BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
On August 21, the Oak Brook Polo Club hosted the USPA International Cup. But this was no ordinary sporting event. As the dapper polo players thundered across the Prince of Wales Field, equally stylish English Speaking Union members and their guests were sipping on Pimms Cups, toasting this grand summer benefit tradition.
Guests applauded Honorary Event Chair Reute Butler, who opened the ceremonies along with Co-Chairs Kimberly Gleeson and Heather Jane Johnston. ESU stalwart Courtney Pitt reported:
“Reute Butler was a terrific Honorary Chair, not only because of her connection to the Oak Brook Polo Club, but to polo itself. She was one of the first female captains of a polo team in the world.”
Holding on to their elegant hats, viewers watched team USA tie the highly ranked Jamaican team for the United States Polo Association’s final season tournament for the International Cup. The legendary Michael Butler first hosted the Jamaican teams at the Oak Brook Polo Club in the early 1980s, and the English Speaking Union was involved from the start. The first tournament was played in 1986 against the British team, captained by Prince Charles. Over 4000 polo fans attended.
Longtime ESU leader Tom Miner presented the first International Cup to Prince Charles. Tom recalled that famous event and the ESU’s relationship with the Polo Club:
“That tournament made all the papers in the country because the Prince fell off his horse. He wasn’t hurt, and it was a pleasure to help him up.
“Our family has always had horses, and I played polo at West Point. The ESU was involved from the early years at the Oak Brook Polo Club, bringing in countries which were part of our network such as India.”
Fast-forward to 2016 and this practice persists, with the previous week’s match drawing in a team all the way from New Delhi. But it was Sunday, the 21st that drew in enthusiasts from the ESU, many opting to board a Windy City limo bus stocked with Veuve Clicquot, water, and other refreshments instead of making the drive from the Chicago. And things only got more glamorous upon arrival. Dining on delicacies such as poached salmon with crème fraîche and honey stung fried chicken, the participants conversed with friends in a tent decorated with India Hicks designs. Clothiers J. McLaughlin and India Hicks donated 15 percent of their proceeds from their sales that day.
Among the well-dressed crowd that day were Courtney Pitt, Tom Miner, Vonita Reescer, Stephen Shirey, Susan Gohl, Dottie Pattishall, Lyssa Piette, Oona Caroll, Laura and Larry Ekstrom, and Brian White and Jim Kinney.
Former ESU President Brian White, who has enjoyed polo since his days as a Rollins College student remarked:
“Polo is such a regal sport—the ‘sport of kings’—for good reason. I cherish the memories of visiting my grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Arlington Pond, who spent their winters in Palm Beach, going to polo games as a kid. My grandmother always wore a large hat and my grandfather, a pink or green jacket with white pants. I wore my blue blazer.
“The sport is so exciting to watch; the feeling so civilized and elegant. It made a lasting impression on me that I have never forgotten.
“At Rollins, we had a polo club as well, where we learned to play collegiate polo in a much smaller ring, and also watched games regularly on weekends. Now we continue the tradition with world class polo in Oak Brook, while drinking Pimms Cups and stomping divots in between.”