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Polo Patriarchs Leave Legacy

William Ylvisaker, 85, who was largely responsible for popularizing South Florida as a destination for Polo, died Feb. 6 at a hospital in Wellington, Fla.
James Ashton, 69, who was interim president of the Federation of International Polo, died Feb. 14 after a falling from a horse during a match in Thailand.

Both of these gentlemen helped broaden the global interests of Polo, a sport they both loved. Polo is often called the Sport of Kings, and is known as one of the oldest team sports in history:references to the game predate Christ.

What each of them did from separate continents has helped the sport thrive.

Mr. Ylvisaker started the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club in 1977. Throughout the club's existence--the building has since been destroyed--guests included polo royalty (The Gracidas) and actual royalty (Whenever Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited they had a box in the grandstand).

Mr. Ylvisaker was at one time chairman of the United States Polo Association, and helped establish polo's World Cup.

Mr. Ashton played on the team representing Australia in polo at two World Cups. He served as president of the New South Wales Polo Association and the Australian Polo Council.
He also helped organize the 2001 Polo World Cup in Melbourne.

As a polo player, I can easily understand why these two men, though separated by thousands of miles of ocean, both dedicated their interests to the betterment of their shared passion. Polo is an addictive sport.

H.C. Bentley wrote a poem that perfectly summarizes polo's bewitching qualities:

"For the daring turn, and the skillful stroke
The ever quickening stride
The ring of the stirrup, the clash of the stick,
And the rush of the furious ride;
The cheer when the ball through the goal is driven
By the steady hand and eye,
Have a wild delight in themselves alone
That can never grow old or die."

By T. Rees Shapiro  |  February 17, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Categories:  Athletes  | Tags: Polo  
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