Dec 12, 2016 3:40 PM

James "Roper" Morrow
Florida Circuit Clint Nangle Equine Welfare Award Recipient - James "Roper" Morrow.

Peter Rizzo and James "Roper" Morrow, two of the most well-respected people in polo, have been honored by the United States Polo Association's Florida Circuit for their outstanding contributions in the sport.

Morrow of Sarasota Polo Club in Sarasota, Florida, was honored with the circuit's Clint Nangle Equine Welfare Award. The honor is awarded by the USPA to a recipient who has demonstrated excellence in the field of equine welfare. Nangle, a longtime horseman and contributor to polo and the USPA, was the initial recipient of the Equine Welfare Award, a trophy bearing his name.

Morrow, also a longtime horseman, is well-known for his passion for horses. He has been a trainer for James Uihlein and his family for more than four decades. "He loves the horses," said Sarasota Polo Club manager Kristen Galvan. "You always see him day-in and day-out working with the green horses and watching over the horses. He is really an excellent horseman. He is quiet and unassuming," Galvan said. "He is behind the scene, but he does all the work. He gets the horses where they need to be."

Morrow, manager of the Sarasota Polo Club from 1993 to 2000, oversaw the fields and scheduled the tournaments when there was just a dirt road to the polo club. Today the club has nine world-class fields with paved roads and is one of the state's thriving clubs and a big part of the Lakewood Ranch community in the heart of Florida's Gulf Coast.

Morrow was able to turn what he loves into a full-time job. His first job was grooming for $80 a week. Today, his work with horses has taken him around the world and throughout the United States. "I've been very fortunate to do this," Morrow said. "I have gotten to watch ponies thrive. It's like watching a kid progress as they get a little older and mature. It's rewarding to me to see them go to the highest possible level."

Peter Rizzo.
Florida Circuit Sportsmanship Award Recipient - Peter Rizzo.

Rizzo of Palm City Polo Club in Boynton Beach, Florida, earned the Circuit Sportsmanship Award, presented by the USPA to promote good sportsmanship in polo and to recognize those individuals who exemplify the quality. Rizzo is a former Chief Executive Officer of the USPA and former manager of the now-defunct Royal Palm Polo Sports Club in Boca Raton, Florida.

Rizzo has been a tireless supporter of polo and was an overseer of the sport's growth when he worked with the USPA. He is an avid polo player reaching a 4-goal rating at the peak of his playing career. "We always say about this sport, you can play until your 80s because you keep replacing the legs," said Rizzo after competing in the Carlos Gracida Legends of Polo Memorial at Grand Champions.

Joey Casey, a former 7-goaler who owns and operates Palm City Polo Club, has known Rizzo since he was a teenager. "He understands the game and is a true advocate of polo," Casey said. "He loves the game and wants to see it continue. He has been great for the sport. When he was with the USPA he bettered polo. He had a big hand in starting Team USPA. I think he did a great job while he was there. He is big on the heritage of the game, both the past and the future. He wants to preserve the integrity of the game as well as its history. A lot of people have forgotten about its history but it's important to him." Casey said Rizzo will be involved in polo for the rest of his life. "He is a great asset to the sport," Casey said. "He is absolutely deserving of this award. It's nice to see someone like Peter honored."

The Circuit awards are a historical honor that are presented to USPA members who demonstrate extraordinary excellence in the corresponding field. "We were fortunate to have so many great candidates in the USPA Florida Circuit," said Melissa Ganzi, Florida Circuit Governor and Grand Champions Polo Club President. "I am proud of all of our nominations and more importantly our award recipients." The recipients were selected from nominations by a committee chosen by Ganzi and voted upon.