By Amy Phillips Penn

What do you give the woman who has everything?

The Argentine polo player, of course: the trophy must-have from the pricey fields of Bridgehampton to Palm Beach.

Let the games begin.

There’s an adage in the polo world: “Players only stop playing polo if they die or go broke.” This for a sport with mandatory ambulances parked on the fields.

Polo is sooooooooooooooo seductive. The money, the danger, the devastatingly gorgeous men, the party-beyond-hearty attitude, the fortunes, reversals of fortune, and the incredible landscapes it resides in: Palm Beach, the Hamptons, the California desert, Deauville, Aspen in the snow and anywhere else the rich and flamboyant flaunt their credit cards.

Feeling frisky? Join the “seven-up club,” for polo groupies, who make their play for polo players with a handicap of seven and up.

The oldest team sport, polo has the cachet of the moneyed set: privileged, personal bodyguards, royalty and nouveaux all on the same playing field. With its mallet, Polo beckons those with social aspirations and wide brimmed hats, which masquerade as savoir faire.

An easy in? To the periphery, perhaps.

My great-great uncle played polo in New Jersey. Rumor had it that the family business paid him handsomely “not to go to work.” He took the money and galloped onto a polo field with a nine goal pro (ten is as great as it gets) and married a woman less than half his age. When he died, the pro ran off with the wife, and you can fill in the divots from there.

Polo is a glorified camp for the rich who can play with the best players in the world, simply by writing out a check and keeping their well heeled boots in the stirrups.

One patron paid everyone from his pros to his groom with stock from his software company. At the end of the season, the checks were a shredded “bonfire of vanities,” as his company went the way of broken tech promises.

Polo is a sponsor’s ballgame. Each team has a least one sponsor, usually with a low handicap, and is surrounded by generously paid pros who yell at him in Spanglish. It’s not always pretty. Entiende usted?

There is something inevitably romance-novelesque about polo. While the sponsors are generally not GQ cover material, the pros, often Argentine, are beyond the scope of women’s most over-the- scoreboard sexual fantasies.

A cocktail of 007 on a polo pony with attitude gets whatever 007 wants.

When a sponsor’s beautiful young wife was caught in the tack room with one of her husband’s pros, there was nothing to debate. The sponsor divorced his wife and kept the pro.

An erstwhile “patron,” (said with a soft “a”) who was considered “the most embarrassing player” ever to hit the Palm Beach polo field, put more than one player in the hospital—though not with a mallet, a bump, a ball or a hook. This man, who could barely ride, simply stopped short in the middle of the polo field. Boom! Some of the best players in the world rode right into him, then onto an ambulance.

His pros took the best possible care of him. They rubbber-banded his boots into the stirrups (don’t try this one at home), and always mounted him on the push buttons of ponies.

“What’s this one’s name?” he would ask.

“That’s Dante,” they told him, “your favorite horse.”

When he played Dante a few chukkers later, he’d ask again.

“That’s Giorgio, your favorite horse.”

As summer polo descends into the Hamptons, some of the best playing polo players in the world arrive to play, party and perhaps ink a modeling contract or liason or two.

The arrivistes, please-photograph-me types stampede in, practically begging to be cast in a reality show they’ve  scripted, or to brush britches with the uber-famous Nacho.

Competitive prices are paid to sit in the boxes— to see, be seen, and avoid a polo ball landing in one’s lemon martini.

Polo is inclusive but it takes a good road map and guts.

Be your own reality show star.

Take a polo lesson.

Sit on the back of a truck and tailgate.

Sip a little “mate:” look it up if you need to, or fly to Argentina.

Your Argentine awaits.

 

Featured image courtesy of CBS News

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