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Prince Charles swings mallet to help charity

A polo player came to town Friday and got the royal treatment. His hosts reportedly spent months having a wing of their mansion renovated for the guest's comfort. More than 150 bodyguards were present for his safety. An ambulance was reserved exclusively for his medical emergencies.

And when Britain's Prince Charles took to the polo field for the first of two matches to benefit the Friends of Conservation, almost 2,000 people were watching for his every move.

The 40-year-old heir to the British throne arrived in Vero Beach on Friday afternoon. Wearing a cream-colored uniform with red letters, the prince joined his Windsor Park teammates for a match with Canada's Maple Leaf team at the Windsor Park Polo Club, about 10 miles north of Vero Beach in the community of Orchid.

Charles didn't score in his team's 11-7 victory. At one point, he broke the top off his mallet. Justin Fletcher, 18, of Vero Beach, working at the match, got to keep the mallet when Charles had it replaced.

"I think I'll frame it," Fletcher said.

The Windsor Park team will play Sunday against White Birch, winners of an earlier match Friday. The teams are competing for the Prince of Wales Cup, which the prince's team won 10-7 last year over Greenwich at the Windsor Club.

Before Sunday's match, the prince is scheduled to appear at a $250-a-plate lunch and watch a display of wild and endangered animals, including a baby cheetah and an aardvark.

The prince will address the 550 guests at the lunch on wildlife


The prince, traveling without his wife, Diana, and their children, has no public appearances planned Saturday and is expected to remain at the mansion of friends Geoffrey and Jorie Kent.

The Kents had balconies added to the prince's room and an observation tower with a vista of the Atlantic Ocean and Indian River.

The prince's bathroom has a marble tub and heated towel racks.

At least 150 bodyguards, State Department officials and local police officers have been assigned to guard the prince around-the-clock.

During the polo matches, a special ambulance will be kept ready exclusively for the prince, said Indian River County chief paramedic Jim Judge.

The prince is to visit the Kennedy Space Center on Monday before flying to Charleston, S.C., for an international business conference.

He then travels to Washington to meet with President Bush and discuss environmental issues with the British ambassador.