Dec 30, 2019 8:12 PM

Port Mayaca Polo Club entrance

From being a big blank canvas of sugar cane fields in 2007 to having 135 acres of Celebration Bermuda Grass spread over eight tournament polo fields and two stick-and-ball fields today, Port Mayaca Polo Club located in Okeechobee, Florida, has grown steadily without losing their rural mystique, similar to what Wellington, Florida and the now defunct Gulfstream Polo Club once were.

Founded by the former Secretary, President, and Chairman of the United States Polo Association, Steve Orthwein Sr., Port Mayaca is located next to the beautiful Lake Okeechobee. Rather than a club, it feels like a polo community. Members and owners share all aspects of polo, including stabling, practice games and horse training, as well as competition.

Port Mayaca Polo club aerial shot

“One of the most unique aspects about Port Mayaca is our potential to grow in both membership and ownership, especially compared to the maturity of most other clubs in Florida. We have large tracts of ready–to-build farm parcels situated around the Club for sale at affordable prices, where players have the opportunity to be true owners and members in a polo club. This is quite different from other clubs in Wellington, where you are really playing as guests at the pleasure of the club owner, and where adequate farm space is very constrained and is at valuation that is tough for many to justify. Port Mayaca has so much more opportunity and value to offer players interested in owning a farm and playing polo in Florida,” said club owner Steve Orthwein Jr.

Polo keeps growing at Port Mayaca Polo Club and the winter season will start next week with the Stephen Orthwein Memorial Family Cup. The club is regarded as an important part of the Wellington polo community, offering its members and guests all levels of polo, ranging from 6- to 22-goal. This includes organized practices at least three days a week and the chance to rent the fields for private use as well. Among its highlights, Port Mayaca will host the preliminary games of the U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship™, the Avendaño Memorial Cup, and the USPA-sanctioned $50,000 Butler Handicap.

2019 U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship™ preliminary play at Port Mayaca Polo Club featuring Cabo Wabo's Gillian Johnston. ©David Lominska
2019 U.S. Open Women's Polo Championship™ preliminary play at Port Mayaca Polo Club featuring Cabo Wabo's Gillian Johnston. ©David Lominska

Most of these tournaments will contribute to expand polo throughout Florida. “Port Mayaca will be hosting more 18-goal tournaments this year. It is going to be great because we are going to take some pressure off the fields in Wellington. We will bring them to Port Mayaca, where they have fantastic playing fields,” USPA’s Chief Executive Officer Bob Puetz told CLICKPOLOUSA.

Last season, Port Mayaca began formally offering farm parcels surrounding the club for sale and currently has seven owners that are basing their organization there. The club expects to sell the 10 remaining shortly. Furthermore, more barns were built or are under construction. “The past season we had more players and activity at the club than ever before. Last year, we had polo being played on all eight fields a few days. I expect the upcoming season to be better than the last. Our grounds team has put considerable work into improving the fields and property, and it really shows,” said Orthwein Jr.

Getting to know Port Mayaca Polo Club Owner Steve Orthwein Jr.

Old Hickory Bourbon's Steve Orthwein Jr. prepares for a powerful backshot during inaugural GAUNTLET OF POLO™ play. ©David Lominska
Old Hickory Bourbon's Steve Orthwein Jr. prepares for a powerful backshot during inaugural GAUNTLET OF POLO™ play. ©David Lominska

What is your relationship with polo?

"I grew up in the sport of polo. My family was and still is very much committed to the sport. I am actively involved with the USPA, as the Florida Circuit Governor and Chairman of the Polo Development Advisory Board. This season I am playing in the USPA GAUNTLET series with Old Hickory Polo, as well as in a number of tournaments at Port Mayaca. "

What can you tell us about Port Mayaca Polo Club?

"Port Mayaca is a full-service polo club that offers low, medium, and high-goal polo to its members and guests. We have a unique combination of both the opportunity of private real estate ownership and shared use of infrastructure needed to stable, practice and compete all in one location. The club was started by my father, Steve Orthwein, and our first full polo season was in 2007. Port Mayaca was my father's vision and is now a family project. I manage the overall project for my family."

What is your view about polo in the United States?

"Polo in the U.S. is currently at an interesting spot. In terms of quality of play, it is the best it has been in my lifetime. There is so much more talent in both players and horses than ever before and it shows on the field. That being said, I would like to see more investment and focus on long-term sustainable ownership participation by sponsors/amateurs, as opposed to what seems to be a short-term rental mindset. Sustained growth in American polo needs to have a strong foundation of players committed to the sport and that comes from ownership."