Jul 19, 2016 4:00 AM

Merle Jenkins

It is with great sadness that The United States Polo Association announces the passing of Detroit Polo Club Founder, Merle Jenkins, at the age of 84. Merle passed away peacefully on Monday, July 18, surrounded by the love and support of his family, after a battle to recover from injuries sustained in a June 9 auto accident. “We are all beneficiaries of his incredible work and love of the sport,” said USPA Chief Executive Officer Duncan Huyler.

A longtime member of the USPA, Merle began his polo career as a teenager at Joy Farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, after World War II. Merle also developed his love for horses during that time. He and a friend saved money to buy their first young horse which they jointly trained to play polo. Later, he played at Ivory Farms in White Lake, Michigan. Owned by the Ivory family, Ivory Farms offered Merle the opportunity to play while finishing law school as well as during his first years as an attorney.

A civil litigator for over 20 years, he graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1956. Shortly after, in 1962, he founded the Detroit Polo Club. Throughout the '60s, '70s and '80s he competed with his team Detroit Blues all over the East Coast. It was also during this time that he found, trained and played his legendary horse, Miracle. An off-the-track thoroughbred gelding, Miracle is described by many as Merle’s once-in-a-lifetime horse. The mention of Miracle’s name often sparks anecdotes of “miracle” sixth chukker wins, from large deficits, where the talented horse led his rider to victory.

Merle was known to say, “You can’t play polo by yourself,” and he worked tirelessly to share his passion for the sport with the world. “He was completely devoted to polo,” said Detroit Polo Club co-manager Emmalyn Wheaton, “he put everything he ever made into polo.” He founded USPA Properties, Inc. as a subsidiary of the United States Polo Association to fulfill his vision of a long-term source of income for the USPA. His company, Polo Ventures, where he served as President, managed the Properties sport licensing program for 20 years with licensed, branded products sold all over the world.

Youth polo was yet another aspect of polo for which he advocated – helping to found the Michigan State University and University of Michigan Polo teams. Merle was also very influential on the USPA Safety Committee and initiated the helmet safety standards through Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. In 2011, he was the USPA Iglehart Award recipient for his exceptional lifetime contributions to polo. And most recently, he was awarded the USPA Mid-States Polo Lifetime Achievement Award for over 50 years of commitment, leadership and service to the sport of polo, the Detroit Polo Club, the Mid-States Circuit and the United Stated Polo Association.

“We have lost one of the most passionate and influential members of our Association,” said USPA Polo Development, LLC Executive Director Kris Bowman. Chairman of the USPA, Joe Meyer stated, “Merle was the epitome of a gentleman. He cared deeply about polo and the entire polo family. His initiatives with our U.S. Polo Assn. apparel branding has allowed everyone in polo to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He will be missed as a friend and as a teammate. Our prayers and thoughts are for him and his family.” A champion of U.S. polo and his beloved Detroit Polo Club, the polo community mourns the loss of Merle Jenkins.

Information regarding the memorial service will be forthcoming.