May 16, 2017 6:52 PM
“I know Point Clear has not really been on people’s radar in a while, so that’s my job to get people to know we are here.” – Ericka Fuchsloch Point Clear Polo Club Manager
Fairhope, Alabama, a metropolis that sits directly off the shore of the attractive Mobile Bay, is a classic small town full of walkable streets, friendly people, amazing restaurants and most importantly southern charm. It is no surprise that Point Clear Polo Club, embodies many of the same qualities that put Fairhope on the map.
In the early 1970s, Kenny Mclean, George Radcliff, Ed Bernard, Wilson Green, Pete Stintz and Albert Corte discovered the sport of polo. The group of friends played on a small field in the early years, but their love of the sport quickly spread to those around them. Point Clear Polo Club soon became a popular southeastern destination for Spring and Fall polo in the 1980s and 1990s. During its heyday, the club was host to 16-goal polo, with a season ending tournament centered around a large charity event called “Polo at the Point.” Then and still today, their season is conveniently scheduled to compliment surrounding clubs in Aiken, South Carolina, and Upatoi, Georgia.
Point Clear has been the home of many successful players over the years. Most recently, Team USPA member Herndon Radcliff who was on the winning USA team for the XI Federation of International Polo World Championship Zone “A” Playoffs. Radcliff will represent the United States in Australia in October with hopes of taking home the World Championship trophy. Radcliff’s early education of the sport came from Point Clear Polo Club. He still considers the club home, and regularly competes in club tournaments and helps to umpire games.
Despite having quality polo, loyal members and standout players for many years, Point Clear Polo Club has recently seen a decline in membership. “This club is close to 40 years old. It goes through economic cycles and like most clubs it thrives when it is well funded, capitalized and operated typically by a large patron or two,” said USPA President and Point Clear Polo Club member Chip Campbell. “In Point Clear’s case it subsided 15 years ago or so. When the large patron fades then the club usually fades until someone else picks up the reins.”
A common issue nationwide, Point Clear is picking up the reins and working proactively to secure the sustainability of their club. Within the last year, the members have come together and gone full speed ahead with a plan of action to elevate the club to a new level. Current manager Ericka Fuchsloch was hired last fall and has brought with her several years of experience and a fresh perspective to the club. “We are now hosting more USPA tournaments and have a polo school aimed at building membership,” said Fuchsloch. “Ultimately, I would like to create two levels of play with two different flights; such as a six chukker and four chukker game. Having two levels of play can accommodate everyone’s needs. There are people who want to hire a pro and have more competitive polo and then there are those that have two or three horses, love the game and just want to participate. So my goal is to have enough members to do both.”
Point Clear’s polo school is operated by Mikhal Newberry who has been a riding instructor at neighboring Green Branch Farms since 1999. Newberry has her own string of horses that she teaches on and stays busy with an Orientation to Polo group and Point Clear’s version of a step-up program aptly named the Crawfish League. The Orientation to Polo students are required to complete a five session four-week program. The inaugural group has just recently graduated and celebrated with a weekend polo tournament. Many of Point Clear’s newest polo enthusiasts are drawn from the surrounding hunter jumper community. The hunter jumper riders already have a solid riding base and love for horses, thus making them the perfect candidates for polo. According to Fuchsloch, “In the Crawfish League we put players on a smaller field, and have Mikhal and another experienced player play and coach them the entire time. This helps students build a strong foundation and move on to practice chukkers and eventually become members.”
Age is not a factor at Point Clear with the oldest member at 74 years and the youngest being 10. “There are a lot of good intentioned people here in Point Clear that love the sport and want to see it grow,” said Campbell. “Mikhal Newberry has done a lot by teaching young kids to ride and forming a polo school. It takes getting young kids riding early and gaining proficiency in the equine world to make future polo players!”
Point Clear operates five months out of the year, making it the perfect place for players to stop and play on their way to or from another state such as Florida or Texas. Spring polo begins in April and runs until June, and Fall polo starts up in September and runs through the second week of November. While many different types of tournaments are held at the club, such as the Challenge Cup (0-4 goal), it is Polo at the Point that draws the most attention to Point Clear each year.
Resurrected by Chip and Kim Campbell and Curtis and Dawn Pilot several years ago, Polo at the Point is a two-week tournament played at the 12-goal level culminating in a final public charity event. According to the event website, “Polo at the Point has become one of Alabama’s top one-day fundraiser events. Organized by all volunteers with proceeds going back to our community, the Gulf Coast’s premier charity sporting event has designated Thomas Hospital and Mitchell Cancer Institute as its main beneficiaries." Polo at the Point event highlights include competitive polo, amazing food and beverages, a halftime divot stomp, tailgates, a silent auction and much more.
Although Polo at the Point is the largest public event of the year, Spectators are welcome to watch any of the weekend games played at the club. “We encourage people to come out to the games, and picnic field side,” said Fuchsloch. “We also have a barbeque after Saturday games that players stick around for and talk about the games and relax.” Fuchsloch has made great strides in bringing awareness to the local area about the club. New to the 2017 season is a printed club program complete with club history, player bios and general polo information suitable to give to spectators, local businesses and tourists. “We did a program for the club this year, and it is the first time we have done one in a long time. The members were great and helped out a lot with volunteering time and sponsorship. It was a group effort and really turned out well.” Point Clear Polo Club was recently awarded USPA Polo Development Initiative (PDI) funds to help propel club marketing. Efforts have been placed on creating a digital presence for the club. A new website, email addresses to contact the club and social media have all been recently updated to reflect the new and improved Point Clear Polo Club.
Due to an increased web and print presence, people can now find Point Clear easily when they visit the area and are looking for a fun activity to participate in or watch. “We have great fields, nice people and plenty of things to do besides polo,” said Campbell. “The white sand beaches are 20 miles to the south and there is great hunting 50 miles north!” Fuchsloch echoed Campbell’s sentiments about the amazing location of the club, “I would say what makes us unique is location--the restaurants are great, the bay is beautiful, the sunsets are amazing. We are 30 minutes from the beach and during May and October the weather is absolutely perfect for polo.”
Point Clear is definitely back in full swing due to the hard work and dedication of all the members, instructor and manager. Future plans for the club come in the form of growth and sustainability. “I hope we attract new patrons that love the sport as much as I do and are willing to share and invest in the sport,” said Campbell.
To learn more about Point Clear Polo Club, please visit their website and like them on Facebook and Instagram.
All Photos ©Caroline Bramlett
Effective Date: Saturday, May 16, 2020
The suspension of USPA Tournaments and Events will be lifted for USPA Member Clubs in locales where hosting polo matches and tournaments is permitted under applicable state and local laws, executive orders and similar decrees. The USPA Member Clubs in these locales are encouraged to follow all such requirements of their state and local authorities with respect to polo operations. In addition, we also encourage all USPA Member Clubs to take the precautions recommended by the CDC. We are preparing a detailed list of best practices for USPA Member Clubs as they return to hosting USPA Tournaments and Events and plan to circulate these guidelines within the next week. We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely and will notify you if we determine a different course of action is necessary.Read More