Polo Hall Of Fame Gala Celebrates Stars Of Past And Present

2024 Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Blake (center) with his parents, Dave and Lynne Blake. Photo courtesy Krystal Zaskey Photography

It was an emotional evening for almost 250 distinguished guests who gathered to celebrate the sport’s heroes, past and present, at the stylish 35th annual Museum of Polo Hall of Fame Awards Dinner and Induction Gala on Friday, Feb. 16.

Highlighting the newest members was three-time U.S. Open champion Jeff Blake, who received a standing ovation as he walked to the podium, and another after finishing a touching, sentimental speech, saying he is “lucky and grateful to work with so many incredible people.”

Blake said he does not keep any of his trophies in his house because they reminded him of the ones that he didn’t win. However, he acknowledged that he will be keeping his Hall of Fame statue in his house because “it will be a constant reminder of how much you all mean to me.”

Rube Williams, a star of the winning West team in the 1933 East vs. West series, was inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously, and his grandchildren, Fred Williams and Heather Williams, accepted the award on his behalf. They, in turn, presented the museum with a priceless gift of their grandfather’s trophy from that match.

Dick Latham received the prestigious Iglehart Award for lifetime contributions to the sport, and was further honored, along with Hall of Famer Charles Smith, for their horse, Sweet Be, in the Horses to Remember category.

Museum of Polo President Melissa Ganzi read a statement from Iglehart Award recipient Vicki Armour, who could not attend. Her cousin, Alan Armour, also spoke on her behalf. Museum Chair Marty Cregg read a note from Dan Beveridge on behalf of his father, Don Beveridge, the posthumous Iglehart Award recipient.

Harry Payne Whitney’s three great-granddaughters, Whitney Miller Douglas, Penelope Miller and Maria Flora Miller, were present to celebrate his famed favorite pony Royal Diamond, honored with a Horses to Remember Award. The trio of ladies are also the daughters of museum founder Leverett S. Miller, and their uncle was Hall of Famer C.V. Whitney, namesake of the high-goal tournament.

Numerous past Hall of Famers and Iglehart Award winners returned to enjoy welcoming the newest members. The historic night was made possible by the generosity of the event’s sponsors. Thanks to Grand Gala Dinner Sponsors Marc and Melissa Ganzi of Grand Champions Polo Club, guests were treated to an elegant dinner. Additional sponsorship support was provided by Olexa Celine and the Robert I. Goldman Foundation, as well as U.S. Polo Assn., who each helped make the night even more memorable.

Upon arrival, guests enjoyed an hour of cocktails and passed hors d’ouevres that kicked off the festivities, with beverages provided courtesy of Wine and Spirits sponsor Robert S. Lipman, Margaret Lipman Orthwein, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Old Hickory Bourbon, High Goal Gin, Sachetto 071 Prosecco and Eros Spinozzi Selections.

Guests took home a beautiful gift book featuring artwork by Melinda Brewer, whose horse portraits hang in the museum’s Horses to Remember exhibit. The gift books were sponsored by the Iconica Foundation, along with Marty and Amanda Cregg.

The Polo Hall of Fame Awards Dinner is the most important annual fundraising event for the museum, which is dedicated to fostering an appreciation of the sport and its history, as well as honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to the sport. The museum is located at 9011 Lake Worth Road. Learn more at www.polomuseum.org.