo Club may lack the pomp and circumstance found in more luxurious climes such as Palm Beach, Long Island, or Buenos Aires (Argentina is the world capital of polo), there’s a rustic charm and a sense of tradition that pervades the day. Jack Dill sits atop a flatbed trailer announcing the match, clad in a white Stetson hat. When the action halts, the feisty octogenarian is happy to answer any questions about polo’s intricate rules. He demonstrates the proper way to hold the mallet, discusses how a point is scored, and reminds us more than once of the danger involved. Among his many years in polo, he’s witnessed two deaths.

“Hold your ears,” he says, blowing an air horn to signal the end of the chukker (polo jargon for the game’s seven minute periods).

At halftime, Dill encourages the small crowd to walk the grounds and replace divots made by the horses. A few riders bring their ponies to the sidelines to give a closer look. One even offers a business card in case anyone would like to join – no experience necessary. You don’t even need to know how to ride.

Above all, they want to squash the notion that polo is a game of privilege.

“The people in our club are not millionaires. We aren’t rich. We are just working-class people,” said Troy Everett, who’s acting as the club’s de facto president this season. “In the movies, it comes off as snobbish, but we aren’t like that. There’s even a club we play against in Pennsylvania that call what we do ‘redneck polo.’”

The “redneck” version of polo reached a peak in the 1930s and ’40s, when farmers and their sons learned the game, but in the advent of WWII, and the request by the government to stop playing, clubs (of which there were many across Ohio) disappeared from the landscape. A small number survived as extensions of hunting clubs. Two in particular, in Rocky Fork and Harbor Hills, decided to join forces in the early-’80s to start what eventually became the Columbus Polo Club.

Indeed, times have changed. Since the game isn’t passed through generations like it once was, these days the club has a “come as you are” membership, with anyone regardless of age or gender encouraged to join. Everett is 62 and still playing. This season he’s not only the president but also its benefactor. His Frazeyburg horse farm provides the club with their ponies, and his wife Sheila runs Alpine Polo, a training center for aspiring players and beginners alike.

“A lot of our horses are rescued from the racetrack and it takes a while to re-train them as polo ponies,” said Everett. “We like to think we are giving them a second life, as opposed to being sent over the border to the meat markets.”

Should one want the full pro experience, Everett suggests a trip to Aiken, South Carolina, where polo has achieved a sort of renaissance in recent years. But again, not only does it take a good amount of skill, it also takes finances most of us can’t imagine for such an ascension. For the Columbus Polo Club, it’s not champagne wishes and caviar dreams – they’re just happy if you show up, bring your family – hell, bring a grill if you want. Just respect the game. •

The CPC take on Cincinnati’s club July 13. For more information on the Columbus Polo Club and a schedule of other matches, visit www.columbuspolo.com.

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Big Ten sports will be conference-only come this fall

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Hold your beers, Buckeyes!

If you had plans to head out to Oregon come September to see the Buckeyes take on the Ducks, you’ll have to put your cooler back in the garage, because cross-country football road trips are on hiatus for 2020. 

According to reports from The Athletic and ESPN, the Big Ten Conference is going to announce conference-only play for fall athletics. You can read the official statement from the Big Ten here.

The Big Ten is the first of the Power 5 conferences to announce the decision to scrap non-conference games. After losing non-conference games with the Big Ten, the Pac-12 is expected to make a similar announcement, according to The Athletic.

Some of the reasons behind a conference-only schedule include cutting down on travel while also making sure that athletes are being tested diligently for COVID-19.

There is support amongst Big Ten teams to keep one non-conference game, but the majority support a shortened 10-game schedule.

If this were the case, and basing it off of the original 2020 OSU football schedule, here is who the Buckeyes would match up against this fall:

  • vs. Rutgers on Sept. 26
  • vs. Iowa on Oct. 10
  • @ Michigan State on Oct. 17
  • @ Penn State on Oct. 24
  • vs. Nebraska on Oct. 31
  • vs. Indiana on Nov. 7
  • @ Maryland on Nov. 14
  • @ Illinois on Nov. 21
  • vs. Michigan on Nov. 28

As long as we get to beat Xichigan, right? You can keep an eye on the OSU football schedule here.

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Another professional Columbus sports team might see action this year

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While the Columbus Crew were sent down to Orlando to compete in a tournament to restart the season, the NHL is close to following in similar fashion, according to a report from ESPN.

According to ESPN, the NHL and NHLPA have finalized protocols that would allow for the season to start Aug. 1, with training camps resuming July 13. Play will occur in two hub locations, including Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, as told to ESPN.

That means Columbus could see its beloved Blue Jackets back in action in a few short weeks. 

There’s more at stake in teams returning to NHL play than there are for the MLS teams competing down in Florida. If an agreement is reached, the NHL will skate right into a 24-team playoff.

That’s not before starting training camp, which has a target date of July 13. If all goes well, the Blue Jackets will travel to Toronto on July 25 or 26 to compete in exhibition games.

The playoffs would begin the following week with a qualifying round in which the Blue Jackets would face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in a best-of-five series. 

Players have the opportunity to opt-out of playing without being penalized. 

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No fans on the course, but The Bogey party will carry on for Memorial Tournament watch parties

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It’s a little more than a month later than expected, but Jack Nicklaus will once again host the world's finest golfers—minus their fans— at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin next week.

The 45th Annual Memorial Tournament will be held July 13-19. While originally it would have been the first PGA Tour event with fans, due to surging COVID cases, the Tour announced this week they will no longer allow fans on the course. "The safety of our public and our employees is our highest priority,” said city of Dublin Director of Communications and Public Relations Sue Burness. 

Outside of the course, with bars and restaurants still navigating operations under health guidelines from Gov. Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Health and local health agencies, Memorial Tournament-week festivities are limited.

No large events are planned at Dublin's Bridge Park, which has hosted Fore!Fest concurrently with the Memorial each of the last two years, according to Burness.

But one long-standing tradition will remain intact in 2020—The Bogey in Shawnee Hills will host a watch party throughout the week.

Photo By Julian Foglietti | Shown here is The Bogey's General Manager Mark Dombek

"The Memorial Tournament and The Bogey is a special tradition," General Manager Mark Dombek told 614. "People are going to be ready to enjoy live sports, and The Bogey has always been a place people come for the tournament."

The Bogey will have two giant video walls and stream as much of the tournament as is allowed by the tournament's broadcast partner, Dombek said. 

Health guidelines are ever-changing, Dombek said, but at press time his plan was to have more than 145 new tables added outside the venue (in addition to the 46 new outdoor tables The Bogey added when it re-opened in May), including in the parking lot, which will be barricaded to accommodate the additional tables. A tent will also be set up, so some tables will be covered.

"We're going to fully utilize all of our available space," Dombek said.

Current guidelines still prohibit standing in common areas in bars and restaurants, Dombek said, so patrons will be asked to rent the tables, available for groups of 4-10.

While capacity is impacted by health guidelines, Dombek said he expects to be able to welcome about 1,000 customers at a given time, including the current capacity of 178 inside The Bogey.

Dombek said his staff will enforce social distancing as much as possible, and will place hand sanitizer stations in the temporary outdoor area as well.

The Bogey will host live bands in the evenings, Dombek said, in an effort to make this week "as close to what we'd normally do."

"We've had a ton of people reaching out, asking what we were going to do. This has always been a big week for us. We're listening to our customers and letting them know we're here for as much as we can be," he said.

Visit bogeyinn.com or call 614-766-1900 for information.

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