june 2-3-4, 2023
DARLINGTON POLO CLUB
There's a bright spot in the small town of Darlington on Friday nights between mid-May and late August. The bright stadium lights may draw you close enough to hear an announcer frantically calling out plays, and a crowd erupting into cheers. If you get too close, you'll hear the thunder of hooves. By then you'll be hooked. It's Polo, and it's habit-forming. Just ask any of the 100 or so who bring their families each week to munch french fries and cheer on their team.
The field is dirt-200 yards long and 75 yards wide-and sits in a hollow surrounded by backyards, woods and a trout stream. Glenn Watterson owns half of the five-acre site, and the Borough of Darlington owns the rest,an agreement that dates back to the club's founding more than sixty years ago. Watterson and his son Glenn Jr. tack up and ride every week. just as his father and uncles did when they brought the sport to town.
The Story goes that Cliff Braden was attending a polo match in Zelienople in 1936 when a willow-root ball was hit off-field and under his car. He retrieved it and brought it home to show his riding buddies, Bob, Wayne, and Keith Watterson. The friends attached two-by-fours to broom handles to see how hard it would be to play. Within a year, they had formed a polo club.
But there was a problem. Gentleman's polo was played in the afternoon..,preferably on Sunday afternoons. "My grandmother was very religious," Watterson said. "She wouldn't allow her sons to play polo on Sundays, and their work prevented them from playing during the day. So the had to play in the evenings"
At first, they strung lights in trees. Then they placed floodlights on telephone poles, until finally a real lighting system was installed. A county historical marker commemorates the occasion: "First lighted polo field in the United States, 1938".
The present lighting system costs the club several thousand dollars a year in electric bills, which is barely offset by the $5 per adult admission fee. Kids get in FREE. But the Darlington Polo Club players don't play for money. To them, it's just as fun as when their fathers, and grandfathers, and great-grandfathers taught them to swing a mallet.