The Greenville Polo Classic
The Upstate's Only Polo Event
The Greenville Polo Classic is the only event of its kind in the Upstate of South Carolina, bringing in the southeast's top polo players to compete right here in Greenville. Founded in 2012, the Greenville Polo Classic was created as a fundraiser for ALS and other neurological disorders.
Event co-founder Nigel Robertson spear-headed the initiative as a way of turning tragedy into charity. Read Nigel's story below.
The day was May 12, 2011.
I was sitting in a doctors office at the University of Miami. The head of Neurology was talking to my parents doing everything he could to break the news to my father as delicately as he could. My father with a smile on his face, began joking with the doctor with that sense of humor that he faced everything in life with. I however, wasn’t smiling. I was staring into space in shock. My mind was spinning. It took every ounce of my being to keep my eyes from swelling up with tears. Did the doctor just tell my dad that he has ALS?
How could this be? My father was one of the healthiest people I knew. He ate right, he took his vitamins. He was a happy, healthy 70 year old man. Every morning the first thing he would do is get up, make breakfast and then jog around the block to the tennis court where he would spend the next few hours playing.
It was on a warm December day on the courts that my dad noticed something wasn’t right. He was in a match with his buddy and for some reason his foot wasn’t keeping up. After stumbling and falling a few times, my dad called it a match. I will never forget the phone call I got from him later that day. “Nigel” he said, “Its weird, my foot feels like its dragging. It doesn’t hurt but its really making me fell off balanced.”
I kept asking myself how did this happen to my father? To be honest I was angry and my prayers became tearful, one-sided shouting matches with God. I wondered how am I going to process everything, and how was I going to be able to take care of my father from so far away, what was God doing?? That's when the phone rang.
“Doctor Hughes wants to meet with you.” Those seven words started my very personal mission of helping people with neurological diseases.
Fixing A Need In Greenville
Before my father’s diagnosis, while doctors were conducting a long list of tests, Dr. Mary Hughes from Greenville, SC was helping me understand what the doctors and all those medical reports said. At the time, I hadn’t met her and we only communicated via email. It was after his diagnosis, and after I came back home to Greenville that I learned there was no designated clinic anywhere in the state to treat people with this horrible disease. I was shocked to learn South Carolina was so lacking in care for ALS patients.
For example, I became friends with Chad Poole, a 34 year old former golf pro. Chad was diagnosed with ALS 8 years ago. The disease has left him unable to speak and the use of his arms and hands is extremely limited. He and his wife would have to leave their Greenville County home and drive all the way to Duke University or Charlotte, North Carolina just to be seen at an ALS Clinic. I wanted to change that. I wanted people in this state to have the help they needed right here at home.
So when I got that fateful call that Doctor Hughes wanted to meet, we arranged a meeting at her office. “I wanted to meet with you because I think you can help me with something”, she told me. She then told me that her group was ready to move to a whole new level of patient care and that the goal of a state-of-the-art clinic was not just an idea, but a serious possibility.
Our mission started as an ALS Clinic but quickly became a place for a list of neurological disorders. Our goal became to build a place where people suffering from Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, Stroke and other disorders can also get the care they need. Because of the size and scope of the care they provided, we knew everything we needed was already in place.
A one-of-a-kind event is born
On May 21st – one year and 9 days after my father's diagnosis with ALS – I found myself standing on the Hopkins Family Farm in Simpsonville at a press conference. With tears welling up in my eyes, I watched as we announced the first ever Polo Classic which would serve as a yearly fundraiser for ALS and other neurological diseases and disorder patient care, research and family assistance. I looked around at the team of people who helped make this happen and my soul welled up giving thanks to God.
- Nigel Robertson, Greenville Polo Classic Chair