Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, playing in a polo match

At a press conference this Tuesday on the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club grounds, former ambassador to Jamaica and current club president Glen Holden shed light on preparations for the July 9 Foundation Polo Challenge — a charity event sponsored by Tiffany & Co. that will feature the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in what will be the couple’s first visit to California.

The high-profile event marks the 100th anniversary of the polo club, which attained international esteem in 1998 after hosting the Federation of International Polo (FIP) World Championship. However, next month’s tournament, which will draw an expected 2,500 spectators, will be the largest charity event in the club’s history.

Addressing an assembly of reporters and television crews — including British ITV morning program Daybreak — Ambassador Holden expressed the club’s enthusiasm to host the games, and the royal couple. “For us this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we are very excited,” he said. “The young couple are just wonderful people, and we are very lucky to have them … I am excited for the club, and for the city.”

The day’s festivities will include a polo match with three teams playing six chukkers (7½ minute periods), a private drinks reception, and a three-course luncheon. The event will be open to the public, with both club and VIP ticket options available.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, will compete on the team of cosponsor Royal Salute against the teams of fellow cosponsors Audi and Jack Wills in a round-robin-style tournament.

Holden described the process of inviting royalty. “Well, it was pretty simple,” he chuckled. “We were making plans for our hundred-year celebration, so I wrote to his father, who I have played with and against in the past, and asked if Duke William might want to come. I was a little concerned because it was so close to the wedding, but was surprised when they did agree to come.”

The club has hired YourBASH!, a full service event production company, to oversee catering, beverage, and decorative arrangements. “We want it to be classy, beautiful, and elegant,” said co-owner Bryan Worley. “We are going to make sure everyone gets the VIP experience regardless of which ticket you purchase.”

The event will feature rustic décor and local organic food for a “crisp and formal Santa Barbara feel.”

“We are hoping that everybody brings a little fashion from the wedding,” added fellow owner Jaime Geffen. “Hats are encouraged.”

All proceeds will benefit the American Friends of the Prince William and Prince Harry Foundation, which aids military families and disadvantaged children. “Every dollar goes to charity, and we are excited to be giving to such a good cause,” said Holden.

At the day’s end, Duchess Catherine will present an exclusive, Tiffany & Co. sterling silver and 18K gold trophy to the winning team in a formal awards ceremony.

Despite being royalty, the Duke is not expected to receive any special treatment by the competition. “If you’re a good player you will be on the ground every so often,” said Holden. “He’s not a professional, but I would put him at the top of the club team.”

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