Coming together to celebrate the 40th anniversary since the last playing of the U.S. Open Polo Championship® at Oak Brook Polo Club (Oak Brook, Illinois), alumni from past U.S. Opens took to the field to honor the historic final played on September 10, 1978 between Abercrombie & Kent and Tulsa. The 2018 match on Sunday, September 2, was closely contested as players, donning replicas of the historic team jerseys, battled throughout four chukkers. Abercrombie & Kent ultimately claimed the narrow victory 7-6; not only a repeat victory for the team in yellow, spectators were in awe of the identical score from four decades prior.
Hundreds of spectators flocked to celebrate a successful end to Oak Brook’s 2018 summer season and to welcome some of polo’s legendary former and current professional polo players in the United States. The afternoon’s festivities began with an on-field rally and showcase of vintage Ford Model T cars driven by members of the Model T Club of America. The vehicles also took part in the opening parade featuring anthem singer Erika Barrett, followed by the Culver Academies Mounted Color Guard and Abercrombie & Kent (Carlucho Arellano, Joe Muldoon, Martin Ravina, Del Walton) and Tulsa (Mike Azzaro, Joel Baker, Luis Escobar, Martin Estrada) polo teams.
Capturing two goals each by the end of the first chukker, both teams demonstrated their offensive prowess early on with all four scored from the field. Rendering Abercrombie & Kent completely scoreless in the second, Tulsa’s Hall of Famer and seven-time U.S. Open winner Mike Azzaro continued his powerful drives to goal, scoring two consecutive goals to double up the tally 4-2 by halftime.
Without the luxury of time to make up ground with the shortened four chukker format, Abercrombie & Kent retaliated first to open the third with a goal by Martin Ravina. Responsible for all of Tulsa’s goals so far, Azzaro answered back with his fifth goal of the day to maintain their two-goal lead. Despite Del Walton finding his mark between the posts to close the third, Tulsa retained their position by a small margin headed into the final chukker 5-4. Determined to reclaim the title not only for themselves, but to honor the winning team of the 1978 match, Abercrombie & Kent met Tulsa with three goals to one in the fourth, to replicate the final score 7-6.
Guest of honor, Michael Butler, grandson of Oak Brook Polo Club founder Paul Butler, presented The Butler Handicap Trophy to the Abercrombie & Kent polo team. Barrington Saddlery awarded Best Playing Pony to Pac-Man ridden by Carlucho Arellano and owned by John Greene. Most Valuable Player was presented to Abercrombie & Kent’s Del Walton. Village of Oak Brook Trustee Edward Tiesenga thanked the USPA on behalf of the Village.
Returning to play at Oak Brook for Abercrombie & Kent was particularly nostalgic for USPA Executive Director of Services, Carlucho Arellano, because of his personal connection to the club. “It was really special for me to go back and play where I first started playing polo professionally and to be able to participate in a match as significant as this one,” Arellano said. “To play in the U.S. Open Polo Championship® Alumni Match and to have the score come out the same as it did 40 years ago felt like a special event. It was great to see all of my old friends, and it was even better to see how polo in Chicago is thriving.”
2018 marked Oak Brook Polo Club’s 96th season as one of the nation’s oldest polo clubs in operation today and fourth oldest sports property in Chicago. Once considered the “polo capital” of the world Oak Brook was the destination for American polo players and enthusiasts. For general information, event scheduling, and parking directions, please call 630.368.5095 or visit www.oakbrookpoloclub.com.
All photos ©Karl Knapp