Story courtesy of the International Polo Club Palm Beach
Returning to the GAUNTLET OF POLO® for the third consecutive year, Tonkawa is led by team owner Jeff Hildebrand, who has been steadily improving his organization to compete at the 22-goal level, alongside 10-goaler Sapo Caset. Hailing from Houston, Texas, Hildebrand headlines Tonkawa in the number one position, bringing a depth of experience playing in some of the most prestigious tournaments across the United States.
Splitting time between the International Polo Club Palm Beach (Wellington, Florida), Houston Polo Club (Houston, Texas) and Aspen Valley Polo Club (Carbondale, Colorado), Hildebrand has been the driving force of his Tonkawa organization, competing in different levels of polo throughout the year. Always a team to watch in each tournament they enter, Tonkawa captured the 2019 Silver Cup® title, along with numerous titles at his home base in Houston, including multiple victories in the H. Ben Taub Memorial, Keleen Carlton Beal Cup and Southwestern Regional Classic.
2018 Joe Barry Memorial Champions: Tonkawa – Julian de Lusarreta, Sapo Caset, Sterling Giannico, Jeff Hildebrand. ©David Lominska
On the fields of IPC Hildebrand’s most notable title was the 2018 Joe Barry Memorial, the last year it was played at the 20-goal level, as Tonkawa’s focus turned to the new 22-goal GAUNTLET OF POLO® in 2019. After a few instances of narrow misses, Hildebrand reached the 2017 Ylvisaker Cup Final and the 2019 CaptiveOne U.S. Open Polo Championship® Semifinals, providing the foundation of a competitive team that has challenged the likes of Pilot and Las Monjitas in previous years.
Tonkawa’s Jeff Hildebrand competing in the 22-goal at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. ©Alex Pacheco
Individually, Hildebrand has shown consistent improvement year after year, being on the receiving end of more passes and demonstrating a strong ability to move the ball down the field accurately to gain valuable field position for Tonkawa. Making two assists in his five games before COVID-19 suspended play in 2020, Hildebrand works well off Caset and displayed similar effectiveness, working off the ball for new addition Francisco Elizalde. Around goal, Hildebrand increased his shooting percentage from 25% in 2019 to 40% in 2020, a noteworthy statistic that forces opposing defenders to mark him. Entering 2021, Hildebrand seeks to etch his name on one of the three prestigious trophies as part of the GAUNTLET OF POLO®, once again bringing one of the strongest organizations in the U.S. to IPC.
Tonkawa will compete in a crucial C.V. Whitney Cup® game against Pilot on Wednesday, February 24, at 3:00pm ET. All games of the GAUNTLET OF POLO® will be livestreamed exclusively on Global Polo TV.