News

Everyone Wins At Goose Creek Benefit Cup

By ERIC SCHMOLDT
Star-Tribune staff writer
Monday, August 18, 2008 7:25 AM MDT

BIG HORN -- Tommy Biddle coughed up the home run derby.

Owen Rinehart aims for control of the ball during the Goose Creek Cup at the Flying H Polo Club on Sunday in Big Horn. Photo by DAN CEPEDA, Star-Tribune.

 

It didn't matter -- he'd already been the hero in the All-Star Game.

Biddle, one of the biggest hitters in the world of professional polo, came up well short against his high-ranking professional peers in a long-drive challenge.

But moments earlier, he had closed out the second annual Goose Creek Benefit Cup with a blast from 150 yards that bounced through for his third goal and ensured a 6-3 win for the Big Goose team.

"A lot of times, when you swing really hard, the ball doesn't go that far," Biddle said. "I've seen golfers who hit the ball 300 yards and they don't look like they're swinging hard.

"The last two shots in the long-drive deal, I tried to hit it way too hard and didn't get a hold of it."

It was about the only downfall of the day for Biddle and everyone else involved in the exhibition at the Flying H Polo Club

The game featured eight of the world's top players, including Nacho Navillo Astrada, a nine-goal player.

Players are given handicaps ranging from -2 to 10, with only the top handful of players in the world receiving a 10 handicap.

Owen Rinehart, a former 10-goal player who's currently at seven, played with Astrada on the Little Goose team. The handicaps of each team totaled 28 goals, estimated by many to be the highest rated game ever in Wyoming and the best in the United States this summer.

"These players love to play at this level and they're happy to do it," said Skey Johnston, founder of the Flying H Polo Club. "I think everyone appreciates that these are some of the best players in the world and there's some skills here you don't always see."

For the second straight year, it seemed to work out for everybody involved.

Pablo Dorignac of the Big Goose team leans over to scoop the ball in for a goal during the Goose Creek Benefit Cup on Sunday. Photo by DAN CEDEDA, Star-Tribune.

 

The game began last year as a way to promote the Flying H Polo Club and to benefit the Downtown Sheridan Association's Stream Restoration Project.

It drew more than 1,000 fans and raised $16,000 -- which, through grants, turned into nearly $200,000 -- in its first year.

Official numbers weren't immediately known, but Roger Bent, executive director of the Downtown Sheridan Association, estimated a similar turnout on Sunday.

"I think it was very close," Bent said. "The attendance was good, the weather couldn't have been better and the crowd enthusiasm was great.

"I think people are more enthused than ever."

The project at Kendrick Park in Sheridan is scheduled to begin within the next month, perhaps by the time the professional players leave the Cowboy State.

The premier players come to Sheridan to play at the Flying H for just a month or two every year, and they'll close out their stay with North American Polo League tournaments the next two weekends.

And they'll surely take memories from Sunday's exhibition with them.

"This is awesome," said Biddle, a seven-goal player who was named the Goose Creek Cup's Most Valuable Player. "Playing good polo with these guys is incredible.

"In the United States, to play this level of polo that we did, we don't have it. There's no all-pro leagues. It's a sponsor and three pros, usually. So when we play in a tournament like this, it's great."

POLO TRACKER

SUNDAY: The Big Goose team (Pablo Dorignac, Hector Gallindo, Julio Arellano and Tommy Biddle) defeated Little Goose (Tiger Kneece, Owen Rinehart, Nacho Novillo Astrada and Santiago Trotz) 6-3 in the second annual Goose Creek Benefit Cup at Flying H Polo Club in Big Horn.

BIDDLE'S BEST: Biddle, one of the longest hitters in the world of polo, couldn't come through in a long-drive challenge, but provided three goals, including one from more than 150 yards, during an exhibition match thought to be the highest rated in Wyoming history and the best in the United States this summer.

HE SAID IT: "In the United States, to play this level of polo that we did, we don't have it." -- Biddle.

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