Every sport has its share of characters, some more memorable than others, and polo is no exception. Often, however, we don’t realize the contributions they have made to our lives and our sport until they are gone. When we heard that Tom Hughes had passed away, we were enveloped with a rush of nostalgic memories, mental images and a sense of loss.
Tom passed away Tuesday afternoon, March 1st at Pine Grove Stables, his farm in South Florida. He spent a great deal of his time at Lakewood Ranch where he served as the Director of Polo Operations at the Sarasota Polo Club. Arriving at the Florida club two years ago with five decades of polo experience under his belt, he was looking forward to re-energizing the Sarasota club with his own brand of polo management that had proved to be so successful over the years.
Tom entered the sport in the mid-sixties and took to the game like a duck to water. A staple at the Oak Brook Polo Club, he played on winning teams on the 16-goal and the 20-goal Championship in 1966 with teammates that included Ray Harrington, Jr., Bobby Beveridge, Tim Leonard, and Roy Barry, Jr.
He lived a free-wheeling lifestyle that overlapped with the Chicago nightlife and the Playboy Club culture in the Windy City in the 1970s.
As his talents progressed so did his penchant for high-goal polo. Tom played on Oak Brook teams that captured the National 20-goal Championship in 1968, 1969 and 1970. In 1973 he played with Bill Ylvisaker, Allan Scherer and Stuart Mackenzie as Oak Brook captured the Butler Handicap, a feat he repeated again in 1975 and 1989.
When Milwaukee won the first USPA Gold Cup® it was Tom Hughes on a Milwaukee team (Tom Hughes, Tommy Wayman, Joe Barry and Robin Uihlein) who was standing on the winner’s platform in 1974.
Tom not only collected a myriad of trophies over the years, he was also an invaluable part of the Oak Brook Polo Club operations and learned under the watchful eye of the club’s polo manager at the time, polo legend Cecil Smith.
Tom served on the Central Circuit Umpire committee and became increasingly involved with the rules and officiating of the game, and that was where he found his true passion.
Tom umpired in high-goal games in the United States and England and became deeper and deeper entrenched in the structure of officiating. Being part of the transformation of officials from amateur to professional status, he worked tirelessly with the USPA, club officials and committees to move toward the creation of the professional polo ranks we have in place today.
Anyone who ever knew Tom Hughes will begin a story about him with a smile on their face and a shake of their head. Tom Hughes was one-in-a-million and will be sorely missed by the USPA and the entire polo family.
There will be a memorial celebration in Tom’s memory at Gulfstream Polo Club on April 1 at 7 pm.
About the United States Polo Association®
The U.S. Polo Association was organized and exists for the purposes of promoting the game of polo, coordinating the activities of its Member Clubs and Registered Players, arranging and supervising polo tournaments, competitions, and games, and providing rules, handicaps, and conditions for those tournaments, competitions, and games including the safety and welfare of participants and mounts. For more information, please visit uspolo.org
Founded in 1890, the United States Polo Association (USPA) is the national governing body for the sport of polo in North America. Proudly celebrating 125 years at this stature, the USPA is currently comprised of almost 300 member clubs, thousands of individual members, and oversees 40 national tournaments.
Location: 9011 Lake Worth Road
Lake Worth, Florida 33467
Phone: (800) 232-8772