Oct 11, 2022 3:58 PM

Dan Healy retires as one of the longest standing USPA umpires.
Dan Healy retires as one of the longest standing USPA umpires.

Third-generation polo player and professional umpire Dan Healy has had an extensive and rich history in the sport. Healy grew up in Oak Brook, Illinois, during the Golden Age of Polo at Oak Brook Polo Club (Oak Brook, Illinois), ultimately reaching an outdoor handicap of 4 and an arena handicap of 6. Transitioning to full-time umpiring in 1997, Healy is one of the longest standing USPA professional umpires to date. Healy’s overwhelming passion for the sport and the rules has positively impacted many small clubs nationwide. Learning how to adapt to nearly every potential situation over the course of his career, both on and off the polo field, Healy has traveled far and wide to numerous USPA Member Clubs to share his knowledge of the game.

Known for his lovable personality and unwavering dedication to the sport at all levels, Healy’s character has been championed and praised by many. “One of the simplest things I can say about Dan is that he’s always been a classic, true gentleman of the sport—one of the coolest guys,” said fellow umpire Kimo Huddleston. “He’s always been the same Dan, always willing to go the extra mile to help people understand the rules. We need about 300 of him playing polo and umpiring,” Huddleston continued.

After nearly 30 years committed to the Association, however, Healy has announced his retirement. Thankful for Healy’s many years of service to the sport, USPA Umpires, LLC Executive Director Fergus Gould noted, “Dan has such a tremendous wealth of knowledge and really a love for the game. He was a really good clinician and did a lot of arena and a lot of outdoor. It’s not always easy to find guys that are proficient in both. He could seamlessly go back and forth. That was one of his real strengths. He’ll be missed for sure because he is a great guy and was a great part of the program.”

Healy spent most of his early adulthood outside of the polo world. However, at 37, he took his first position as club manager at the LA Equestrian Center in Burbank, California. “I showed up out there one night just to watch a Saturday pro game,” he shared. “I ran into some friends from polo back in Oak Brook and was asked if I could do a clinic for their polo students or come out on weekends to help work with their students. I ended up putting in a job request to be their polo manager and the head instructor for students.” From there, Healy never looked back from the polo lifestyle. He went on to manage, teach and serve as a pro at several clubs across the country, including Hawaii Polo Club (Waialua, Hawaii), Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club (Carpinteria, California), Eldorado Polo Club (Indio, California), Empire Polo Club (Indio, California) and Santa Fe Polo Club (Santa Fe, New Mexico).

In 1993, Healy expanded his love of the sport in a new way. Finding joy in learning more about the rules of polo, he grew to be heavily invested in umpiring and officially joined USPA Umpires, LLC. Healy served on the USPA Rules Interpretation Committee, created to standardize rules across all USPA Member Clubs. “We would hash it out for hours,” Healy shared. “I learned so much doing that. That’s when I decided I needed to be a really good umpire. I needed to do this because I had all that knowledge and a firm understanding of the rules.”

Healy's heralded career includes recognition in 1994 as Carlton Beal Circuit Umpire of the Year and again in 1995 as Carlton Beal National Umpire of the Year.
Healy's heralded career includes recognition in 1994 as Carlton Beal Circuit Umpire of the Year and again in 1995 as Carlton Beal National Umpire of the Year.

Recognizing an impetus and desire within himself to share his wealth of rules knowledge with others, Healy created what he called “The Umpire Program” at Eldorado Polo Club and Empire Polo Club. He had players at the club attend class once a week and he created monetary incentive for players to umpire games to help grow interest in learning. He also created a path to growth and advancement to increase interest and longevity in umpiring. The program was very successful and ultimately certified many umpires over the years.

For his admirable and passionate work in umpiring, Healy was recognized in 1994 as Carlton Beal Circuit Umpire of the Year and again in 1995 as Carlton Beal National Umpire of the Year. It was shortly after winning these awards that Healy shifted from club management and transitioned to a full-time USPA Professional Umpire and instructor in 1997.

Honing his craft through training and real-life experience, Healy was able to reach the uppermost echelon of umpiring with an A umpire rating. “A is the top,” Healy noted. “There’s also B, C and D, which was entry level, meaning that you've probably taken a clinic and have been observed. I got to an A. I was umpiring some high-goal polo in Florida, and I moved to Florida for the season a few different times.”

As well versed in umpiring low-goal polo as high-goal, most recently Healy has spent over a decade umpiring primarily 8-goal polo and below at small clubs across the country. While certainly a different type of officiating, Healy stressed the importance of his job for low-goal clubs. “I've been saying it for a long time, it doesn't matter if it's a 0-goal tournament or a 20-goal tournament, both are just as important to the players,” Healy remarked. “I loved helping smaller clubs and going a little more in depth explaining a rule. They appreciate it and I've had so many compliments from players, it makes a big difference for club level polo. That's the majority of the polo players in this country. It's extremely important. I went back to the same clubs quite a bit over the years because they requested me again. That is the greatest compliment that you can have!” he beamed.

Healy will miss being able to work and connect with others who shared his same passion. “I loved going through game reviews with my fellow umpires. I enjoyed the camaraderie and the feedback between our umpires,” he noted. It is Healy’s genuine dedication to making the sport the best it can be that made him a truly exceptional umpire and member of Umpires LLC.

An avid angler, Healy hopes to spend more time out on the water fishing in his retirement. “I love being on the water,” he remarked. “I might go fish Panama and Costa Rica. I always liked fishing big fish.”

A well-respected and dearly loved umpire within the polo community, the USPA will miss Healy’s presence on the field and behind the whistle. However, the legacy he leaves behind will long inspire other umpires and players to give back to the sport as much as he did. The USPA is incredibly grateful for Healy’s many years of service and commitment to the Association and the sport of polo and wishes him well in his retirement.