Tournament celebrates player’s life and sportsmanship
A number of adjectives come to mind when friends and fellow polo players talk about Austin Allen.
The Aiken resident passed away last January, at the age of 15, but his memory, friendly demeanor, polite mannerisms, and positive outlook continue to resonate with those who knew him.
The Austin Allen Children’s Memorial tournament was held Saturday at the Hilltop Farm Polo Club Arena to celebrate the life of a young man, one who was passionate about the sport of polo. Players came from all over the southeast, including those from Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., and from Charleston, S.C.
However, the focus of the tournament was on sportsmanship. Allen’s presence was felt at the tournament, and the participating players had a very special connection as they played his string of horses. Junior players from every level of polo took part in the event.
“It’s great to see how the kids have evolved,” said Karen Reese, Hilltop Farm. “The intermediate kids have moved up to advanced. The juniors are now at intermediate, so you have a whole new crop. These kids are the future of the sport. It’s great to see the kids evolve, those who are continuing the family tradition of playing, and that are starting new traditions. I have kids that aren’t from polo families and playing polo. It’s a testament to Austin by the number of people out here. There’s been a huge outpouring of love and support.”
A number of the junior players taking part on Saturday, made the transition to polo from other disciplines. One of those horseman was Tyler Morris, who took up the sport because of Allen.
“He was a great kid,” said Morris. “He was actually the one who introduced me to polo. I played my first game with him. He was my best friend. The tournament honoring his memory means a lot to me because I was hoping to play with him one day. I used to pick him up every day after school. We hung out and went to the polo barn. I came to Hilltop Farm to play polo.”
Tess Pimsner was another polo player that had an opportunity to be teammates with Allen, and acknowledges that his absence has created a noticeable void.
“I was very upset when he died,” said Pimsner. “The tournament is a way of remembering him, but it’s also very therapeutic. I’m very intense when I’m playing, but today’s game took on added meaning.”
The tournament was also a family affair. Haley Bryan is from a polo family, was a collegiate All-American, and her son Wesley and daughter Malia also play. Wesley was a schoolmate of Austin’s, and they played polo with and against each other. Haley Bryan saw the tournament as a great way to celebrate Austin’s life.
“Polo was a passion with him,” said Haley Bryan. “He came to it from a non-polo environment, even though he was a horse kid. It was probably one of the most important things to him. He had a connection to most of the kids playing in this tournament, and in the tournament last year. I don’t think there was a kid or parent out there that didn’t love his enthusiasm, spirit of sportsmanship and positive attitude.”