Oak Brook Polo Club in Oak Brook, Illinois, hosted the fourth annual “Team Up for Tony” Benefit & Polo Tournament which began on Wednesday, August 19, and concluded on Sunday, August 30, with the championship matches held at the Prince of Wales Field. The ticketed fundraiser helps to support Tony Sekera, an Oak Brook Polo friend and fellow teammate who suffered a devastating fall from his polo pony in June 2017. Raising $25,000 through tournament fees, with the help of the USPA Tournament Prize Money Matching Program which matched one-hundred percent of the Chicago Polo Association (Chicago Polo) prize money, the winning teams of the tournament in an act of good sportsmanship committed to donating their winnings and presented a check for $50,000 to Sekera.
Oak Brook’s Jim Drury going in for a hook on MVP Tommy Collingwood.
The 2020 event expanded to two tournament levels. Six teams committed to compete for the 8-Goal USPA Central Circuit Sportsmanship Cup (USPA Circuit Event) including Oak Brook, Las Brisas, Morgan Creek/Good Thunder, Passion for Polo, Louisville Polo and Global Port. Morgan Creek/Good Thunger defeated Oak Brook 10-8 to win the Team Up for Tony Cup, Tommy Collingwood was named Most Valuable Player and M&M, owned and played by Tomas Obregon was awarded Best Playing Pony. Seven teams competed in the 0- to 6-goal Central Circuit Master’s Cup (USPA Circuit Event).
Oak Brook Polo Club in association with Chicago Polo was thrilled to announce USPA prize money for both tournaments. All tournament entry fees were matched by the USPA Tournament Prize Money Matching Program dollar for dollar and awarded to the winning teams. In an act of good sportsmanship all players committed to donating the winnings to the Sekera family to support Tony’s therapy, specialized adaptive equipment, and 24/7 care. In the last two years, “Team Up for Tony” has raised over $75,000 ($25,000 in 2018 and $50,000 in 2019) and this year an additional $50,000. All participating players of the winning teams agreed to donate the prize money to Sekera.
Mariano Gutierrez prepares to hit the ball with Tommy Collingwood landing a bump.
“On behalf of the Oak Brook team and polo community, we were happy to host this special event for the fourth year in a row in Tony’s honor,” Jim Drury, team owner of Oak Brook Polo, explained. “He has been an integral part of the Chicago polo community for 30 years and we support him in his courageous journey to recovery.”
It’s been over three years, since Sekera’s spinal cord injury. With little to no movement in his limbs, the future is hard to envision, but with years of skilled care and rehab, and many adjustments along the way, Sekera is home and continues to get stronger. He remains positive and goal oriented while his team of physicians, therapists, family and friends continue to cheer him on.
Sekera continues extensive therapy to regain muscle movement and can even operate the toggle on his power chair by moving his arm. This has given him some hard-earned freedom and independence. Therapists remain optimistic that he can continue to make positive progress.
Best Playing Pony, M&M owned and played by Tomas Obregon.
“Tony’s passion for polo remains strong,” Cindy Engdahl Sekera added. “He continues to show his positive attitude and determination and we are grateful for the generous support of family and friends who continue to stand by him.”
Even during these uncertain times, this year’s “Team Up For Tony” tournament is a positive reflection on the success of Chicago Polo’s growth in team and player participation over the last three seasons. Now in its third year, Chicago Polo has grown to include an impressive 17 outdoor fields, 13 polo facilities, eight arenas, seven USPA Member Clubs and three polo schools, continuing to grow annually. Reestablishing itself as a centralized hub where players can come to experience a variety of polo for all skill levels, Chicago Polo was made possible through the guidance and support of USPA Polo Development, LLC, and the strategic execution of Executive Director of Chicago Polo, Pam Mudra. The metropolitan Chicagoland area has seen a surge in polo activities from new incoming players to a rise in participating teams in both 8 and 12-goal competition.
“The amount of polo being played this season hasn’t been seen throughout Chicagoland in quite some time so it’s really exciting,” Pam Mudra said. “And not just local participation, but we have seen more interest from out of state and out of country teams. If it weren’t for the pandemic, we would have seen a lot of people migrating to Illinois to play and watch polo on our beautiful and well-manicured fields and experience our gracious hospitality.”
If you would like to contribute to Tony’s Go Fund Me, please visit https://bit.ly/3h9sFyb.
All photos courtesy of ©Andrew Meier Photography.