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By Thomas Connors | Photo: Katrina Wittkamp | Hair and Makeup by Leila Styles | May 15, 2017
Polo player Pamela Flanagan is back in the saddle at the Oak Brook Polo Club this summer.
The practical Pamela Flanagan practices law. The fearless Flanagan plays polo. “It’s not like putting on skates or cleats,” she says. “There’s this massive, powerful animal with a mind of its own beneath you, and you need to bond and work together.”
“Horse crazy” since childhood, this River North resident took up polo in her teens at Culver Academies in Indiana, co-founded the team at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and has played tournaments in Argentina, Guatemala, Mexico and China. This summer, she’ll participate in matches at The Oak Brook Polo Club, which begin June 11. “Oak Brook is one of the oldest clubs in the nation, with a rich history,” says Flanagan. “It’s amazing to play on these fields where they hosted the biggest tournament in the country—the U.S. Open—year after year.”
Depending on the other players on the field, Flanagan might play any of the game’s four positions. “If I’m with high-level pros, I’m up at number one; I’m going to be the wide receiver. If I’m playing a tournament where I have more experience than other players, I’ll play three—the quarterback—or four, the most defensive position.”
Polo may seem a tony sport, and the Champagne does flow. But at Oak Brook, you’ll see fans tailgating too. Of course, as Jim Drury, team captain and president of the club, notes, bubbles and brew are just the warmup. “Polo is the second most-dangerous sport after high-speed auto racing,” he says. “And when the play is right in front of you, eight horses going 30 miles an hour—the thundering hooves, the players yelling to each other, the thwack of the ball—there’s nothing like it.”