Field General

By C. Patterson

I imagine that when General Patton spoke that his voice sounded a lot like Dallas Polo Club’s Bil Walton. Same authority, same conviction. There are those of you who will shake your heads, but I assure you Mr. Walton is worthy of the comparison. If you have heard the phrase cut from a different cloth, then Bil Walton is cut from leather. A competitor to his core, the field general has battled and achieved success in a sport where high-impact plastic balls are launched in your direction from wooden mallets and you have to negotiate your position and maintain balance while on horseback. And after seeing my first match I quickly discovered that polo is tougher than a bare-knuckle back alley brawl between Clint Eastwood and Chuck Norris. For what it’s worth I think Bil Walton could wipe the floor with both of ‘em.

What is it about polo that you love the most?

Bil Walton: I think it’s an exciting, fierce, competitive sport and I think that anytime that someone gets proficient at something, they like it. I guess maybe the combination between the horse and rider and the speed.

I was speaking to a friend of yours at one of your matches and he told me that he credits you with introducing him to the sport more than 25 years ago. What do you do to maintain your passion and intensity for the sport for the better part of three decades?

BW: Well, the most important thing is that I have evolved in viewing it in different ways. When I first started competing, back in high school, it was shear competition. Then the competition in college polo at UC Davis and we won a couple of National Titles. And then I became a professional and was able to travel around the country and around the world to play. Probably 15 years ago I stopped chasing it around the world to just play at the Dallas Polo Club and we still play competitively, but there are other things involved like training the horses and I have a son that’s 11 years old and new people that have taken interest in polo, so I enjoy that instead of just chasing it competitively. I have been able to evolve over the years and look at the best aspects of the game.

Who are some of the players that have influenced your career?

BW: Probably the biggest influence was my father, he got me started. Although he did not play polo as a kid, he got myself and my brother started. I also had a good influence from my older brother Rob, who moved a little bit quicker and faster to the sport. And being other there playing against some great players like Tommy Wayman and Charles Smith had a influence on my career.

Best advice that you were ever given

BW: In regard to horses, Tommy Wayman gave me some very good advice. He said, “Don’t just buy a horse to be buying a horse, buy a horse that you think will be the absolute best and if it doesn’t make the best then you can play it at a lower level and sell it for a fair price.”

Greatest experience while on horseback

BW: One of my greatest experiences besides winning a couple of National Titles at UC Davis was in the following year. I wasn’t competing, but I took the UC Davis team back to the nationals and the team won. To me that was extremely exciting because we had an underdog team and played against a higher rated team and we beat them. That I felt was a great achievement.

Is there any part of the game that scares you?

BW: Oh, I think not really. But as you get older you do become more cautious. You don’t take as many chances. I don’t reach as far for the ball or come into a play as hard as I use to, but when I was playing at an extremely competitive level there was no fear. You cannot have fear in any sport if you want to play at your top level.

Pre-game rituals

BW: What I do is this, I think an athlete will tend to concern themselves about the up and coming competition so I very clearly go through my game plan of what I am going to do from the very beginning lineup and go over it mentally. It keeps my strategy on path and so it keeps wasted energy away. My energy is solely on what is the task at hand and I go forward. From there the chips fall where they fall.

How can someone become involved in Dallas Polo Club?

BW: It’s real simple. All they have to do is call up for their first lesson and get started. We have the horses; we have the equipment, the instruction, and the field. They just need to show up with jeans and boots. If they don’t have the boots tennis shoes will work for the first time.

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