Branko Petrovec’s town, Borken, in his native Germany still has wild horses, so he felt right at home Saturday at the 16th-annual Pacers and Polo, where riders wielding mallets charged up and down the field chasing a small, white ball.
Pacers and Polo benefits student scholarships at USC Aiken. The Pacer is the university’s mascot. The Alison South Marketing Group and Burger King sponsor the polo match, the final event of Aiken’s Triple Crown, at Powderhouse Field.
Petrovec, who is implementing machinery for the Swiss Kronos manufacturing plant in Barnwell, has been in Aiken since last May and has immersed himself in the city’s equine culture and traditions.
Last weekend, Petrovec; his wife, Regina; and his niece, Fabienne Di Renzo, who are visiting from Germany for a few weeks, attended the Aiken Steeplechase. While in Aiken, Petrovec is even living on a horse farm.
“We love your beautiful town and the horse events,” Branko Petrovec said. “This is the first time in our lives at a polo game. We are really impressed and really enjoying it.”
Branko Petrovec, who is from Germany but it working in Barnwell, right, enjoys the tent party at USC Aiken’s Pacers and Polo with his wife, Regina Petrovec, middle, and his niece, Fabienne Di Renzo. Saturday’s event was the first polo match for the family.
For the Pacers and Polo tent party, the Petrovec family fit right, getting in on one of the Aiken Triple Crown’s trendiest traditions: hats – the fancier the better.
Seated at a front-row table in the tent, Di Renzo wore a summer straw hat with a wide band and a turned-up brim; Regina Petrovec was crowned with frilly feathers that fluttered in the warm breeze; and Branko Petrovec sported a spiffy straw fedora.
Branko Petrovec said it would be hard to name his favorite part of Pacers and Polo and the Triple Crown.
“It’s difficult to say because everything is new and the impressions are so great,” he said. “Everything is nice.”
For the first time, USCA’s rebooted men’s polo team, coached by Tiger Kneece, an Aiken native and retired professional polo player, took to the field for the six chukker game. The match pitted Harry Caldwell against his twin brother, Charlie Caldwell, and Jim Deal. USCA’s team members also play professionally.
The Alison South team defeated Burger King 9-7.
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A Burger King team member, in black, makes a play for the ball Saturday with an Alison South player close behind at USC Aiken’s Pacers and Polo at Powderhouse Field. The match was the final event of Aiken’s 2019 Triple Crown.
Staff Photo by Cindy Kubovic
Cynthia South, the president of Alison South Marketing Group, said she was excited the USCA polo players are on the company’s team this year.
“We’re looking forward to seeing them in action,” she said before the game.
South said her company’s sponsorship of Pacers and Polo is an “investment” in the community.
“Our company was founded here in Aiken. Aiken is our soul, and the university is so important to our community,” she said. “It’s also a lovely opportunity to interact with the community and our sponsors. It’s a very important part of what we do as a company in giving back to our community.”
Marissa Collins, the staff advisor for USCA’s polo team and who works in advancement and alumni office, said the university hopes to expand its polo team and possibly add a women’s team next year.
“It’s really exciting this year because we get to represent ourselves to the community,” Collins said. “We’d love to try to grow the team and especially get the women’s team going again. Those are our big focuses for next year.
“No one needs riding or polo experience to play. Any student who is interested in playing polo can participate. We provide the horse, the tack, the equipment and the lessons.”
Pacers and Polo supports USCA Pacer athletics and scholarships for student athletes.
Tim Hall, the associate athletic director at USCA, said student athletes helped set up for the event during the week and volunteered Saturday to park cars and do other jobs. Coaches sold tickets at each gate.
“We try to get everybody involved,” he said. “It’s just a fantastic day to mingle with the community and for everybody to have a good time.”
USCA Chancellor Dr. Sandra Jordan said Pacers and Polo has become a tradition for families – locally and beyond.
“We have guests here from Colorado, from Augusta and other cities around the nation and state. They come back because they have such a good time,”she said. “So, come on out and enjoy it – if not this year, next year. It’s a great day for USC Aiken and Aiken.”