This year has been an emotional rollercoaster for Jack Whitman*, the 17-year-old American player has lived through many different situations that many polo players would only dream of. Back in March he won the C.V. Whitney Cup®, the first tournament in the GAUNTLET OF POLO®, and on November 26, in his first season in Argentina, he won the Thai Polo Cup with Lavinia, a 14-goal competition that had a total of 16 teams participating.
“Toly Ulloa called me in July and asked if I wanted to play with friends in the Thai Polo Cup, which was amazing. Playing with friends like Toly, Ramon Cassino and Manu Gímenez Villamil was incredible,” Whitman told CLICKPOLO.
Arriving in Argentina the first days of November after the season in Aiken, South Carolina, Jack is staying and training at La Hache with the Ulloa family. “I became friends with Toly and Hilario last year during my stay at Park Place, in Wellington, and they invited me to Argentina to train with them this season.”
2021 Thai Polo Cup Champions: Lavinia – Ramon Cassino, Jack Whitman, Carlos Maria “Toly” Ulloa, Manu Gímenez Villamil. ©Justine Jacquemot
Jack, you made a breakthrough this year with Park Place in the C.V. Whitney Cup®. Tell us more about yourself.
“I have been riding and playing polo for four years. I’m a first-generation polo player and was born in New York. I started playing arena polo at Gardnertown Polo Club [Newburg, New York], then realized how much I love the grass. My mom and sister are show jumpers and we all realized that Florida was a great place to be, so we moved to Wellington, Florida, a few years ago.”
Besides the Thai Polo Cup, are you going to play other tournaments in Argentina?
“Yes, I’m also playing the 20-goal Polo Tour at Ellerstina which starts this week. I’m playing with Hilario [Ulloa], Toly [Ulloa] and Cody Ellis*. After the Polo Tour I’ll stay for the finals of the Argentine Open and then head back to Florida to get ready for the next season.”
Whitman competing in the 2021 Thai Polo Cup for Lavinia, in Argentina. ©Justine Jacquemot
What can you tell us about your experience playing the Thai Polo Cup?
“Toly [Ulloa] and I played in a few 12-goal tournaments in Florida last winter and he taught me a lot. Ramon [Cassino] and Manu [Gímenez Villamil] are also good friends and when Toly thought about putting a team of friends in for the tournament, I thought it was a great idea. It was a really tough tournament with some amazing teams.
Our initial bracket was very competitive, and we always knew it was going to be hard. When we won our bracket, we sat back and thought maybe we could win the whole thing. We just kept focusing on one game at a time and found great results. Part of our success was supporting each other and playing as a team.”
2021 C.V. Whitney Cup® Park Place Roster – Jack Whitman, Juan Britos, Hilario Ulloa, Matt Coppola. ©David Lominska
You played the GAUNTLET OF POLO® for Park Place this year. What’s your relationship with the organization?
“I was very fortunate to be able to train and play with Park Place in the GAUNTLET OF POLO® last season. Due to COVID travel restrictions in the United Kingdom, Andrey Borodin couldn’t get to the United States for the beginning of the season. Hilario [Ulloa] called me to see if I would sub for Andrey for the first few games. I played the warm-up games, the C.V. Whitney Cup® and part of the USPA Gold Cup®, which was incredible. The entire organization has been amazing to me. Andrey especially has really helped me in my career in so many ways, including helping mount me in the United States with his incredible horses and also giving me the opportunity to play in the GAUNTLET OF POLO®.
At the end of the Wellington season, Andrey and his family invited me to England to continue training with Park Place over the summer during England’s high-goal season. It was an incredible opportunity for which I will forever be grateful to him for. Playing at the 22-goal level and practicing every day with Andrey, Hilario, Juano [Britos] and Matt [Coppola]* helped me progress in every facet of my playing. Hilario is an incredible teacher and being able to learn from and play with one of the masters of the sport has been one of the best experiences of my life.”
Whitman will be returning to Wellington, Florida to compete in the winter 2022 season. ©David Lominska
How do you see polo in the United States?
“Polo in the United States is doing well. Florida looks like it is going to have an incredible winter season with more high-goal tournaments than before. Port Mayaca Polo Club [Okeechobee, Florida], International Polo Club Palm Beach [Wellington, Florida] and Grand Champions Polo Club [Wellington, Florida], the Wellington 16-goal league is poised to be super busy. The USPA is also working hard to find solutions to help grow the sport and I think hiring Chris Green as the new Chief Operating Officer and In-House Counsel was a great idea.”
*Jack Whitman is a member of Team USPA, and Matt Coppola and Cody Ellis are Graduating Team USPA Members. Team USPA is a USPA program designed to enhance and grow the sport of polo in the United States by identifying young, talented American players and providing mentored training and playing opportunities leading to a pool of higher rated amateur and pro players and the resultant giveback to the sport of polo.
*Jack Whitman competing for Park Place in the C.V. Whitney Cup® at International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC), in Wellington, Florida. ©David Lominska