In one of Harvard sports’ most remote outposts, the Myopia Outdoor Arena in Hamilton, Mass., the Harvard club polo team’s graduating seniors fell to the alumni cohort by a score of 8-7 in Saturday’s annual alumni match.
The contest was part of the “Harvard Polo Renaissance Weekend,” an event organized by Harvard coach Crocker Snow ’61.
The night before the alumni match, Harvard Stadium played host to eight of the team’s 15 ponies who were put up for “adoption,” meaning supporters had the chance to sponsor the horses to help offset some of the club’s annual costs.
“You can do a lot of things on them,” Snow said of the team’s ponies, initially donated by critically acclaimed actor and long-time supporter of the program Tommy Lee Jones '69. “Polo ponies are great personalities. Other horses are not as quiet in a nice way as these.”
Throughout the weekend, members of the team were charged with the responsibility of saddling horses, entertaining guests, and announcing the matches.
“The kids have been a huge help,” Snow added of his players.
But Snow's seniors failed to top the alumni in Saturday's matchup, eventually falling 8-7. Marco Elser ’81, playing in his stylish orange pants, closed it out in style with two critical goals. Elser’s impressive back shot gave his team the 7-6 lead, and after the seniors found the equalizer, Elser struck again, tapping home the deciding goal.
The alumni team, creatively named “The John Harvard’s,” can credit its victory to none other than Jones' wife, Dawn Jones, whose surprise appearance catalyzed the team.
Jones’ three goals helped bring the Harvard’s even with “The Harvard Jon’s” heading into the final chukker before Elser hammered home the deciding goals.
The weekend was another step in the continued improvement of the Harvard polo program, which Snow and his family started about five years ago. Snow’s son, former Harvard hockey player and current US professional polo player Nick ’09, was part of the first group to play.
From a coaching standpoint, one challenge lies in the fact that the initial skill levels of the riders drastically differ.
“We started with a lot of players who never played at all. We’ve got to teach them how to ride,” Snow said. “A lot of these teams have been playing polo before coming to college. None of these players [on the current team] had ever played polo before us.”
But the outlook is positive for the team.
“Each year it has been a little bit better,” Snow added.
Historically, much of the program’s funding has come from Jones, a strong proponent of the sport.
“We are supporters of Harvard polo. We want to see it grow,” Lee Jones said. “The game is awfully good for people.”
And when asked if anything in his career rivaled the famous 1968 “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29” contest, an intently focused Jones, whose career has included multiple tournament championships and a US Open appearance, said, “We’ve had some thrills in polo.”