Melissa Ganzi and Prince William on the polo field at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club on Saturday as former Ambassador to Jamaica Glen Holden and Kate Middleton (center) watch from the grandstands.
Paul Wellman

What should I wear?

That was the first – and most obvious, I thought – question I asked myself when I got my press accreditation to cover Prince William and his wife Catherine’s trip to Santa Barbara on Saturday.

If it’s not plaid and button-down and doesn’t match with, well, jeans, it’s probably not in my wardrobe rotation. But this was the Royals! And I had heard that Kate would be dressing herself throughout the duration of the newlyweds’ weeklong trip to North America, so I put the pressure on myself to do the same.

For the trip to Santa Barbara, Kate settled on a fancy chinoiserie silk dress from the Spring 2011 collection of British designer Jenny Packham. I went with my boat shoes, non-jean pants, and a nice button-down from J. Crew’s 2006 collection. And I must say, we both looked marvelous, though I will give the edge to the beautiful Kate.

Apparently a lot of people had the same question as I did of what to wear, and took their answers very seriously, mostly in the headwear department. Big hats, small hats, men in hats, women in hats, ugly hats, really ugly hats – they were all there. But while I personally think the whole hat craze gets a bit ridiculous (Is it a British thing? Or a polo fashion? Or just a rich person thing?), I have to hand it to those who came armed with a hat, because my face is now on fire from the sunburn I received. Most of the crowd – I met people who traveled from New York, San Francisco, and Montecito – were fancily dressed for the occasion, and eager to show off their hot outfits.

Of course, I had many other questions. Was Pippa coming? Why do William and Kate have so many names? – Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, prince and princess, Wills and Catherine, etc.; my favorite name, however, is Will’s recently acquired title of Baron Carrickfergus.

Saturday, while proving to be a long day for media who had to arrive by 9:30 a.m. though the polo match didn’t get underway until 3 p.m., turned out to be a lovely display of Santa Barbara weather for Their Royal Highnesses. In addition to the main attractions, several other celebs, I was told, were also in attendance, including Zoe Saldana, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Joe Jonas. I can only verify that Jennifer Love Hewitt was there.

Prince William and Kate Middleton's visit to the Santa Barbara Polo & Raquet Club July 9, 2011
Paul Wellman

I didn’t see the others because of the wide separation between the high-powered ticket-payers and everyone else, who paid $400 a ticket. The 300 or so media types who staked out Santa Barbara’s event were stationed on the opposite side of the 100 yard-wide pitch from the grandstand, where the $4,000 ticket holders got to sit. They didn’t just have shade, however, but a private lunch provided by chef Giada De Laurentiis, who whipped together sweet corn lasagna with blistered tomatoes and a pea pesto and beef tenderloin crostini.

The event was put on not only to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club, but also to raise money for Prince William’s U.S. charity – The American Friends of The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry – which works with at-risk youth and advocates for the environment.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's deputies on horseback during Prince William and Kate Middleton's visit to the Santa Barbara Polo & Raquet Club July 9, 2011
Paul Wellman

While the big timers enjoyed their meals, the $400 ticket-holders on the other side of the field – filling grandstands brought in just for Saturday’s occasion – munched on a boxed lunch of chicken and arugula pita pocket, perfectly crunchy slaw, and two cookies.

And then, of course, there was the polo. Going in, I didn’t know a whole lot. I knew there were horses. And a ball. Turns out it isn’t much more complicated than that, and the four experienced riders on each of the three teams that played made it look easy. The star of the game – which is broken up into 7 minute, 30 second periods called chukkers – was Prince William, who traded his sport coat for a polo shirt with the number four on the back.

Perhaps his MVP status was a foregone conclusion prior to the match beginning, but Prince William sealed the deal with four goals throughout the contest, ensuring victory for his team, Royal Salute. Santa Barbara resident Glen Holden, Jr., Andy Busch (a descendant of the Anheuser-Busch founder) and the aptly-named Santi Trotz were the prince’s capable teammates, while other local players – like Pat Nesbitt and Wesley Ru – stood out amongst the action.

Prince William and Kate Middleton's visit to the Santa Barbara Polo & Raquet Club July 9, 2011
Paul Wellman

Prince William, who apparently had to learn how to play the game with his off-hand (he is naturally left-handed, while polo is a right-handed sport) got cheered on every time his mallet touched the ball, and gained a few “oohs” on near misses early on in his match. He received loud cheers once the ball finally crossed the goaline, and scored thrice more to lead his team to victory. The announcer, after his final goal, twice called him Prince Charles, his father and the first in line for the British crown.

Prince William scored once more during the awards presentation when his wife, instead of shaking his hand as she had the rest of the competitors, gave him a peck on each cheek.

After a few more handshakes, the couple – just recently married in April – was whisked away, and 20 or so minutes later their helicopter was in the air, headed back toward Los Angeles to continue their Southern California visit.


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