Situated adjacent to the historic and scenic Delaware River which flows to the East and defines the state’s borderline with New Jersey, lies Tinicum Park Polo Club (TPPC) in Erwinna, Pennsylvania. Deriving its name from Tinicum Park in Bucks County, the 126-acres of picturesque wooded property on which the main field is located, TPPC is set amid a recreational atmosphere of sprawling ball fields and vast camping grounds. Only an hour’s drive from both New York City and Philadelphia, TPPC’s convenient location to major cities and beautiful backdrop has attracted members from neighboring states over the past 25 years to this family-friendly club.
Founded in 1993, TPPC values inclusivity and was created to be affordable for all those who love and support the game of polo. Approached to help start the club for his international polo expertise, Hesham El-Gharby, current club manager and delegate, has been a part of TPPC’s legacy from day one. “I took over club operations in 1994 and since then I’ve built it and it’s grown to have the largest membership in the Eastern Circuit with 44 members,” El-Gharby said. “My goal from the beginning was always to promote polo so TPPC is a club for everyone, not just the wealthy.” Officially becoming a USPA Member Club over two decades ago in January of 1996, TPPC spans across two states with the spectator field located in Pennsylvania and a privately-owned regulation-sized field in Pittstown, New Jersey.
Playing 0- to 8-goal tournaments, TPPC offers a broad range of opportunities to accommodate players of varying levels from mid-May to mid-October. Along with the annual 8-Goal USPA Regional President’s Cup and Women’s Challenge Cup, the club hosts many special events and charity fundraisers throughout the 20-week season including a themed polo game and silent auction benefitting Work To Ride, and Wine and Polo in September. Committed to growing a diverse membership, TPPC has an increasing women’s demographic and plans to implement a junior team in its twenty-fifth year. “I let the juniors play three or four times a year in front of the spectators because it makes them happy and it also makes more kids interested in coming to play polo,” El-Gharby said. “It’s important to have a new generation of polo players coming up to take our place.” Encouraging new players’ participation, TPPC allows members the opportunity to progress with lower level 4- and 6-goal club tournaments.
Commemorating the quarter of a century milestone in 2018, the TPPC season will be highlighted by an anniversary celebration complete with a black-tie gala and international polo match featuring the Egyptian National Team. El-Gharby, Egyptian pro and former captain of the Egyptian National Team, has hosted the team at TPPC a few times previously. “I’ve played polo for 51 years now and I decided to invite the Egyptian team because that’s my homeland and the country where I started playing polo as a boy,” El-Gharby said. “To celebrate our jubilee year I would like to have players from my homeland return to the field.” Cultivating an international membership with representatives of Sweden, Germany, New Zealand, Great Britain, India, Australia, Argentina and the Dominican Republic, TPPC knows how to make guests from all backgrounds feel at home.
Drawing anywhere from 500 to 1,500 spectators every Saturday during the season, TPPC is distinguished by its interactive spectator experiences and unrivaled hospitality. “We’re well known for being a friendly club, welcoming both players and spectators regardless of their economic or cultural background and level,” El-Gharby stressed. Mingling with the crowd during the champagne divot stomp, TPPC’s playing members who represent the Ambassador Club are easily identifiable in whites and polo jerseys. Readily available to answer any questions spectators might have while watching, these club members serve as educational ambassadors of the sport. In place of Sunday games, polo is played on the main field on Saturdays to accommodate players and spectators who may attend other clubs’ Sunday events.
Opening day in May kicks the season off with the annual Joe Stahl Memorial Cup, featuring a spirited tailgate competition with the chance to win a sports cover tailgate party tent. Categories for this year include most creative theme, best cuisine and beverages, best spirit, and most elegant tailgate, bridging bonds in the name of competition. A beloved fixture at every game, Charlie Chukker the life-size metal horse embodies the club’s philosophy of interaction and is available free of charge to sit on and hit the ball, often attracting a long line during halftime. “It’s a very popular tradition,” El-Gharby remarked. “Each person hits the ball three times to get the feeling of what the players experience.” Offering affordable entertainment in a family-oriented environment, TPPC creates many opportunities for fans to learn about the sport.
Although TPPC is without an official polo school, El-Gharby is a USPA Certified Polo Instructor, Certified Umpire and the coach of Princeton University Polo Club. Beginning his career in Egypt at age 11, El-Gharby went on to reach a 3-goal handicap and traveled across the world playing on the Egyptian National Team. Bringing his decades of experience to teach at TPPC, El-Gharby also instructs at Barefield Polo Club in Frenchtown, New Jersey, where his intercollegiate team practices. Offering their services, various members of TPPC supplement his schedule with riding and polo lessons independently as the club collectively works to grow their playing membership.
Appealing for its tranquil setting, popular charitable events and inviting atmosphere, TPPC is excited to continue down the successful path to another 25 years. Truly inspired by different clubs visited across the globe, El-Gharby’s vision for an inclusive environment has allowed an international community to take shape. “I have people coming to me from New York saying ‘your club feels different,’” El-Gharby shared. “It feels like home.” A place for players to develop and sharpen their skills, TPPC’s only requirement is a shared passion for polo.
For more information on Tinicum Park Polo Club or to purchase tickets for the 25th Anniversary Gala and Polo Match, please visit their website at www.tinicumparkpoloclub.org. “Like” Tinicum Park Polo Club on Facebook and follow them at @TinicumPolo on Twitter.