TEAM EFFORT: Chicago polo collective building momentum.

Running a polo club is no easy feat. The cost to maintain fields and facilities is rarely covered by member dues. Even so, it is not unusual to hear of members breaking off and starting another nearby club, thinning out resources.

A few years ago, six clubs in the greater Chicago area decided to buck the trend and join forces to grow polo. They created the Chicago Polo Association to optimize Chicagoland’s numerous polo facilities for the area’s more than 150 players and hired veteran polo manager Pam Mudra to work with the clubs, coordinating, organizing and promoting area polo events.

Chicago Polo now consists of 14 fields and facilities, and two polo schools. The association’s mission is to grow and develop the sport of polo in the greater Chicagoland area and establish itself as a regional asset for the Central Circuit. It recently completed its second season, which built on the success of its inaugural season with more students, players and tournaments.

This season, approximately 148 participants competed in the many events offered, including grass, women’s, youth and arena polo at various levels from polo schools all the way up to 12-goal matches at the historic Oak Brook Polo Club (Oak Brook, Illinois), including 25 new student players. This represents an increase of over 40% from last year’s 108 participants. The increase in players contributed to a large jump in the number of chukkers played. In the first half of the season (June/July), Chicago Polo recorded a 100% increase in chukkers played compared to 2018 and a 34% increase for the second half of the season (August, September).

“The second season for Chicago Polo has seen continued success from last year,” says Mudra, Chicago polo executive director. “We are continuing to gain momentum and increase participation at all levels of polo.”

Oak Brook Polo Club’s Managing Director Danny O’Leary said, “In two short years, the Chicagoland polo community is beginning to hit its stride again, largely because there is a consensus to build a centralized organization and means of executing polo activities from the ground up and top down so that we [have] growth and sustainability across Chicago polo’s ecosystem. This is no easy task and Pam keeps everyone inline, accountable and well informed about the various polo activities and opportunities throughout the season.”

The Chicago Polo Association is not only seeing more participation among locals, it is also drawing players from other areas.

For the past two years, 21% Chicago polo participants were registered with non-Central Circuit USPA clubs. Diving deeper, of those registered in the Central Circuit, 25% are registered in non- Chicagoland clubs. These figures support Chicago polo’s goals of serving as a regional hub for polo in the Central Circuit and as a summer destination for all levels of polo, including players new to the sport and the USPA. Looking at the development of new players, 37% for CPA participants have joined the USPA in the last 5 years and 23% have joined in the last three years.

Polo got underway in the spring with Barrington Hills Polo Club in Wauconda, holding its annual polo school, taking riders of all experience levels and teaching them the game of polo in a friendly, fun and safe environment.

Over Memorial Day weekend, six teams divided into two brackets competed in the Great Lakes Arena Tournament. Hillside Royals won the 0- to 3-goal and Barrington Hills Black won the 3- to 6-goal. Throughout the summer, members enjoyed fun and friendly scrimmages plus social events, including the popular July 4th chukkers.

Women’s polo got underway this year with the USPA Women’s Challenge. Held at Arranmore Farm and Polo Club in Oswego, Illinois, the final was held on July 12. Originally scheduled for June 28-29, rain caused two delays. A total of 28 players from nine clubs in six different states formed five teams competing in one of two flights at the 0- to 6-goal level. The action began with David Yurman (Shannon Nourbash, Rileigh Tibbott, Pamela Flanagan, Grace Mudra) shutting out Bulleit (Nadia Taylor, Cindy Forster-Fueredi, Anne Heidemann, Anne Branscum), 8-1, while Merrill Lynch (Winifred Brandscum, Tracy Riff, Courtney Rohs, Megan West) shut out Heineken (Cindy Apitz, Jennifer Leffingwell, Frauke Lueders, Chloe Carabasi), 3-0. Heineken rebound to shut out John Green Realtor (Lauren Alderman, Madi Choppa, Amy James, Maria Kettler), 2-0. Merrill Lynch also shut out JGR, 5-0.

The final game was much closer as Merrill Lynch narrowly edged David Yurman, 5-4. Grace Mudra, who just turned 17, was named MVP and Clifton Yandell’s Solita, played by Courtney Rohs, was Best Playing Pony.

Action moved to the Oak Brook Polo Club in Oak Brook, with the USPA 8-goal Officer’s Cup July 10-14.

It was one of five 8-goal tournaments offered this season. For the Officer’s Cup, five teams competed over four days to determine a winner. The first match saw G Squared (Larry Aschebrook, Juan Martin Gutierez, Matias Obregon, Chris Vangel) top Font Polo (Maximo Font, Mason Phelps, Billy Mudra, Pedro Miquel), 14-8. Oak Brook (Jim Drury/Will Mudra, Grace Mudra, Horacio Onetto, Tomas Obregon) defeated Morgan Creek (Dean Kleronomos, Tod Rackley, Lindor Corvalan, Jim Sanfilippo), 12-9, in the second match and G Squared got the best of PFP (Frauke Lueders, Jan Lueders, Anthony Garcia, Pedro Manion), 11-6. The last two games saw Morgan Creek double up PFP, 16- 8, while Oak Brook sunk Font Polo, 11-3.

The final was between Oak Brook and G Squared. Oak Brook got off to a good start and held the momentum for a 12-7 win. Horacio Onetto was MVP and Tomas Obregon’s Bombona was Best Playing Pony.

Another five teams lined up for the USPA 8-goal Sportsmanship Cup at the Morgan Creek Polo Club in Yorkville, Illinois, played from Aug. 2-Sept. 9. Morgan Creek/Sanfilippo (Dean Kleronomos, Tod Rackley, Lindor Corvalan, Jim Sanfilippo) got off to a great start with an 11-3 defeat of Luxe Polo (Charles Todd, Mason Phelps, Billy Mudra, Del Walton). G Squared (Larry Aschebrook, Juan Martin Gutierez, Matia Obregon, Chris Vangel) got the best of PFP (Franke Lueders, Jan Lueders, Anthony Garcia, Pedro Manion), 13-6, but PFP bounced back with a 14-9 victory over Luxe Polo. G Squared took its second win with a 10-9 defeat of Morgan Creek. G Squared and Morgan Creek sported the best records, so they met again in the final. It was a very different game as Morgan Creek failed to find its rhythm, ultimately falling 7-1 to G Squared.

Matias Obregon was named MVP and his mare Linterna was Best Playing Pony.

The 8-goal USPA Constitution Cup was held from Aug. 21-Sept. 11 also at the Morgan Creek Polo Club. Four teams competed in the single-elimination event, but in the end, Oak Brook took the trophies. Oak Brook (Jim Drury, Tomas Obregon, Horacio Onetto, Jose Blanco) got off to a good start with a 9-7 victory over G Squared (Larry Aschebrook, Juan Martin Gutierez, Matias Obregon, Chris Vangel). The next game was even closer with PFP (Frauke Lueders, Jan Lueders, Anthony Garcia, Pedro Manion) edging Morgan Creek (Dean Kleronomos, Tod Rackley, Del Walton, Charles Todd), 9-8. The final was another close game as Oak Brook got the best of PFP by a single goal, 10-9. Pedro Manion was MVP and Horacio Onetto’s Alpha was Best Playing Pony.

The largest single polo event in metropolitan Chicago was held Sept. 7 hosted by Barrington Hills Polo Club at Oakwood Farms. The 14th annual LeCompte Kalaway Cup drew about 2,000 spectators for two matches held under sunny skies. The event benefited the Barrington Hills Polo Club and the Riding Club of Barrington Hills to support various facilities and programs provided by the two organizations.

The opener featured a Battle of the Sexes, pitting Great Britian men against an all-female U.S. team. The British team prevailed, led by MVP Adam Kaminski and his Best Playing Pony Martina. The Trailer Owners Cup was next with Beaird Dermatology, Barrington Saddlery and The Mike Harrington Family battling in a round robin. Beaird Dermatology won the title and Harrington Family’s Megan West was MVP. Joan-Carles Brugue’s Perla was Best Playing Pony.

The entire Barrington Hills equestrian community participated in the event. The Fox River Valley Pony Club did a demonstration, the Fox River Valley Hunt paraded with its pack of hounds and Timmerman’s Ranch Mounted Drill Team performed. In between games, spectators enjoyed hayrides.

Next up were two money tournaments that benefitted a longtime Chicago player. Tony Sekera, 69, was injured in a polo accident in Aiken, South Carolina in June 2017. He broke two vertebrae and was left paralyzed from the chest down. Since his accident the club has held a fundraiser for him each year to help with ongoing expenses.

This year, two events were held at Oak Brook Polo Club to benefit Sekera: the USPA Master’s Cup and the USPA Arena Master’s Cup. The club raised $25,000 for prize money for the two tournaments, which was matched by the USPA. Winners for both tournaments donated their prize money to Sekera.

The USPA 8-goal Master’s Cup was held Sept. 20- 29 with four teams competing in a single-elimination format. Oak Brook (Jim Drury, Tomas Obregon, Horacio Onetto, Tony Natale) advanced to the final over PFP (Frauke Lueders, Jan Lueders, Lindor Corvalan, Pedro Manion), 6-5, while G Squared (Larry Aschebrook, Juan Martin Gutierrez, Matias Obregon, Chris Vangel) advanced over Morgan Creek (Dean Kleronomos, Tod Rackley, Matt Sekera, Diego Miquel), 7-1. G Squared Forfeited, handing Oak Brook the win. Tomas Obregon was named tournament MVP and Horacio Onetto’s Lily was tournament Best Playing Pony.

In the USPA 2- to 6-goal Arena Master’s Cup. Six teams competed for the top prize but it was Bump N’ Babes that came out on top, 7½-6, over Elk Grove in a competitive final. Tomas Obregon was MVP and Chris Vangel’s Patricia was Best Playing Pony.

In preliminary matches, BHPC (Roueen Rafeyan, Megan West, Juan Caset) could only manage one goal in each of its two matches, the first against Tower’s Warriors (Josie Abrogast, Alfredo Aubone, Matias Obregon), which scored six, and the second against Bump N’ Babes (Jennifer Leffingwell, Adrienne Purves, Tomas Obregon), which scored five. Bump N’ Babes then edged Tower’s Warriors, 4-3½ to advance to the final.

In the other division, Elk Grove (Courtney Rohs, Adam Kaminksi, Chris Vangel) edged Go Polo (Karl Jones, Cindy Apitz, Juan Martin Gutierrez), 3-2½. Go Polo shut out Beaver Creek (Jeff Boeh, Billy O’Leary, Jack Murphy), 2½-0 and Elk Grove stopped Beaver Creek, 6-1½.

In late September, Barrington Hills hosted the Rose Cup women’s tournament at the Sanfilippo Estate polo field. Five teams were divided into two brackets. Pinot won the B Flight with Kendra Panhausen taking MVP and Kelcey Roberts’ Galetta named Best Playing Pony. In A Flight, Sanfilippo took the win with Lauren Alderman taking MVP and Megan West’s Dixing taking Best Playing Pony honors.

Youth polo also is on the rise in Chicago and this year, six teams rounded out the NYTS qualifier, offered at two levels. Players were from 12 clubs in seven states, plus one player from Winnipeg, Canada. Ardum Farm (Sean Murphy, Will Mudra, Stuart Boland, Aiden Meeker) took the NYTS win. All-stars included Aiden Meeker, Maximo Font, Regan Smith, Jack Whitman, Angus Middleton, Will Mudra and Grace Mudra.

Despite the cooling temperatures, the action didn’t end. The Chicago Polo Association has a newly-formed interscholastic team that competed this fall. In addition, Barrington Hills held weekly arena polo, including two tournaments: The Les Baddeley Memorial and the club’s first ever women’s arena tournament. It also hosted a middle school tournament in late October.

Moving into its third year in 2020, Chicago polo will continue to build on its momentum and look to develop key components of its program, including starting new players, growing beginner and fourchukker polo, continuing to build upon its 8-goal league with local and out-of-state teams, establish a series of 12-goal tournaments and develop more arena polo with the goal of establishing a strong interscholastic presence and winter arena league.

The association also plans to host 12-goal and 8- goal leagues, along with four-chukker 4-goal polo, beginner leagues, a busy lesson program and youth and women’s tournaments.

For more information about Chicago polo, please contact Mudra by email at pam@chicago-polo.com. If you are part of a polo community that would benefit from launching a regional, cooperative association and would like to continue the conversation, please contact director of club development, Justin Powers at (330) 692-0062.

 

 
 
POLO Players' Edition 6008 Reynolds RD Lake Worth, FL 33449 • Phone: 561.968.5208 Fax: 561.968.5209 Email Address: info@poloplayersedition.com

Polo Players Edition Online Magazine, a publication dedicated to the sport of polo and the lifestyle of polo players, is copyright protected. NOTHING from this site may be copied without permission of the publisher.