VERO BEACH — Vero’s tight-knit polo community pulled together Sunday afternoon for a friendly polo match between John Walsh’s Shamrock Team and Charlie Replogle’s Ocean Grill Polo Team.
At the end of the good-natured game, nobody initially seemed to know the final score, but the real winners were the children of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe Mission in Fellsmere.
A suggested donation to the free event had been an unwrapped toy for a child, and the gifts were piling up.
“A neighbor and I decided that we wanted to come together and sponsor a family,” said Raquel Searcy, one of the organizers of the event. “Then we got some girlfriends together and were going to sponsor 12 families, but now we can do even more.”
One of those friends was Giselle Rodriguez, who mentioned the need for toys to her polo-player husband Gaston. He then enlisted the support of Replogle and Walsh, and the game was on.
“The church has lots of families who need the help; the toys will be well used,” said Searcy. “This was all very last minute; next year we hope to start earlier to get the word out sooner, and we hope for even more.”
Sister Dolores from the Guadalupe Mission said that many families were in need of help this year. “The most difficult part is delivering the toys since most of the parents are out working during the day,” said a grateful Sister Dolores. “That’s what takes the most time.”
Searcy said she had taken her children along when they delivered toys collected prior to Sunday’s match. “We as moms want to do this as a family, so our children learn the gift of giving.”
The match was held at 10-Square Polo Club, home to several barns, including those of Replogle and Walsh.
“It’s a great cause; we all wanted to come out and support it,” said Mary Replogle. “I know they appreciate it.”
In addition to the polo community, many in attendance were employees and patrons of the Replogle restaurants. They had included flyers about the event each time they proffered dinner checks at The Ocean Grill and at El Toro Tacos & Tequila at the Patio.
During the half-time divot stomp, Walsh smiled while looking at the turnout saying, “Look at all those cars over there. This is great; it’s a really good cause.”
He was also delighted with the familial makeup of the teams. Walsh’s 16 year-old-son Hayden was playing with him on the Shamrock team, as was Tiffany Busch, whose father Peter rode as umpire. Joining the Replogle team was Charlie’s son Cole, who just this month graduated from Clemson University. Rounding out the players were Manuel Davila and Gaston Rodriguez on the Ocean Grill team and Max Secunda on the Shamrock team.
“It’s a joy to play with them,” said Walsh, who was particularly complimentary of Tiffany Busch’s playing. “We hit the ball to her and she scores.”
As she watched her son mount a particularly feisty pony, Revé Walsh remarked, “I was the one who took the lid off Pandora’s Box when it comes to polo.”
Although she personally prefers riding to the hounds, Revé remembered that Hayden got his first polo pony when he was about 8-years old, and then her husband began playing. “The next thing you know, we had a trailer, 12 horses and a team.”
George and Sandy Kahle, polo commentator Dawn Redman and her husband James, and East Coast Equine veterinarian Dr. Valerie Biehl were all among the many tailgaters getting a jump on the Vero Beach Polo Club season, which begins January 16.
“It’s a promising turnout,” said James Redman. “Hopefully, it’s a good indication of what the year will be.”
After the match, Shamrock 5 to Ocean Grill 3, the players were all quick to give one another credit for the event’s success.
“We almost called it this morning,” said Replogle. “But it turned out to be a really nice day.”