Princess Diana presents Memo Gracida with the Princess of Wales Trophy, 1985

Sun-Sentinel: Prince Proves He’s a Tough Competitor

By Sharon Robb
Sun-Sentinel, November 13, 1985
Prince Charles, his jersey soaked with sweat and his britches covered with mud, slowly walked to the awards platform before a cheering throng of 12,000 at the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club in Wellington.

His Palm Beach team defeated the All-Stars 11-10 in an exhibition polo match Tuesday at Wellington, but it wasn’t easy.

His Royal Highness took a polo ball on the shoulder blade from an errant shot and nearly toppled off his polo pony twice when he loosened his grip on the reins.

“It was a very fast, very physical game,” said teammate Memo Gracida, one of the world’s highest-ranked (10-goals) polo players. “The prince is very tired. I could see him getting fatigued in the second half.”

Princess Diana presented Gracida with the porcelain-and-silver Princess of Wales Trophy. She then rewarded her husband with a porcelain polo pony and a kiss.

Gracida has spent the past three summers in England playing polo with Charles’ Les Diables Bleus team. The two play well together. Gracida and Charles have worked out signals where Gracida will touch the top of his gold helmet when he has open field and a chance at scoring.

“(Prince Charles) had two nice backhands and he turned as quick as possible after I touched my helmet,” Gracida said. “It’s such a good feeling when you’re able to communicate like that with another player on the field. I was able to hit the ball, break loose and take it all the way to the end of the field for a goal.”

Prince Charles played the No. 4 or back (defensive) position. He is rated at four goals. He started off slowly, but picked up late in the first half. He needed time to adjust to the horses loaned to him by teammates William T. Ylvisaker, Geoffrey Kent, Gracida and opposing player Kenneth McLean.

“It’s amazing when you think he just got back from a 12-day visit to Australia, flew from Hawaii to Washington D.C. to Palm Beach, drove here, got on a horse and played polo,” Kent said. “It’s simply amazing to ask that of anyone, much less a prince. He was very tough out there, very aggressive. Nothing is more frustrating for a polo player than to not have a chance to work with his horses before he has to play, but he adjusted very well. He got on the fast horses and played his heart out.”

“He liked the ponies, but it was hard for him at first,” Ylvisaker said. “I thought he played well. This match was much better than the last time (1980 Michelob World Cup) he played here. The game was much faster. I think the prince wished he could have stayed longer. He told me he would come around when he could, but he admitted he was homesick and missed his children. He’s been traveling a long time and he’s anxious to get home.”

When Prince Charles was hit in the shoulder blade with a ball in the first half, he smiled and turned to Kent.

“I asked him if he was OK,” Kent said. “He smiled back at me and said he was fine. He played a fine game. He told me he had a wonderful time. I think we all did.”

“Today I enjoyed playing with him, not because he is a prince and very noble, but because he is a player,” Gracida said. “Other than my brother (Carlos) and my cousin (Ruben), I enjoy playing polo with him the most. He told me he really enjoyed himself. He had the time of his life, but he was very tired.”

Gracida and Kent, co-sponsor of the Rolex Abercrombie & Kent polo team, each scored five goals. Prince Charles scored the other goal on a 20-yard penalty shot with 2:48 remaining in the third chukker. Ruben Gracida and Allan Scherer each had four goals for the All- Stars.

The crowd quickly got involved, cheering for the prince every time he had a good shot.

“It was exciting,” Kent said. “The prince made you feel very relaxed, very at ease.”

As Princess Diana watched from the Royal Box, McLean closely marked Prince Charles in the first half.

“He was fantastic to play against,” McLean said. “He’s a very nice person, but he’s also a tough competitor. We had a few close calls. He also had some nice shots which I complimented him on.”

“Nice shot, sir,” was the line of the day from both his teammates and opponents.

There were no special allowances made for Prince Charles – only the opportunity to score the penalty shot. The highest-ranked player takes most penalty shots.

“Of course, I called fouls on the prince,” said Rob Walton, who officiated the game along with Clark Hetherington.

“I played no differently because of Prince Charles,” said Ruben Gracida of Mexico. “He’s not the prince of my country.”

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