PaperCity Magazine

June 2018- Dallas

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60 I n 1975, Vincent (Vinnie) Meyer ran a lawn-equipment manufacturing business 183 miles southwest of Dallas in Brownwood. Then in his 30s, Meyer had bought the business in 1965 with four friends, and it was already a success. They designed and sold the first electric lawn edger, and Meyer created the first rust-proof fertilizer sprayer for home use, which featured a molded plastic hopper. Some 43 years later, Meyer has made his mark on history — not for revolutionizing lawn equipment, but for his contributions to the international sport of polo. And that molded plastic hopper? It played a pivotal role. Meyer began playing polo on a lark with friends in Dallas in 1967. Back then, matches were held at informal fields around town, or at the Lone Oak Polo Club in far northwest Dallas, now long gone. At the time, he says, only about eight people in Dallas knew how to play the sport. For Meyer, knocking a ball around with a mallet from the back of a horse was a way to relieve the boredom of living in Brownwood. Soon, he was hooked. "It was very informal," he says. "We had one field and very few spectators. We just played for ourselves." In the early '70s, restaurateur Norman Brinker moved to town and started playing with them at Lone Oak. When Brinker and his business partner, Danny Robinowitz, opened Willow Bend Polo and Hunt Club in Plano in 1973, Meyer and his friends joined them. What was a casual diversion grew into a high-profile sporting event, with professional matches and visiting teams. "Sometimes we had 3,000 to 5,000 people watching us play," he recalls. In the early days, Meyer was a greenhorn when it came to understanding polo gear. But when a man in Chicago produced the first plastic polo ball, Meyer knew enough to be unimpressed. "He'd done a poor job of the design," he says. "It was like hitting a marshmallow." For centuries, the best polo balls were crafted from willow wood and bamboo cane, but those had serious drawbacks, frequently breaking mallet heads and sending wood flying through the air. The paint on wood balls chipped, and moisture from the grass caused them to get soggy. Wood balls were inconsistent in weight and size, and because dozens of balls are used over the course of a single match, players had trouble predicting how a ball would respond when hit. That mediocre plastic ball from Chicago became Meyer's eureka moment. "The technique to mold the plastic ball was the same technique we used to mold the hopper for the fertilizer spreader," he says. "So, I took one of the plastic balls to my molder, who happened to be in Waco at the time, and said, 'Hey, Charlie. You think you can do better than this?' He said, 'Yeah, easy.' But, it wasn't so easy." After a year of tweaking, refining, and trying it out, they had perfected a plastic ball that felt and sounded like a wood ball when struck with a mallet. It was waterproof, had uniform weight and size that made it easier control, and didn't break mallet heads as often. "It was a difficult sell at FIT FOR A KING FROM SMALL-TOWN TEXAS TO WINDSOR CASTLE: HOW ONE DALLAS MAN REVOLUTIONIZED POLO — ONE PLASTIC BALL AT A TIME BY REBECCA SHERMAN. PHOTOGRAPHY LAUREN WITHROW. Boots handmade by Lucchese Bootmaker. Texas Polo whips made in England.

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