On February 1, 2021, Robert ‘Bob’ Puetz announced his retirement as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the USPA. A native of Chicago, Illinois, Bob has been a member of the Association for over four decades. Tracing his polo roots back to Fairlane Farms in Naperville, Illinois, where he first started playing at 13 years old, Bob developed his own polo farm, Sunset Farm, during his late teens and twenties.
Bob began his professional polo career in the 1980s at the Oakbrook Polo Club (Oakbrook, Illinois), achieving a 5-goal handicap (7-goal arena) and inscribing his name on prestigious trophies including the Butler Handicap®, U.S. Open Arena Polo Championship® and National Arena Sherman Memorial among others. Bob has traveled to play in Mexico, England, Argentina, Jamaica and Canada. Earlier in his professional polo career as a club manager, he learned the intricacies of polo operations on the west coast while employed as general manager of the Empire Polo Club (Indio, California), Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Carpinteria, California) and San Diego Polo Club.
As Executive Director for USPA Services and USPA CEO, Bob helped lead several significant USPA initiatives to enhance the Association and the sport. Listed below a few of the noteworthy achievements during Bob’s tenure.
Robert Puetz with former USPA Chairman Chip Campbell.
Policy and Practice Upgrades – The USPA improved corporate best practices with internal and external communications, marketing; governance improvements, programs and services, umpiring, High-Goal Committee, handicap, broadcast rights, title sponsorships, employee development, risk management, diversity and inclusion.
Club Support – Through the Polo Development Initiative Program, the USPA assisted 90 clubs by providing matching funds for capital improvements. Team USPA and Young Player Opportunity grants provided unique opportunities for young players to improve their skills and raise their handicaps, and USPA professional umpires cover over 2,170 USPA tournament games annually throughout the United States.
Livestream Platform – The USPA livestream platform now showcases USPA tournaments, players, horses and clubs.
GAUNTLET OF POLO® – The USPA and USPA Global Licensing developed, promoted and marketed North America’s top event, featuring a record number of teams vying for the three most prestigious trophies on American soil.
Robert Puetz speaking at the inaugural GAUNTLET OF POLO® debut and C.V. Whitney Draw Party.
International Polo Funding – The USPA developed and implemented an International Polo Fund (IPF) to ensure the availability of funds for key international polo opportunities.
International Rule Unification – The USPA coordinated the efforts of the Argentine Polo Association (AAP), Hurlingham Polo Association (HPA), and Federation of International Polo (FIP), to create a unified set of rules now called the International Rules.
Tournament Stimulus – The USPA developed its Tournament Stimulus Program (TSP) during the COVID-19 pandemic that provided for complimentary tournament fees, a free USPA professional umpire, free trophies and $2,500.00 in prize money for the first two USPA tournaments of any handicap level held at all USPA Member Clubs, resulting in a record number of USPA tournaments with a record number of participating teams.
COVID-19 Relief Package – With polo events suspended, the USPA surveyed member clubs to assess impacts. In reaction to the economic hardships that led to potential permanent club closures, the USPA initiated financial aid programs, including the Equine Relief Program (ERP), Distressed Club Relief Program (DCRP) and Professional Player Equine Relief (PPER).
COVID-19 Pandemic Safety – The USPA developed its “USPA Return to Play Guidelines” to provide USPA Member Clubs with information about health and safety of players, grooms, family members and friends when polo resumed.
Robert Puetz presenting the Most Valuable Player award to Pilot’s Matias Gonzalez in the 2019 Butler Handicap. ©David Lominska
“I am truly proud of what we have been able to accomplish both for our Association members and for the sport of polo,” said Puetz. “Together with the USPA Board of Governors, its professional staff and nearly twenty-five volunteer committees, we provided unwavering support and guidance to our many clubs, playing members and equine partners.”
The USPA thanks Bob for his service and commitment to the future of the Association and to the sport of polo. The Association looks forward to continuing to work with Bob on transition issues and in a consulting capacity.