Rushmore Polo and Social Club’s chances of pulling a 4th straight win over visiting Rapid City’s Black Hills Polo Club at Sunday’s Newton Fork Ranch’s 24th Annual “Picnic & Polo” event looked bleaker than this past summer’s skies. With a shake-up of the Hill City team members with the absence of Boe and Angela Gregson, it took awhile for Rushmore to settle into the game. The missing Gregsons were replaced by renowned buffalo wrangler Duane Lammers, now of Manitoba, Canada and Susie Lammers of Sioux Falls. Filling out the home team roster was Tim Gregson and, as an alternate, Duane’s son Alex, who last played in 2007. The Black Hills Polo Club was represented by Kurt and Judy Ketelsen from north of Ellsworth, Rich Jensen of Double Diamond Ranch and, Dan Glyten of Hill City who was playing as an alternate.
Stepping onto the field in the first chukker were Kurt and Judy Ketelsen along with Dan Gylten. Representing Hill City were Duane Lammers, Tim Gregson, and Susie Lammers. And, although both teams came out with mallets swinging, the first chukker ended scoreless.
Commencing with the second chukker, the play began in earnest. Black Hills Polo members Kurt Ketelsen and Dan Glyten both put a goal on the board with Rich Jensen assisting. Rushmore managed to answer the call with a goal of its own posted by captain Tim Gregson. Both teams exhibited some fine playing with lots of impressive, strong offside backhand shots that kept the ball rolling on goal. The match went into halftime with a score of 2-1 in favor of Rapid City’s Black Hills Polo Club.
After the players moved off field to water and rest their ponies, the third annual “Arleen Lippman Hat Contest” commenced. 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 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 with applause. In a very close decision, crowd favorite Anne French of Hill City was announced as the winner of the annual trophy.
The parade of hats was soon followed by spectators taking to the field with champagne glasses in hand to participate in “stomping divots.” The annual tradition was again hosted by former poloist, Kitty Pitts.
Action resumed with Tim Gregson, along with Duane and Alex Lammers putting the moves on Rapid City. With horses panting and solid shots up and down the field, Rapid City’s Kurt Ketelsen, Rich Jensen, and Dan Glyten were denied the opportunity to up the ante. But neither was Hill City able to score. Although both teams exhibited excellent offensive and defensive moves, the third chukker ended scoreless and expressions of frustration resumed. Not only on the faces of the players but also on the faces of scorekeeper Rachel Taylor and flagmen Gervase Hittle and Shane Taylor who were left idle.
When the fourth and final chukker began with Kurt and Judy Ketelsen taking the field along with Dan Gylten, it looked as though Hill City might be handed its first defeat in three years. Opposing Rapid City was Duane Lammers, Tim Gregson, and Susie Lammers. With a steely look in Gregson’s eye that said Hill City would not go “quietly into that good night,” the play began. Gylten, competitive as ever, seemed to have his nose in every play. The Ketelsens also proved adept at offensive maneuvering that featured Judy delivering a successful shot on goal. But Hill City would not be denied. Gregson pressed on and issued a firm slap down with two goals that were matched by teammate Alex Lammers. When the game ended, Hill City’s Rushmore Polo and Social Club prevailed with a score of 5-3.
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 visiting with one another, and relishing the burgers and hot dogs seasoned and served up by the culinary talents of Grill Chef Bob Stanfiel.
With everyone’s appetite satiated, the afternoon concluded with a well-received concert by the Badger Setts Band headed by Pegie Douglas. The ensemble was formed in 2012 to honor the life of Badger Clark, South Dakota’s First Poet Laureate. Douglas, the founder, puts select Badger Clark poems to music. The group had graciously agreed to appear Sunday in honor of Clark’s “original” Badger Hole cabin having been relocated from Custer State Park to Newton Fork Ranch.