Oak Brook Polo Club (Oak Brook, Illinois) and the Chicago Polo Association (CPA) hosted its last match of the 2020 summer polo season on Sunday, September 27, with the Butler International Final presented by Merrill Lynch. In front of a sold out yet socially-distanced crowd, the United States (Mariano Gutierrez, Tomas Obregon, Horacio Onetto, Jim Drury) defeated Argentina (Larry Aschebrook, Juan Martin Gutierrez, Juan Martin Obregon, Matias Obregon) 13-12, in the final of the 10-day tournament where teams representing the United States, Argentina, Germany and Switzerland competed for a chance to engrave their name on the prestigious cup.
The trophy was first played for in 1986 between Oak Brook and HRH Prince Charles’ Wales polo team. In response to this year’s enormous demand for tournament level competition, the Butler International was transformed into a sanctioned 12-goal USPA tournament.
USA’s Tomas Obregon reaches for the hook on Argentina’s Juan Martin Obregon. ©Sofía Lopez de Aréchaga
The championship match was held as Oak Brook’s historic Prince of Wales Field and began with opening festivities including the traditional team parade led by Ronald Vassar in a 2020 Corvette Stingray and Mark Weidman, in a 1986 Mercedes-Benz convertible. Passengers included Reute Butler, President of the Friends of Conservation and granddaughter of Oak Brook Polo Club’s founder, Paul Butler, as well as Monica Patankar, Miss Illinois for America 2019. Prior to the introduction of players and throw-in, Oak Brook Polo Club President, Jim Drury, welcomed spectators followed by the Argentine anthem and United States anthem performed by The Singing Men of Oak Brook.
The first chukker was off to a fast start as both teams were competing to get on the scoreboard. The United States’ Horacio Onetto claimed the first goal of the match, but Argentina’s Juan Martin Gutierrez answered back. Onetto would retaliate for the United States, but Juan Martin Obregon easily returned the favor to end the first chukker tied 2-all. In the second chukker, Juan Martin Obregon secured the lead his team was looking for with back-to-back goals. Onetto scored his third goal, but Juan Martin Obregon would add one more to Argentina’s tally. In the third chukker, Juan Martin Obregon would extend his team’s lead to three, but Onetto closed the gap with two consecutive goals to end the first half 6-5 in favor of Argentina.
USA’s Mariano Gutierrez on the ball as Argentina’s Larry Aschebrook hustles on defense. ©Sofía Lopez de Aréchaga
In the fourth, Onetto and teammate Mariano Gutierrez would go on to score a combined four goals while putting on an impressive display of defense, to keep Argentina scoreless and take the lead ending the chukker 9-6. Catching the United States off guard, Juan Martinn Obregon led Argentina’s fifth chukker strike with a powerful four-goal streak to reclaim his team’s lead 10-9. Scoring his ninth and tenth goals of the game, Onetto leveled the scoreboard 11-all headed into the final chukker. Juan Martin Obregon would score the first goal of the sixth chukker to take back the narrow lead. Strategically surveying the field, Mariano Gutierrez took advantage of some favorable opportunities and after a couple of goals ended the final with a win for the United States 13-12.
Following a special thank you and season ending remarks by Gopal Lalmalani, President for the Village of Oak Brook, the awards ceremony began. Horacio Onetto received the Most Valuable Player Award, presented by Monica Patankar, for his impressive ten goals.
Best Playing Pony honors were awarded to Chick, owned by Horacio Onetto and presented by Sheryl Srivastava, Acquisitions of Fine Art owner.
USA’s Horacio Onetto taps the ball forward. ©Sofía Lopez de Aréchaga
Runner-up trophies and gifts were presented by Chicago Tribune’s Rameka Johnson and Tatiana Rybka, while the winners’ trophies and Butler International were presented by Reute Butler. Butler also made a special presentation and awarded gifts to Jim & Peggy Drury, and Danny O’Leary for their continued support of the Friends of Conservation.
Established in 2018, the Chicago Polo Association is thriving and growing with every additional year. “2020 was the busiest summer polo season we’ve experienced yet,” said Pam Mudra, the Executive Director of the Chicago Polo Association. “This year we had three polo schools, a practice league, women’s tournaments, National Youth Tournament Series, 0-, 4-, 8- and 12-goal tournaments. We also had visiting 8-goal teams from Missouri and Kentucky who are making plans to play several tournaments with us next summer. We are the hub in the Midwest for polo and we plan on 2021 being even busier.”