Tribute to Jesse Upchurch provided by Polo Training Foundation Executive Director, Danny Scheraga

Polo lost an icon on February 26, 2018, with the passing of Jesse Upchurch. Jesse was a dedicated family man and had an amazing life, starting from dirt poor roots in South Carolina through an extremely successful business career in a myriad of businesses. This memorial just touches on his impact on polo. His obituary published in the Fort Worth newspaper highlights the rest of his life.

Jesse and his wife Connie, although never polo players, were monumental in their support of the sport, especially that of young players. In the early 1970’s when their sons attended The Robert Louis Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, California, the Upchurch family provided immense financial support to the interscholastic polo program. Many polo players learned or improved their game at Robert Louis Stevenson School including several members of the Walton family. Later, in support of the Walton’s desire to promote professional arena polo in the Los Angeles area and then in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, Jesse and Connie were major sponsors.

 The many lives impacted by Jesse at the National Intercollegiate Championship.
The many lives impacted by Jesse at the National Intercollegiate Championship.

During the time when Jesse was sponsoring professional arena polo in Dallas-Fort Worth, he purchased the land and built Brushy Creek Ranch into a polo club with a world class outdoor field, a practice field and an arena. Then 10-goal player Joe Henderson was often quoted as saying that, “Brushy Creek is a polo player’s Disney Land.”

The National Intercollegiate Championship was played in Dallas and Fort Worth in conjunction with professional games in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Around this time, Jesse joined the Board of the Polo Training Foundation (PTF). Jesse discontinued his sponsorship of professional polo in the early 90’s, but he invited the PTF, who was managing the USPA Intercollegiate/Interscholastic tournaments at that time, to come play at Brushy Creek. Brushy Creek became the home for the National Intercollegiate Championship for twelve years, before the USPA decided to move the tournament around the country. Brushy Creek remained a part-time host center for the national intercollegiate and interscholastic tournaments and hosted most of the Central Regional Tournaments.

Jesse with several members of the Beal family, including former PTF Chair Karlene Garber, former PTF Chair Dan Colhoun and Danny Scheraga at the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Men's Intercollegiate Championship.
Jesse with several members of the Beal family, including former PTF Chair Karlene Garber, former PTF Chair Dan Colhoun, and Danny Scheraga, at the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Men’s Intercollegiate Championship.

Jesse wanted young players to always feel welcome at Brushy Creek, and initiated a year-round PTF program there. Cissie (Jones) Snow was hired as the first Instructor/manager to run lessons, camps and tournaments. There was a time in the 1990’s when nearly every player in Intercollegiate/Interscholastic polo had attended a Brushy Creek summer camp. When Cissie retired, Robin Sanchez managed Brushy Creek until the Upchurch family decided to sell the facility.

Brushy Creek was also the home base for TCU, and Texas A&M trailered their horses there nearly every weekend, giving students a home away from home and a wonderful polo experience while in college. When Connie Upchurch passed away, The Texas A&M polo club donated a beautiful bronze trophy named in her honor that is awarded annually to the male and female sportsman at the National Intercollegiate Championship.

Jesse went on to become Chairman of the PTF and helped to develop many of the strong Intercollegiate/Interscholastic programs that are still active today. He was a recipient of the PTF Distinguished Benefactor Award and was also inducted into the Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame as an Iglehart Award recipient in 2009. This was in recognition for all his support for youth polo and for his sponsorship of polo in the Southwest. Although his sons did not go on to play intercollegiate polo after their scholastic careers, they did continue to play polo and participated in and won several high-goal tournaments including the Silver Cup® with Hall of Famer Charles Smith.

Some of this polo success came from a very successful training program run by Archie Salinas, where many of their ponies were trained and also sold. Jesse had a painting in his house of five of Hall of Famer Hector Galindo’s top ponies when he was 9-goals, all of whom had come from Brushy Creek.

Jesse was a truly giving soul whose support gave young players a tremendous boost for over thirty years. The USPA wishes to extend our condolences to Jesse’s family, friends and all who were impacted by his generous and loving spirit.

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