By BROOKE WANSER
Tennessee’s first ever interscholastic arena polo team will take on the Bluewater Creek Polo Club of Killen, Alabama on Saturday at Harlinsdale Park.
The match is part of the Franklin Polo Academy’s International Cup between the United States and South Africa.
However, this year is unique. It will be the first time the polo academy, only in it’s second year, has an interscholastic team play.
Samantha Uys, the manager and a polo instructor with the academy, said it was the brainchild of Steve Orthwein and James Armstrong. She said Armstrong and Orthwein, longtime friends and polo players, wanted to make the sport more accessible to the general public by creating a social, family-friendly environment.
“There isn’t any other opportunity to learn polo here,” Uys said. “Franklin Polo Academy is the only public operating polo club in the area that offers lessons.”
One of the ways the academy accomplishes this type of match is by practicing arena polo, which is played in a 300-foot by 150-foot arena. Traditional field polo is played on a standard nine-acre field.
“It’s safer, it’s more affordable,” Uys said of arena polo.
Four high schoolers will compete for the Franklin Polo Academy in Saturday’s match as they take on the Bluewater Creek Polo Club of Killen, Alabama.
Brothers Jacob and Zach Wallace of Gallatin, Cey Johnson, a senior at Page High School and Caroline Mooney, who travels to Franklin from Georgia, make up the Franklin team.
“This will be their first time playing together, so it will be a great learning experience, just to take heed of what the coaches are saying and to learn and have fun and be a part of a team,” Uys said, though she pointed out, “We’re playing probably a fairly equal team.”
The interscholastic match will begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Tractor Supply Co. Arena. It will be followed by the International Cup match.
Several of the players who competed in this year’s Chukkers for Charity polo match will reprise their roles: Whistle Uys and Zulu Scott-Barnes are among those representing South Africa. Armstrong’s wife, Lexie Armstrong, and Wes Finlayson are representing the United States.