In this interview, we hear from Danny O’Leary, Managing Director of the Oak Brook Polo Club – Chicago’s fourth oldest sporting facility still in operation today.
Danny tells PoloWeekly about the special steps being taken at Oak Brook to reinvigorate polo in the Chicago area.
Read on to find out more and learn why the Oak Brook Polo Club is a special part of Illinois’ sporting history…
Can you give us a brief background on the Oak Brook Polo Club?
Founded in 1922 by legendary businessman, Paul Butler, the Oak Brook Polo Club is an American Polo treasure and one of the oldest polo clubs in the United States still in operation today. It was once the sport’s epicenter for elite professional polo in the United States and served as home to the U.S. Open Polo Championship for twenty-four straight seasons beginning in the mid 1950s and other prestigious international and national polo tournaments.
For decades, the Club has been a popular Sunday tradition and social scene known for entertaining Hollywood celebrities, dignitaries, royalty and Chicago’s distinguished. At its height, the Oak Brook Polo club had 13 polo fields and stabling for upwards to 400 ponies. The Oak Brook Polo Club also has six (6) U.S. Open Polo Championship titles (1960, ‘64, ‘65, ‘67, ‘71 and ‘73), three (3) Butler Handicaps (1979, ‘86 and ’87), six (6) USPA Gold Cup titles (1963, ‘64, ‘65, ‘68, ‘69 and ‘70), one Monty Waterbury (1951) win.
Today, the Oak Brook Polo Club plays on the Prince of Wales Field, which is adjacent to the Butler National Golf Course and The Drake Hotel in beautiful Oak Brook, Illinois. Located 17 miles from Chicago’s Loop, the club hosts a number of Sunday polo matches and continues to attract thousands of fascinated spectators who marvel at the athleticism and majesty of this timeless sport.
Oak Brook Polo Club is the fourth oldest Chicago sports property still in operation today (Chicago Cubs 1870, Chicago White Sox 1900, Chicago Bears 1919).
What makes the Oak Brook Polo Club unique?
The Oak Brook Polo Club is one of the oldest polo clubs in the United States still in operation today. The Club is unique because of its long and storied history, and contributions to the sport of polo on and off the field.
Today, the club is only place in the Midwest to watch and play 12-goal polo and has become the driving force behind the re-emergence of polo in the greater Chicagoland area, including new players, patron development, etc.
What are some of the most important tournaments that you host throughout the year?
The upcoming 2019 season will feature the return of popular exhibition matches and ancillary events such as Horses & Horsepower, Butler Challenge and Jaguar Concours along with the highly attended “Horses & Hops” beer festival. Two new sideline events that will take place in conjunction with matches include “Horses & Harleys” and “Sips & Saddles” champagne and wine festival.
The Oak Brook Pol Club also hosts 2 to 3 international teams for prestigious trophies such as the Butler International Cup. For the first time in a few decades, Oak Brook Polo will host two USPA sanctioned 8-goal tournaments, the prestigious Chicago Polo Open and newly formed Oak Brook Polo Open, presented by Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse. This is a big step towards the advancement of polo in the greater Chicagoland area in building a healthy and competitive environment for league and tournament polo that is attracting both local and out-of-state teams and players.
Can members from international clubs come and participate in the tournaments?
Yes, we have hosted teams from India, Mexico, Wales and Jamaica. There are opportunities for international players to play on existing teams and lease horses or form a team of their own with international and/or local players and professionals.
What kind of other tournaments do your members participate in, do any of your members travel to play?
Members of the Chicago Polo Association can participate in a variety goal level tournaments from 0 up to 12-goals depending on their skill and confidence level. Some members of the CPA do travel as individual players or part of team across the Midwest and internationally. The Oak Brook Polo Team travels at least once a year internationally and has been to India and Jamaica to complete in international tournaments.
Are you seeing a lot of new people interested in playing polo?
We are! Both new and former players of all ages, both men and women. We have also seen a rise in new patrons who are investing in their own teams and contributing to the rise in competitive tournament polo. There is also a positive youth movement in the sport.
If someone is interested in coming and taking lessons at the Oak Brook Polo Club, what is the best way for them to get started?
The Chicago Polo Association has two recognized polo schools with certified USPA intstructor. The Barrington Polo Club in Barrington, IL and GoPolo in Bolingbrook, IL. Anyone interested visiting Chicago or taking up lessons should contact Pam Mudra at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers of PoloWeekly that we haven’t asked you yet?
The Oak Brook Polo Club is working with its local municipality on the Club’s expansion to a second a field. If this occurs, it will greatly expand the frequency of polo being played in Oak Brook and rise of tournament competition at one of the most visible polo clubs in the world.
And where is the best place for people to learn more about Oak Brook Polo Club?