Oxford University Polo Club emerged champions in The International Intercollegiate Tournament at The Metropolitan Polo Club in Tianjin, China, beating the odds of Harvard, Cambridge, Cornell, London, and Skidmore. The tournament which took place in July 2016 was cherry atop a record-breaking season for one of the most coveted polo clubs worldwide. This success followed in the wake of Oxford’s sweeping victory in the reinvigorated Atlantic Cup Tournament. Earlier, Oxford earned a record-breaking 19-0 win over Cambridge at the La Martina Varsity Polo Day at Guards Polo Club. Oxford’s 2-goal team, George Pearson, Louis Maddison, Vere Harmsworth and Charlie Hitchman beat the previous record, 19-1, set in 1911.
Steeped in history and tradition, Oxford University Polo Club also referred as OUPC, was founded by Walter Hume Long (1854-1924) and is one of the oldest continuing polo clubs in the world. Walter Long, who later became the First Lord of the Admiralty, and his group of friends instituted this new club in 1874, three years after the game was introduced in England. 1877 witnessed the first match, played in traditional English style under weather conditions ‘of the most unpleasant character, rain falling the whole time, accompanied by a bitterly cold wind’.
The success of the first match inspired the founding patrons to establish a Varsity Match with the Polo Club of Cambridge University, first contested at the Bullingdon Cricket Ground in Oxford in November, 1878. 5-0 victory for the home club, ensured that this became an annual fixture. Today, this varsity match is the second oldest continuing polo fixture in the western hemisphere. Shelved during the two world wars, the matches renewed in 1951. 1994 saw a milestone moment for the club when the teams were captained by women. Jacqui Broughton was the captain of Oxford and Emma Tomlinson, sister of renowned British professionals Luke and Mark Tomlinson captained Cambridge. Oxford and the Varsity Match have since then enjoyed historical memberships. Winston Churchill played with and coached the Oxford Varsity team, ‘giving them a good gallop and a pipe-opener’. Prince Charles received his Half-Blue for Cambridge in 1968 where he scored his side's goal. Though Cambridge lost, the goal must have pleased him and certainly the Queen, who had arrived unexpectedly to watch the game.
OUPC members have always represented their respective nations. William Kavanagh played the first Varsity and became one of the first high-handicapped English players. American Tommy Hitchcock Sr. (1882 Varsity) was one of the first 10-goal players. ‘The greatest back to ever play polo’, Devereux Milburn (1903-1905 Varsities), was another illustrious 10-goal American player. Another superstar athlete Claire Tomlinson, played the 1964 Varsity under the name Mr. Lucas, in case women were not allowed to play. Claire achieved a 5-goal handicap, becoming the highest ranked woman player to date. Today, Oxford continues this proud tradition with George Pearson (+2), who plays for England; he most recently played for the Cowdray Vikings in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup at Cowdray Park Polo Club.
(with inputs by Sally Eugenia Schwartz and Andreas Kranke)