Top collegiate polo player Kareem Rosser and Arizona State Representative Kelly Townsend at the Phoenician on September 10, at the preview party for the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships. (Denise Meredith/Arizona Informant)
Top collegiate polo player Kareem Rosser and Arizona State Representative Kelly Townsend at the Phoenician on September 10, at the preview party for the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships. (Denise Meredith/Arizona Informant)

Jackie Robinson in baseball, Tiger Woods in golf, Bill Pickett in rodeo: there have been many American pioneers, who defied the odds to become legends in sports, where Blacks had previously been excluded. On Sept. 10, Arizonans may have gotten a glimpse of a new potential legend, when they attended the preview party for the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships. The keynote speaker, 22-year-old Kareem Rosser, is now considered the best African-American polo player in the U.S.

“White,” “rich” and “country club” are words usually associated with the sport of polo. Very few Americans of any color have seen a live match. The 5th annual Championship, which will be held on October 24, at WestWorld in Scottsdale, Ariz., is the largest spectator polo event in the country. It is a fun introduction to stomping divots and other rituals of the sport for Arizonans.

In 2012, attendees were introduced to and surprised to see an all-Black team of high-schoolers, led by Rosser, defeat Harvard at the Polo Championships.

The journey of Rosser from a rough, inner-city neighborhood of Philadelphia called “The Bottom,” to his award as Collegiate Player of the Year 2015, is an inspiration to youth of all colors.

In 1994, Lezlie Hiner, the executive director of Chamounix Equestrian Center in Philadelphia, created the Work to Ride program, which taught inner-city youth discipline, ethics and how to play polo. Rosser and his five brothers and sisters fell in love with the sport. From his start mucking stalls, Rosser would ultimately, lead the Work to Ride team to two national championships in 2011 and 2012.

Rosser now attends Colorado State University (CSU), plays for the CSU Club Polo, and will graduate with a degree in business in May 2016.

“I am always excited to come to Phoenix to meet people, talk about the sport, and show people that polo is not just for the rich. It can change lives.” He has appeared on 60 Minutes, ESPN and a number of other shows and publications.

Tickets and tables for the Polo Championships are still available online at www.thepoloparty.com.

Attendees will get to see spectacular cars from Bentley and Barrett-Jackson, beautiful Arabian horses, fabulous fashion shows for people and dogs. They can also listen to jazz or enjoy a live Larsen art auction.

It is a fun event for the whole family, where kids and their parents can witness what inspired Rosser to make history.

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