Mar 20, 2018 2:40 PM

Oak Brook Polo Team and Jamacian Polo Team (L ro R) John Greene, Tod Rackley, Horacio Onetto, Chris Vangel, Marc Melville, Mark Wates, Pau Lalor, Charles Chambers. ©Daniel O'Leary.
Oak Brook Polo Team and Jamacian Polo Team (L ro R) John Greene, Tod Rackley, Horacio Onetto, Chris Vangel, Marc Melville, Mark Wates, Pau Lalor, Charles Chambers. ©Daniel O'Leary.

On Thursday, February 22, the Oak Brook Polo Team from Oak Brook Polo Club in Oak Brook, Illinois, departed for Kingston, Jamaica, where they were greeted by a member of the Jamaica Tourist Board (“Visit Jamaica”) who let the team cut the line through customs before meeting up with hosts Marc and Zander Melville. Within seconds the team had Red Stripes in hand and were toasting to a fun weekend of good friends, sun and polo.

After the team checked into the Courtleigh Hotel & Suites, they met up with Mark Wates, a second-generation Jamaican polo player and father to former Oak Brook Polo Team player, Jason Wates, in Bog Walk, Jamaica. The team was also greeted by other members of the Jamaican polo community, including Rachel Turner, John Byles, Jorge Donovan and Kelly Wates. The evening was filled with new and old friends sharing hysterical and sometimes tearful stories of their times in Oak Brook and Jamaica. Multiple speeches were made from both teams celebrating a rekindled friendship between both nations.

After the late evening, the Oak Brook Polo Team got a good night’s rest to play their first match at the Kingston Polo Club only for it to be cancelled due to rain. The late afternoon and evening were then spent touring the club grounds capped off with a delicious barbeque dinner in the Club’s 7th Chukker Bar.

On Saturday, the well-rested Oak Brook Polo Team woke up to another beautiful Jamaican day with a poolside breakfast and a morning of lounging by the pool and soaking up some much needed sun. That afternoon, the team had a quick Courtleigh Hotel photoshoot before departing once again for the Kingston Polo Club to play in the Sparkles Productions Polo & Party between Oak Brook’s Horacio Onetto (4), Tod Rackley (2), Chris Vangle (1.5) and John Greene (0.5) and Jamaica’s Paul Lalor (3), Mark Wates (3), Marc Melville (2) and Charlie Chambers (0).

The match got off to a fast start with Mark Wates scoring the first two goals of the game to put Jamaica into an early lead and keeping Oak Brook scoreless after the first chukker. One chukker is all the Oak Brook Polo Team needed to get used to their horses and field before putting up two back-to-back goals by Chris Vangel and Horacio Onetto, closing out the half tied 2-2. After a brief break, the Oak Brook Team were back on their horses and did not hesitate to score their third goal by Horacio Onetto to put Chicago in the lead 3-2 by the end of the third chukker. In the fourth and final chukker, Mark Wates scored his third goal of the match to tie it up with only a few minutes left in the game. Both teams battled for the ball only for time to run out on the clock, leaving the match tied 3-3. Exhausted, both teams agreed to finish the game in a tie.

The day’s matches concluded with an authentic Jamaican barbeque and Pig Roast followed by one of the best dance parties on the island. Each one of Oak Brook Polo’s players showed off their superb dance moves to show that Chicagoans know how to groove as the Jamaicans do.

The final full day in Jamaica began early in the morning with an hour-long bus ride through, up and around Jamaica’s beautiful mountains and valleys to St. Anne’s Bay. The team jumped on the CHUKKA CAT for day long excursion touring the Jamaican coastline, snorkeling, trekking up the Dunn’s River Falls, zip-lining and socializing on the island’s most popular boats. Before jumping on the bus back to Kingston, the team was treated to wonderful Jamaican Italian Dinner at Evita’s Restaurant which overlooks St. Anne’s Bay. A hidden gem and recommend restaurant to anyone who visits the island.

The Team’s trip to Jamaica, again proves just how deep and rich Chicago’s relationship with Jamaica is and the important role they both play in the team’s respective polo communities. An enormous thank you goes out to hosts Marc Melville, Charlie Chambers and Mark Wates for an incredible and memorable weekend. Oak Brook Polo Club is looking forward to having the team back in the U.S. this summer. The club wishes to thank everyone who made sure they were taken care of, including Hannah Wright, the team’s driver Steve, Ceri Moe, Rachel D’Silva and Camille Bailey, Sue and Kelly Wates, referees Jorge and Craig, the CHUKKA CAT crew, Courtleigh Hotel staff and the Jamaica Tourist Board.