Prince William Proves 'Fierce' On Polo Field

William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are visiting Southern California this weekend, combining red carpet glamour and charity work. Prince William played polo in Santa Barbara, with his bride awarding the winning trophy. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports from the scene on the match, the hoopla and the hats.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka Will and Kate, are creating quite a buzz in Southern California, where they're spending the weekend on their first official visit to the U.S. Today, they meet with veterans and children from Los Angeles' skid row.

NPR's Mandalit del Barco has been following their visit. She was on the sidelines of a charity polo match played in Santa Barbara yesterday by Prince William.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS)

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: The paparazzi had been warned to behave during the royal newlyweds' visit. And they managed to rather politely take gobs of shots of William and Catherine. At a lunch before the match the prince addressed his guests.

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Prince WILLIAM: I was extremely delighted when Ambassador Holden asked me to play polo here at the Santa Barbara Polo Club. It has to be one of the most beautiful polo grounds anywhere in the world. My father, the Prince of Wales, and my brother Harry, were as green as that grass outside when I told them I'd be here today.

DEL BARCO: As VIP sipped on champagne and whiskey, Prince William explained he was playing to raise funds for his foundation to help military veterans. And he said he intended to win.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

Prince WILLIAM: I'm not a good loser.

DEL BARCO: But the prince didn't have to worry. Fans paid as much as $4,000 to watch him on the field. Among them were a few Hollywood stars. Billy Zane, Rosario Dawson, Rob Lowe and Jennifer Love Hewitt, who admitted she knows nothing about polo. She gushed over the newest member of the royal family.

JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT: I just think she's so elegant and I love that she feels like a real person. I want to be her bestie.

DEL BARCO: The duchess wore a knee length Jenny Packham dress and taupe heels, but no outlandish British hat like those seen at her wedding. That tradition was left to fans like Alana Maker, Jessica Bradshaw and their mother, Margarita Landy.

ALANA MAKER: This one is made of antique German leaves, bright fuchsia.

JESSICA BRADSHAW: Mine has horse hair and peacock feathers. It's lovely.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARGARITA LANDY: And mine is red with beaded detail and ostrich feathers.

BRADSHAW: We got to look good.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BRADSHAW: We got to have fun with it. I mean, really.

DEL BARCO: And then the match began.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLO MATCH)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: He needs no introduction. Please welcome to Santa Barbara for the very first time, his royal highness, the Duke.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

DEL BARCO: The announcer noted that Prince William's a lefty, but the regulations have him hitting the ball with a stick using his right hand.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLO MATCH)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Andy Busch deciding to back the fault. Right there to Prince Charles. He's a got a chance. He's - Prince William, excuse me. This one's gotta go in there. Three goals for Prince William.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

DEL BARCO: Like his father, Prince Charles, William has been playing amateur polo and scoring since he was a child. In the stands, one TV entertainment reporter made the event out to be a fairytale.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLO MATCH)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It is like a Hollywood movie. The prince riding in on horseback and his lovely new bride cheering him on.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Big drive right down in (unintelligible). This one's going to - goal (unintelligible).

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

DEL BARCO: In the end, Will scored not just one, not two, not even three, but four of the five winning goals.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLO MATCH)

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yeah. Go William. Woo-hoo.

JAN RAY: To have the MVP as the duke, how's that for a game?

DEL BARCO: Polo fan Jan Ray was impressed by the future king of England. So was his rival on the field, player Wesley Ru.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLO MATCH)

WESLEY RU: He's a fierce competitor. He's absolutely fierce.

DEL BARCO: After the match, fans stormed onto the field to get a closer look with one spectator trampling over and punching a news photographer.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLO MATCH)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Everything's broken.

DEL BARCO: Katherine handed out the winning silver Tiffany trophy and gave her prince a kiss. Then Will and Kate flew off to a black tie bash with Hollywood's royalty.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News at the Santa Barbara Polo Club.

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