The winter season is just around the corner at Port Mayaca Polo Club, for what promises to be another busy year. With all farm lots sold and four newly-constructed farms that will be occupied soon, the club from Okeechobee, Florida, expects to have over 450 polo ponies staying on the property. Club member practices started this month and will continue with weekly chukkers on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The tournament season will start in January with competitions at the 8-goal, 14-goal and 18-goal levels.
Some of the highlights are the return of the Butler Handicap®, Monty Waterbury® and Heritage Cup®. Other events include the Stephen Orthwein Memorial Cup in January, and the Live Oak Challenge in March, which has been played at Port Mayaca since 2009. The ladies will also see tournaments, including the return of the Tabebuia Cup at the 22-goal level, to serve as a great lead into the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship®, which Port Mayaca will again co-host with International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC), in Wellington, Florida.
To learn more about the winter season at Port Mayaca Polo Club, CLICKPOLO spoke with Club Manager, Laura Linfoot Townsend.
What are the club’s goals for this season?
“Our goals remain to promote competition and camaraderie among polo enthusiasts. We are proud to provide a polo venue where people can bring their operation for the winter, and never leave the facility if they so choose. We provide on-site practices, hundreds of acres to ride and school, competitive polo from 8- to 18-goals, and some of the best women’s polo in the world.”
SD Farm’s Santiago Torres competing in the 2021 Butler Handicap® at Port Mayaca Polo Club. ©David Lominska
For many years, people thought of Wellington as the place for polo in Florida. With the development Port Mayaca has done over the past years do you think that the club has managed to make a name for itself?
“I believe the Port Mayaca Polo Club is certainly on the map. We are not out to compete with other clubs, we offer a different atmosphere for those who stay with us. As far as the polo played, many of our teams come from Wellington and elsewhere, just as we have farm owners who also compete in Wellington. There is plenty of polo to go around!”
How has the club contributed to developing polo in the area?
“Port Mayaca has helped keep medium-goal polo thriving. We have had very robust 14-goal polo the last few years, with over ten competitive teams [participating] each month. This was at a time when medium goal seemed to be floundering a bit in the area. Now other clubs in the area are also attracting medium-goal leagues with great success, which is great for everyone in polo.”
Each year new players and teams join Port Mayaca with fields and barns. Do you have any new additions and is this one of the club’s objectives?
“We are about to close on our last farm lot, which is exciting. We are excited to have three new farms built and occupied this winter—with the addition of Santi Chavanne and Lolo Tanoira, Tim and Timmy Dutta, and the Pite Merlos Family, all with lovely new barns. We also have the Pieres brothers owning one of our developed farms, which they have named El Trebol. Phillip Higgins has also purchased a Farm and we are excited to see what he builds in the next year. The objective of the club was to create a facility of like-minded people, who love polo—I feel we have succeeded in that aspect.”
Pony Lines at Port Mayaca Polo Club. ©David Lominska
The 2021 season was very intense in terms of tournaments and events. Will the club repeat this for the 2022 season?
“The 2021 season was a record breaker! We are on track for an equally busy 2022. We have filled our membership slots, and our tournaments are filling up. We are hosting 8-goal, 14-goal and 18-goal again, as well as our women’s tournaments. It will be another great season.”
Port Mayaca will once again host a great part of the U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship®, what does this mean for the club?
“[The] development of women’s polo [is] one of the club’s goals. Port Mayaca has supported women’s polo from early on. In 2009 we started playing the Tabebuia Cup, which has gradually developed into part of the U.S. Open women’s series, played at the 22-goal level. Encouraging quality women’s polo is very important to us, and we have been thrilled to see the professional and organizational development of women’s polo in the last decade.”
Dundas’ Nina Clarkin leads the pack in the 2021 U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship® at Port Mayaca Polo Club. ©David Lominska
Besides regular tournaments the club will also host polo clinics and charity events, is there anything else you want to share with us?
“As part of our Tabebuia Cup, the final is played for Molly’s House Benefit, which is a local charity offering accommodations to patients who are receiving outpatient medical treatment in our area. It always draws a big crowd and is a very fun event. Corky and Kathy Linfoot will also be returning in April to offer coaching and lessons.”