Last Sunday’s annual polo match at Newton Fork Ranch must have felt like déjà vu for Rapid City’s team captain Kurt Ketelsen. Although historically the teams are equally matched, Hill City’s Rushmore Polo and Social Club dispensed the opponents with their third defeat in as many years. Spectators, many who had turned out in their finest hats for a day of polo, were not disappointed by the action. And the game had special meaning for captains Ketelsen and Tim Gregson, as the match was played in memory of their mothers, Patricia Ketelsen and Alice Gregson, who passed since last year’s game. Both were faithful fans who, no doubt, were present Sunday in spirit.
The spectators had no sooner clutched the team roster and rules that Samantha Derwin had provided them when, quick as lightening, Dick Flounders threw the first ball in, the play commenced, and Boe Gregson put a goal on the board in short order. Judy Ketelsen came to husband Kurt’s aid as he moved the ball up field in scoring position for Dan Gylten who, ultimately, was denied a scoring shot. So although Rapid City responded with equal initial ferocity to Hill City’s bully boy press, the first chukker ended in Rushmore’s favor 1-0.
With Rapid “heavied up” on alternate players, the second chukker introduced Susie Lammers, a Sioux Falls resident playing for her second year and Rich Jensen of Double Diamond Ranch to assist with offense. Their third rotating alternate, renowned buffalo wrangler, Duane Lammers answered the “call to arms” for the Black Hills Polo Club, making it 1-1 going into half-time.
After the players moved off field to water and rest their ponies, spectators, with champagne glasses in hand, were invited to participate in the annual tradition of “stomping divots” which was hosted this year by former poloist Kitty Pitts. Friends greeted each other and, as a result of abundant summer rains, the quaking aspen and lush grass made the end-of-season socializing especially enjoyable.
The “bubbly fest” was soon followed by the second annual “Arleen Lippman Hat Award.” Mrs. Lippman, former owner of “A&H Grocery” on Hill City’s Main Street was well known for her fondness for hats. Having owned more than 100, she was rarely sighted without one. Spectators were encouraged to flex their creativity and about a dozen contestants stepped forward to vie for Sunday’s trophy. As Newton Fork Ranch owner and game day announcer, Linda Flounders held a polo mallet aloft behind each competitor, the crowd voiced its approval. In a very close decision, crowd favorite Caroline Kelner of La Jolla, CA, in a blue hat festooned with ornate feathers, secured the win.
The Black Hills Polo Club player rotation continued when the match resumed; however, the rested trio comprised of the Ketelsens and Dan Gylten posed little threat to Rushmore Polo & Social Club. Angela Gregson swiftly sent a shot on goal that severed the tie, making it 2-1. Despite some terrific defensive maneuvering by Rapid City, Team Gregson was on the offense. Angela followed up with a second goal to advance her team’s standing to 3-1 in the third chukker.
In the fourth chukker, with a refreshed Rich Jensen, Susie Lammers and, cousin-by-marriage, Duane Lammers rejoining the field, Rapid came out fighting. Duane Lammers, who seemed to have his nose in every play, ran both offense and defense and provided Jensen the opportunity to score a goal. Hill City captain Gregson answered the challenge with a swift goal of his own. Not to be deterred, Jensen, with a chip shot to the corner, posted another goal, making it 4-3. With the champagne-fueled spectators on pins and needles and flag persons Jim Williams and Maggie Derwin on high alert, Tim Gregson made his move. With seconds remaining on the clock, he charged the goal and with mallet held high, nailed a near impossible offside neck shot and sent Rapid City a 5-3 farewell note.
Afterwards, fans gathered to enjoy a picnic with lots of delicious food provided by guests, Moni Matush of the Alpine Inn, Wally Matush, and Newton Fork Ranch. The celebrants enjoyed recapping the game, visiting with friends, and relishing the burgers and hot dogs seasoned and served up by the culinary talents of Grill Chefs Bob Stanfiel and Rich Sitts.
With everyone’s appetite satiated, the afternoon concluded with a surprise concert by Nina McIntire. A Russian violinist and MFA graduate of the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, she and her husband, Gary, live in Germany, yet have property in Hill City. After many years touring the world with European orchestras, she has recently launched her solo career as a pianist. She treated guests to a repertoire of classical, jazz, and blues music. Poised against a slate backdrop and surrounded by Newton Creek, she served up a rich dessert of Debussy, Mozart, and Chopin meshed with her own compositions. Her unique musical creation, “Ivory Fantasy” (www.IvoryFantasy.com) which she has performed in Russia, Finland, and Germany, found a warm and welcoming reception among her charmed audience. This was a mesmerizing conclusion to a magical day at Newton Fork Ranch.
Duane Lammers (red #2) playing for Rapid City’s Black Hills Polo Club breaks away from Hill City’s Rushmore Polo & Social Club Boe Gregson (white #2), as Rich Jensen (red #3) and Susie Lammers look on.
It’s “all hands on deck” as Rapid City’s Black Hills Polo Club charges for the goal led by Judy Ketelsen (red #2), followed closely by husband Kurt (red #3), Tim Gregson of Hill City’s Rushmore Polo & Social Club, and Dan Glyten (red #1). Pursing on the right is opposing player Angela Gregson (white #1) as flag person Maggie Derwin is posed to rule on the action.