Portrait of a Major League polo player
So who is Scott Malek and what’s his claim to athletic fame?
Veda Radke Photography.
Wine Country Polo Club rider Scott Malek, front, racing against John Zeigler during a polo match in Oakmont last fall.
Great athletes. We love them, emulate them, and even idolize them. They have all the qualities we admire and aspire to, albeit in our fantasies. More often than not they come with rugged good looks, great physiques, amazing ability, charismatic charm, and the “no fear factor” that when added to a heavy dose of passion equals perfection on the playing field of choice. And as if that were not enough, the really good ones are usually both rich and famous. Scott Malek possesses all of those qualities and more. And unbeknownst to most of you, he both lives and plays right here in our back yard. So who is this guy, Scott Malek, and what’s his claim to athletic fame?
Scott Malek is a polo player, with a heavy emphasis on both polo and playing. Fearless in his passionate pursuit of polo perfection, Scott has for the last three decades been perfecting a sport that borders on a life and a style that suits this ever-so-handsome horseman’s insatiable appetite for horsing around. A politician by day, Scott owns and manages SolutionsWest, a political consulting business located in the heart of downtown Sacramento. He has a home (one of several) in Sacramento, where his family, including his three children, live. When not donning three piece suits on his oft times bruised and broken body, and dodging in and out of never-ending meetings with the likes of Arnold and Maria, Scott can be found high atop one of many in his collection of four-legged, one horse-powered vehicles.
Though a seasonal sport for some, Scott plays year-round at clubs all over the world, from Scottsdale, Arizona to Palm Beach, Florida, and even as far away as the polo capital of the world, Argentina. A resident of Glen Ellen, Scott can be found April through October playing with our very own Wine Country Polo Club, home to Henry Trione’s Wild Oak Polo Fields nestled in the scenic hills adjacent to Annadel State Park.
So how did Scott end up connecting and connected to one of the most physically demanding and notably dangerous sports known to mankind?
Scott was born in the rural suburbs of Chicago, and horses were always a big part of his life beginning at the tender age of three. Learning to ride almost at the same time he learned to walk gave Scott a leg up and into the saddle that would take him down a road well traveled by all in his family. Along with his parents and siblings Scott ventured into the hunter/jumper world that, though not quite to his liking, gave him a taste of something that was much to his liking – women. And as it turns out, they dominate the equine industry. Not a bad place for a guy to be, something Scott quickly attuned to. But it wasn’t until years later that Scott, now a teenager living in the Los Angeles area and exercising horses on the L.A. tracks, was introduced to Chuck Rogers, grandson of the famous Will Rogers. Both were avid polo players owning and operating one of the oldest and largest polo clubs in the world, the Will Rogers Polo Club, still in existence today. It would be Chuck who would introduce Scott to the game of polo, and the rest is history. And there is a tremendous amount of history to polo.
Historians have determined that the sport of polo, referred to as the sport of kings, originated in either Persia or among the Iranian tribes of Central Asia, and the game has over 2000 years of recorded history. The word “polo” is of Tibetan origin, being derived from “pulu” their word for ball. At its earliest inception the game of polo was not just a game, but a way to prepare young leaders for the rigors of war, and rigorous it is. Imagine a ball hit so hard that it comes at you at a speed of 110 miles per hour, so fast you can hardly see it. Your job is to stay at a gallop, get your horse in line with the ball, and either pass it ahead to one of four teammates, or carry the ball down the field for an attempt at goal.
It’s no wonder that the game of polo is one of the fastest, roughest, and most dangerous sports played today, second in hazard duty only to race car driving. It makes Scott’s other world of polish and politics look a little less daunting, next to maneuvering a big horse with a small mallet, and an even smaller ball (3 inches in diameter) downfield at speeds in excess of 30 mph – no doubt what attracted Scott to the sport to begin with. That and, as Scott will tell you, “the amazing relationship you develop between yourself and your horse,” or more specifically horses. It takes a herd of some 12-15 horses to play major league polo.
Outside of being physically fit and sufficiently financially outfitted, what does it take to be a good polo player? According to Scott, “one has to be both disciplined and dedicated to the team.” And in the case of polo there are two teams to focus on, one of horses, the other, humans. Out on the wide open spaces of a polo field, a meticulously manicured lawn the size of 10 football fields, Scott emphasizes, “one must be mentally attuned to the fact that you are always only one person working with three other people against four other people,” all on horseback. As in most team sports even the greatest athletes will tell you that they are only as good as the sum of their parts. And Scott takes no exception to that rule.
Scott Malek is a polo player, with a heavy emphasis on both polo and playing, for it is both a sport and a lifestyle. Ever so humble about his amazing talent, lifetime of experience, and the fearless bravado that it takes to chase a tiny ball down a wide open field aboard a great big horse with a very little mallet at speeds that would leave most of us brushing the dust off, Scott represents nothing short of athletic prowess at its very best. But chicks dig it. Just ask Scott!
The opportunity to meet Scott and his fellow Wine Country Polo teammates, see the horses, and be a spectator of this trendy turf sport is free to the general public on weekends, beginning May 15, through October. Wine Country Polo Field is located at 560 White Oak Drive in Oakmont. Check their website for an updated list of dates and special events (www.winecountry poloclub.com).
Websites of interest:
Wine Country Polo club, U.S. Polo,
Polo Barn, SF Polo in the Park.com
Linda Aldrich and her business The Pony Express have been providing pony rides and riding lessons for children at Howarth Park for the last 26 years. In addition Linda is an instructor in the Equine/Ag Department at SRJC and has published numerous articles on equine-related topics. She can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 538-9323.