Feb. 20—Editor's note: We Are Aiken County is a series of articles that will run through Feb. 26. It celebrates people, places and events that shaped Aiken County.
In March of 1882, riders on horseback gathered to play a game on a large field off a dirt road not far from downtown Aiken.
The objective for the two competing teams was to put a small ball through a goal at either end of the field. The game was called polo, and it's been going strong in Aiken ever since.
The Winter Colony — the group of wealthy families who visited Aiken each year during the winter season — brought many of their favorite pastimes with them. Polo quickly caught on and has remained popular.
The sport has been played at Whitney Field, the site of Aiken's first game in 1882, on an annual basis. It's considered to be the oldest field in the United States that has remained in continuous use. The games have gone on despite world wars, economic downturns and even COVID-19.
"This is where polo really jumped and developed into a sport that became the place of champions," Elliott Levy, the former director of the Aiken County Historical Museum, once said. "It was right here. It was kind of amazing. Whitney Field was where they played. The real games of polo, the best players, played right here."
Almost every great American polo player has competed at Whitney Field at some point in their careers. That includes Thomas Hitchcock, Tommy Hitchcock, Devereux Milburn and Harry Payne Whitney from a century or more ago to modern-day players such as Tommy Biddle Jr., Julio Arellano, Adam Snow, Owen Rinehart and Tiger Kneece.
Aiken's polo history features prominent families such as the Bostwicks, Coreys, Knoxes, Biddles and Kneeces. Tiger Kneece serves as the Aiken Polo Club's manager and his wife, Susie, is the marketing director. Their daughter, Summer, is a rising star in the sport.
The Aiken Polo Club conducts matches in the spring and fall seasons. Tiger Kneece told the Rotary Club of Aiken that he is trying to increase interest in polo through a grassroots effort.