When Jane Xu came to UCSB in 2016 to study for her bachelor’s degree in mathematics, she had no intention of spending three of those years playing on the university’s polo team.
“I grew up in New York City. I was never interested in horses,” she told the News-Press. “It was an impulsive decision.”
During her sophomore year, Ms. Xu saw an item in The Daily Nexus, the UCSB newspaper, about tryouts for the team. Not only did she join, she was the team captain for three years.
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Ms. Xu during a phone interview from New York City, where she now divides her time between there and Santa Barbara.
“Polo is a great sport. You have to be mentally strong to play. I wasn’t confident when I started, but it has done wonders for me. It’s a great feeling whether practicing or playing in a game to be in sync with a horse that you know really well,” said Ms. Xu.
“I loved going to the polo field in Carpinteria, taking care of my horse and competing with other college teams in California, including Westmont College. It was very therapeutic, a relief from the stress of academics. The opportunity to play polo was an extremely rewarding experience.”
The notice in the UCSB paper that attracted Ms. Xu was placed by the Polo Training Center Santa Barbara, a nonprofit with a mission to make polo accessible to Santa Barbara youth who could not otherwise afford it and offer them the chance to play at a highly competitive interscholastic and collegiate level.
To raise funds for the organization, founded more than 10 years ago by Geannie and Mike Sheller, a benefit golf tournament and dinner will be held Aug. 22 at the Montecito Club.
“We are honored to host this event for the fifth consecutive year, and we feel an overwhelming sense of pride that our Santa Barbara community is so dedicated to making polo accessible for everyone,” said Rhys Williams, president of the Polo Training Center, based at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club in Carpinteria.
“Giving students the opportunity to play polo at the premier West Coast polo club at such a high and safe level, regardless of their financial status, is of paramount importance to the PTCSB.
“We encourage the growth of polo as a whole by operating and supporting programs for players at all levels. The organization supports the Santa Barbara Polo Academy and Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club as they welcome new players to the sport through lessons, Pony Club, Intercollegiate/Interscholastic programs, Coaching League and an arena league,” said Mr. Williams.
Besides the annual golf tournament and polo charity dinners, the PTCSB also hosts kids’ polo tournaments at various local locations during the summers, supports the Polo Academy, hosts clinics and helps care for older polo ponies that are donated to the Polo Academy.
Guests can purchase an individual player ticket for $500 (or a foursome for $1,800) for the tournament, which will include a box lunch, green fees, cart, and an evening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. with live music on the picturesque lawn overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Reception-only tickets ($150) are also available for $150.
Funds support the Interscholastic Polo Program, Polo Academy and Intercollegiate women’s polo programs at Westmont College and UCSB. Donations provide scholarships for students who may not otherwise have access to play polo at the interscholastic and collegiate level on the Westmont and UCSB teams, and they also subsidize expenses for lessons, horses, facilities, equipment and the Santa Barbara Polo Pony Club.
“Much of last year’s generous support came from the Muse Family Foundation, the Westcott Foundation and the Magness Foundation contributing to a total of over $50,000 in donations,” Mr. Williams said.
“Broadening youth access to polo provides kids with college sponsorships, rigorous training, responsibility, sportsmanship, and team building, among other mental/emotional/physical benefits.
“In addition to being given the opportunity to compete at a high level, these students will experience the mental/emotional benefits of team building, sportsmanship, responsibility and animal care, alongside the physical benefits of muscle tone and hand-eye coordination.”
Ms. Xu said, “Polo at UCSB holds a special place in my heart, and it’s important to me. We’re all athletes at heart, and I’m proud that we are able to share our passions for horses and polo in an accessible and inclusive way.”
email : firstname.lastname@example.org
The benefit golf tournament for the Polo Training Center Santa Barbara takes place Aug. 22 at the Montecito Club, 920 Summit Road.The tournament begins at noon with registration beginning at 11 a.m. and dinner to follow at 5 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit www.polotrainingcenter.com/golf.