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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 16, 2003

Polo enthusiasts are hoping for a Renaissance On O'ahu's North Shore

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

For the first time in 10 years, polo has returned to the North Shore and enthusiasts say new players are needed to keep the sport alive in Hawai'i.

Mike Dailey, left, battles for the ball with Mark Becker in the second match of the 2003 season on the North Shore.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

The Hawai'i Polo Club began playing matches last month and will play its fourth match Sunday at the Mokule'ia Polo Field at Dillingham Ranch. The season runs through June.

Polo matches at Dillingham Ranch ended 10 years ago after a Japanese company purchased the property for luxury development, according to ranch manager Mike Dailey.

In August, a company from Spokane, Wash., in partnership with a Hawaiian group, bought back the property and rejuvenated the ranch and brought back the polo matches, Dailey said.

Dailey is looking to bring back the popularity of the sport that experienced its heyday in the late 1980s here when an estimated 300 players participated. Currently, an estimated 60 to 100 are playing polo in Hawai'i, he said.

On O'ahu, there are two main polo clubs, the Hawai'i Polo Club in Mokule'ia and the Honolulu Polo Club in Waimanalo.

To rekindle interest in the sport, the Hawai'i Polo Club has scheduled a series of clinics today through May 25 for beginners and players with some polo background. The clinics will feature instructor Miguel Torres of Argentina, a world renowned polo player who is based out of Santa Barbara.

"As with any sport, you have to bring new blood into the game," Dailey said. "Polo does it in two ways. Children are exposed to it because their parents are involved or they get involved with stables and learn to play.

"The other way is a lot of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s come out to matches and later come back again to try it. Adults bring a certain amount of financial resources with them, and that helps support the kids. You need the mix."

In addition, Dillingham Ranch and the Hawai'i Polo Club offer polo lessons to the public. The ranch provides beginners with horses and the equipment such as the mallets.

"All they need is boots," Dailey said. "If they don't have boots, they can come with a hiking shoe."

Marie Medosi, 19, has been playing polo for about two months and said the Hawai'i instructors are supportive.

"There's some good people behind the sport and they're willing to educate the young people," said Medosi, who has a background in dressage. "That's great. The more people we can get out here, the better."

• What: Hawai'i Polo Club

• Where: Mokule'ia Polo Field

• When: Sundays, gates open at 11 a.m. for tailgating. Games begin at 2 p.m.

• Admission: $5 per person for tailgate parking

• Polo clinics: Today-May 25 at Mokuleia.

• Cost: $750 for full clinic, $250 per day. Private lessons also available for $150. Horses and equipment provided.

• Information: 637-8088.

Bob Hogan, a polo enthusiast and play-by-play announcer for the matches, said the sport can be expensive for die-hard players, but recreational players can enjoy the sport with a moderate financial commitment.

"This sport is not just for the rich," Hogan said. "There's a lot of people who play this game who are plumbers, carpenters, electricians and firemen. They come from all walks of life.

"If you own a horse you can play. If you do it right, you can keep a horse for a couple hundred bucks to $400 a month. A good top-quality horse will run anywhere between $10,000 to $20,000. But the average horse in Hawai'i can be bought for $2,500 to $4,500."

Dailey said the new ownership group is planning to build two additional fields across the street in hopes of providing the North Shore with one of the premier polo facilities in the state.

"As part of new owner investment, they're going to take the old equestrian center and upgrade that to the top facility in the state," Dailey said. "As part of that component, there are going to be two state-of-the-art fields with underground water, drainage and the whole bit. The first field should be planted by late summer and should be usable by next spring."

Once the fields are completed, Hawai'i could become a polo mecca and host major international competitions, Dailey said. The sport has also lured celebrities and dignitaries to Hawai'i, including Prince Charles, his father Prince Philip, Ginger Baker of Cream, Stewart Copeland of the Police and actress Stephanie Powers.

Dailey said Hawai'i has had an "incredible equestrian tradition" with cowboys in Hawai'i before horseback riders on the West Coast.

"Polo was played in Hawai'i before it was played anywhere west of the Mississippi," Dailey said. "Polo and Mokule'ia have been sort of a tripartite experience. It's a sporting event like going to races. It's a social event with the tailgates and it's a day in the country."