The 80-plus year tradition of Polo in Oak Brook, that once hosted Prince Charles and 25 years of U.S. Open Polo Championships, returns for four matches this summer.
After a three-year hiatus, the “new” Oak Brook Polo Club will reinstate the tradition of polo in Oak Brook, established in 1922, with the 1st Annual Willow Harbor–Oak Brook Polo Cup at the historic Oak Brook Polo Grounds. Once considered the “Sport of Kings,” matches will be open to anyone wishing to purchase tickets to the four Sunday afternoon matches to be held on August 19 and 26 and September 2 and 9.
Since its inception 90 years ago during the golden age of polo, world-class teams from countries including Argentina, Canada, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Chile, and Brazil came every summer to play on the immaculately groomed fields of the Oak Brook Polo Grounds. Founded by Paul Butler, patriarch of the Village of Oak Brook, the original Oak Brook Polo Club had become the largest polo facility in the country by 1953. From 1954 to 1978, the U.S. Open, the premier polo tournament in the country, was played at Oak Brook—the longest it was ever played in one location. Oak Brook also hosted several United States Polo Association-sponsored tournaments.
Oak Brook resident Kevin Michael Kelleher, President of the new Oak Brook Polo Club, is passionate about the game of polo. “I started playing polo in my early 20s and played for about 12 years,” says Kevin. “When I started to play again last year, and with the national resurgence of the sport, I realized that Oak Brook should continue its long and proud history of polo. I made it my mission to regenerate polo here and nationally.”
Kevin worked out a three-year contract with the Village of Oak Brook to resuscitate the old Pan Am field that has been dormant since 2009. In use as a driving range since then, they’ve reseeded and irrigated the field in preparation for this summer’s re-inauguration of the sport. The Kellehers established Oak Brook Polo Club as an official business and are poised to chart a new course for Oak Brook Polo in the next millennium.
“Polo has played a huge role in Oak Brook’s heritage and history,” says Kathy Maher, President of Oak Brook Historical Society and member of the citizens’ polo committee that lobbied to bring polo back to Oak Brook. “People associate polo with Oak Brook, which has been a bustle with royalty, heads
of state, and movie stars over the years. And, in keeping with the Oak Brook Polo tradition, this year’s matches will benefit a charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure.”
“Polo is not just for the super rich anymore,” explains Kevin. “We want to convey the fact that it is an exciting sport that everyone can get involved in.” Tickets for upcoming matches can be purchased for as little as $25 per person. And a portion of the proceeds will benefit Susan G. Komen for the Cure for breast cancer research.
Spectators will watch live polo matches, and attendees of the 1st Annual Willow Harbor – Oak Brook Polo Cup can participate in other activities—raffles, silent auction, live music, dancing, dinner, meeting and greeting players and horses, a wine tasting booth, and a sampling of handcrafted Michigan beers.
In addition to our own Hinsdale Living magazine polo team, sponsored teams include those of Wells Fargo Advisors and Willow Harbor Vineyards for what will be a total of eight teams scheduled for the four matches. Most players have 20–30 years experience in the sport
In early August, Oak Brook Polo Club will announce which international professional players from countries including Argentina, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the Philippines will participate.