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Stanford Polo Club hosts inaugural charity event
(Courtesy of Dante Gaudet).

Stanford Polo Club hosts inaugural charity event

Inspired by the historical connections between the two schools, the inaugural Jordan Cup brought Stanford and Cornell alumni together for a fundraising polo match on Sunday.

The match took place from noon to 3 p.m. at the Menlo Circus Club in Atherton, California. Five players participated on each team, four at a time, and all of the Cornell alumni flew from the East Coast for the event.

Twenty percent of the proceeds went to Jasper Ridge Farm, a local organization “helping children and adults facing physical and emotional challenges through therapeutic interaction with gentle farm animals,” according to the organization’s website. The Stanford and Cornell polo clubs split the rest of the proceeds evenly.

In addition to the polo match, the event included a silent auction and a “meet-and-greet” with Jasper Ridge Farm animals. During halftime, a best-hat contest took place, after which spectators took the field for the divot stomp, a polo tradition during which fans attempt to flatten dirt that gets torn up by horses during play.

Stanford Polo Club Social Media Manager Sarah Dobbins ’20 said the Jordan Cup began as a way to promote both the polo team and Jasper Ridge Farm, which keeps its animals on Web Ranch with the Stanford Polo Club’s horses.

“We have some club members who volunteer [with Jasper Ridge] to help take care of the animals and help with therapy rides, and we are going to have more in the next few years as awareness grows,” Dobbins said. “We just really love Jasper Ridge. They are awesome people, and we think they are doing awesome things, so we wanted them to be involved because we wanted to help them out.”

Stanford Polo Club head coach Mike Zeliger graduated from Cornell in 1992. Dobbins said this connection between the Stanford and Cornell polo teams helped inspire the match, and a committee including members of both teams formed to plan the event.

“It was a lot of work to pull it all together in time and make sure we had enough supplies,” Dobbins said. “We are pleased with the turnout.”

According to Dobbins, about 80 people purchased tickets for The Jordan Cup as of two weeks before the event. However, she said that number jumped to about 200 by Saturday night. Stanford Polo Club Vice President Yasi Ainane ’20 shared Dobbins’s excitement regarding the event’s attendance.

“I think a lot of people who never would have seen a polo game came out today, so we reached the objective we were trying to of getting [Stanford polo] publicized,” Ainane said. “I am very happy with how things turned out.”

Zeliger said he named The Jordan Cup after David Starr Jordan, an alumnus of Cornell who served as Stanford’s founding president in 1891 upon recommendation to the Stanfords by then-Cornell president Andrew White. Jordan’s history at the two colleges inspired a football game between Stanford and Cornell as Stanford celebrated its centennial in 1991. Zeliger drew parallels between The Jordan Cup and the annual Harriman Cup held between Virginia and Yale, based on the strong historical links between the schools involved.

“I thought that [Stanford and Cornell] have such a great shared community that we could really try to build something like [the centennial event], which is fun and gets a lot of people involved but also provides a lot of important revenue for the intercollegiate programs because they are pretty strapped,” Zeliger said. “It’s a glamorous sport and it looks really great, but in fact it’s really hard to get a college program going and to sustain it.”

Zeliger noted that, although he came up with the initial idea for the event, students and alumni of the team took charge in handling logistics and running the event on Sunday. Zeliger himself took part in the alumni match, playing for Stanford’s team.

“We as coaches act as advisors,” Zeliger said. “We instruct at practices and we actually actively coach at games, but most of the effort into maintaining the club and the 20 horses that we are responsible for comes from the students. It’s a huge huge commitment of time, but it’s also this incredible opportunity because [the students] wind up learning a lot about group dynamics, a lot about horse care, things that will probably last with them longer than their polo careers.”

Zeliger said he estimated a cost of about $8000 to run The Jordan Cup, but he added that the event brought in more money than expected. Zeliger noted that student members administer the Stanford Polo Club budget and that costs run high each year in order for a broad range of students to participate. For instance, the team currently cares for and houses 20 horses.

The team also pays to play at least four official games (two each for the men’s and women’s teams) in its region in order to qualify for the regional tournament and nationals (polo’s final four).

“It’s great for others to see that because I think people make a lot of different preconceived notions about what college is and what college polo is here,” Zeliger added. “It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of rolling up your sleeves, getting dirty and working hard. And because of that we just wind up selecting for these really great student athletes who are really dedicated to [polo], and they are just a pleasure to be around.”

Dobbins emphasized the inclusivity of the Stanford Polo Club. She said she joined the team freshman year with no previous experience and having ridden a horse only once in her life. Zeliger encouraged students interested in the team to reach out to officers like Dobbins and Ainane.

“One of the club values is for students not to have to worry about money or experience,” Dobbins said. “You can come in [having never ridden], and if you are enthusiastic, if you are going to be a safe player and safe around large animals, then this is your chance to learn a sport which is super cool.”

Although Stanford won the centennial football that inspired The Jordan Cup, Cornell claimed victory in the inaugural exhibition match, defeating Stanford by the score of 10-4. The game began with a Stanford goal, but Cornell took a 5-1 lead into halftime, never letting Stanford lead again.

Ainane said she hopes the Stanford Polo Club will not only continue to co-host The Jordan Cup but also reach out to other schools such as Cal Poly in order to host alumni exhibition matches. She said she hopes events like these will lead to more fans for the polo team in general, as she said the regular season receives little publicity compared to Stanford athletics in general.

“[Polo is] never what people expect,” Ainane said. “It’s always a nice surprise for people.”


Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.


About Holden Foreman

Holden Foreman '21 is Deputy Desk Editor of the University/Local News beat, for which he previously served as a contributing writer. He is studying electrical engineering, economics and computer science. Contact him at hs4man21 'at' stanford.edu.