A Little Bit of History
About the Club
In 1922, The Uihlein family, founders of Schlitz Brewing Company, acquired a 28,000-acre property east of I-75 in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Over the course of time, the property evolved from a timber farm to incorporate many agricultural businesses creating what is today known as Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Inc. (SMR). Over the years, SMR has expanded to include the award winning master-planned community of Lakewood Ranch, SMR Aggregates, the diversified agricultural operations of SMR Farms, and The Sarasota Polo Club.
Although the Polo Club we know today was founded in 1991, polo on the ranch has deeper roots. Former executives, John Clark (SMR President) and Clive Morris (Vice President) created a Bahia polo field from a cow pasture near the former SMR headquarters. John and Clive, along with the cowboys who worked on the ranch, would play knock-around games in their free time. The guys would ride their stock saddles and didn’t know much about polo. Robin Uihlein, former Sarasota Polo Club President, recalls “it was one of the craziest things I’d ever seen.” After Robin donated mallets, saddles and a few ponies to the cowboy games, things got interesting. It was around that time when all the talk about a “real” polo club began. When Schroeder-Manatee Ranch finalized the decision to include a polo club in their master-planned community, Robin and his family, who were living on a ranch in Texas, headed east to Sarasota to take up the challenge.
The Sarasota Polo Club, established in 1991, became the first development in Lakewood Ranch. “We started out small, just two fields. But the people came,” says Robin, recalling that it wasn’t easy to get them out here. “Back then University Parkway was a long, dusty shell road. We would hold events like the Ringling Cup and some big charity events, and it was pretty incredible to watch Mary Fran Carroll (former CEO and Chairman of SMR) get people to come out here. They’d scoff and say, ‘Come on, there’s nothing east of the interstate!’ and she’d say, ‘Oh yes there is; trust me!’ So people would come in their fancy cars and fancy clothes and drive down this dirt road, stuff would be flying everywhere. But they came.”
Over the years, the Sarasota Polo Club has grown into a well-respected club, with paved roads, Bermuda playing fields and a first-class residential polo community. Today the Club boasts nine world-class polo fields and thirty-five private ranches, ranging from five to forty acres (some of the most sought after property in Lakewood Ranch).
The Sarasota Polo Club continues to be a first-class operation with a continued reputation for fairness, fast-playing fields and family fun. It is these elements, combined with the strong emphasis on sportsmanship that keeps the members coming back year after year. With its solid foundation and strong morals, you can be assured that the Sarasota Polo Club will be around for years to come.
Photos for the Sarasota Polo Club website were provided by Eric Nalpas Photography & Julio Aguilar.
Meet the Team
We do our best to ensure that your experience with Sarasota Polo is a positive one. Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns or if you would just like to introduce yourself. We would like to personally welcome you to the Sarasota Polo Club!