IT'S POLO TIME IN TENNESSEE!

Bendabout Farms set for exhibition match

By COLBY DENTON
Posted 9/13/18

Get those mallets out because polo is back for the annual exhibition match at Bendabout Farms this weekend – Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept. 16.

Partnering with the Johnston family, …

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IT'S POLO TIME IN TENNESSEE!

Bendabout Farms set for exhibition match

Posted

Get those mallets out because polo is back for the annual exhibition match at Bendabout Farms this weekend – Saturday, Sept. 15, and Sunday, Sept. 16.

Partnering with the Johnston family, Bendabout Farms is featuring a free game pitting its team against a team comprised of polo players from middle Texas and lower Alabama.

Polo started at Bendabout in the 1930s, after a team was formed consisting of the 6th Cavalry at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, as a means of training on horseback at the military post there.

“Officers would use the sport to keep both horse and rider sharp,” stated the GM of Bendabout Properties, Matt Bentley. “If you can run up against other horses at high speed while also swinging a mallet and aiming for a ball, then obviously going into battle wouldn’t be a big shock for cavalrymen swinging their sabers.”

Summerfield Johnston, Sr., a social resident of Cleveland at the time, spent a large amount of time with the cavalry officers and started watching their polo matches. Fascinated by the sport, Johnston created a team of his own at Bendabout, known as the Bendabout Farmboys. The cavalry and Farmboys would go head to head, and would also form mini-teams of four to play against the other.

Shortly after, the 6th Cavalry went mechanical, as the introduction of tanks to the battlefield made cavalrymen obsolete. During World War II, polo was rarely played, as residents viewed fun and games during wartime as inappropriate.

“A lot of our employees who were players went off to fight in the war. Polo disappeared for a couple of years, but was revived in the '50s by Summerfield Johnston Jr., who is the owner of the farms now,” Bentley said.

Johnston also inspired his children to take up the sport, including his late son, Summerfield “Skeeter” Johnston III, his daughter Jillian Johnston and a few of his grandchildren.

There is now a museum commemorating the 6th Cavalry in Fort Oglethorpe, and the second day of the polo matches at Bendabout Farms will host a donation period to raise money for the Cavalry Museum.

Players of local interest this year include Jillian Johnston, the highest-rated female player/sponsor in USA high-goal polo; Owen Rinehart, a former 10-goaler and Hall of Fame inductee; Novillo Astrada, another former 10-goaler who captained the Coca-Cola polo team’s 2002 winning U.S. Open team; and Jeff Blake, who received the Most Valuable Player award for the 2008 Open finals.

Jillian has a polo horse breeding operation at the family’s ranch in Sheraton, Wyoming, and chooses the best horses to head to Bendabout to live for a few years before being played in matches. The exhibition match will feature some of these horses.

While Bendabout’s polo team has faced off against international opponents at its past exhibition matches, this year it is set to go against Middle Texas and South Alabama.

“So far, we are undefeated,” Bentley stated. “These guys are friends, but they get very competitive. Sometimes they’ll play against the other teams and at other times we’ll mix the teams up.”

Johnston laughed and stated, “We’ll take em down.”

The Johnston family sponsors the event, which is free and open to the public.

Bentley hopes residents from all over will come out and enjoy the match, as it’s a rare treat to behold for most.

The match begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Each match should last around an hour and a half. Gates open two hours before the start time. Parking and seating are free, but guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs as well.

Bendabout Farms is located at 3553 South Lee Highway. For further information, visit the Bendabout Farm website at www.beandabout.com or call 423-476-6602.


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