One of the myriad of wonderful legacies bequeathed to us by the British Empire is without question the game of polo, a gentleman’s sport if ever there was one; a dramatic fusion of man and beast striving together for competitive glory, christened “the sport of kings” for a reason. On 28 April at Strathtyrum Estate chukkas will not be in short supply as the University of St Andrews Polo Club host their annual St Andrews Charity Polo Tournament, a firm favourite on the sporting calendar since 2004.
Speaking with a member of the club’s committee they are keen to put on a show. “It really is a fantastic event, without question one of the strongest in the United Kingdom with such a wide appeal, something which is shown by Oxford taking part in the highlight of the weekend, the varsity match”. To complement the varsity match against our southern neighbours there are three other levels of match: Beginners, where this year’s intake play their first game on grass; Novice, where the Hartley Cup is contested; and an Exhibition match, which promises to showcase the cream of Scotland’s polo talent, with an expert commentary provided by one of the doyennes of the Scottish polo scene, Mervyn Foxitt. Polo was once compared, apparently, by that emeritus and renowned sportsman Sylvester Stallone as akin to playing golf in an earthquake. If we were to take the haggard boxer-cum-jungle-warrior’s word as gospel, then we are in for quite the spectacle in St Andrews.
The event, which has regularly drawn crowds of 800, is not merely a chance to watch the blood and thunder of the final chukka, but a relaxed day out. Food and drink will be provided by the Balgove Larder with the opportunity to win some quite interesting raffle prizes, ranging from surf lessons to a lesson in how to drive a tank. It should not be forgotten that there is a higher purpose to this even than being a mere jolly. Proceeds from the event will go to Help for Heroes, the esteemed charity set up to support British servicemen and women who have been injured in the service of Queen and Country, another reason for any fair minded St Andrean to support this event.
As the committee told me “this is one of the many highlights of our packed calendar,” though it can be argued that the tournament is certainly the biggest. Speaking from what I am sure is a shared experience, Sunday in St Andrews is not the most exciting of days, so I would commend it to you to take part in an event which will be both sporting and scintillating.