Polo has always been a family affair, and that’s clearly in evidence for Jeff Hall, one of the top American players whose talent has been on display in Wellington for more than two decades.
Hall’s father, John, a well-regarded polo patron of the Old Pueblo team, introduced his second-oldest son to riding before he was in kindergarten. He played his first professional game when he was 12 and has been doing it at a high level ever since.
“Honestly, I owe my success to my dad. He started me, but I played because I loved it,” said Hall, who turned 41 last September.
Family also plays a significant role in some of Jeff’s most cherished memories of his exceptional career. He has won most of the major high-goal tournaments in the United States.
Among his favorite memories are winning the Silver Cup with his father and brother J.W. in 1999, and again with his father in 2000, and once with his stepmother, Leigh-Anne, in 2004, all in Santa Barbara.
Hall also included winning his record ninth Silver Cup this summer and the 2003 U.S. Open, the most prestigious tournament in North America.
It was with Tommy Boyle’s C Spear that Hall reached the pinnacle of U.S. polo in 2003, and his mount, Harrah, won the coveted Best Playing Pony award. He also reached the 2002 and 2006 finals, both with Orchard Hill.
Hall’s wish list includes another U.S. Open title, especially since it has been so long in between trips to the last Sunday of that tournament. “It’s insanely hard to win,” said Hall, who grew up in Santa Barbara and Houston.
But perhaps his biggest goal is to win the USPA Gold Cup, the second most important tournament in the United States, and the one major championship that Hall has never won.
He will be among the favorites to reach the podium this season at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington.
Hall anchors a strong La Indiana foursome, led by 10-goaler Polito Pieres, 4-goaler Nico Escobar and patron Michael Bickford in the upcoming 2021 Gauntlet of Polo series.
Last season, La Indiana reached the C.V. Whitney Cup final and the semifinals of the USPA Gold Cup, which was postponed to February because of the pandemic.
“It’s a really good team,” said Hall, an under-rated 6-goaler whose handicap will be raised to 7 goals in June. “I expect to be winning some tournaments.”
Hall said each player will have at least 15 horses for the grueling three-month season. To prepare for a game, Hall believes in putting in the work beforehand and not relying on superstitions.
“Over the years, I’ve learned that if I do everything in preparation, I am happy with the results,” said Hall, who usually does a light workout the day before a match. “You just have to do your part and be super focused. Of course, I ride and stick-and-ball, but I think I’m in better shape now than I was in my 20s.”
In his 20s, Hall was living the good life. In 2005, he made People magazine’s “50 Hottest Bachelors” list and was driving a turbo Porsche.
Now, he has been married 13 years to wife Michelle, a Realtor with Equestrian Sotheby’s International in Wellington, and they have two sons, Luke, who turns 10 this month, and Eli, who turns seven in May.
“They can both ride. I’m not training or pushing them to be polo players,” Hall said. “I give them an opportunity, and I want them to learn how to play.”
Instead, look out for the Hall boys to excel on the golf course.
Relaxing on off days includes spending time with his kids or golfing. Hall is a member at the Banyan Golf Club.
He got his pilot’s license on fixed-wing planes but doesn’t fly anymore. He even started learning to fly a helicopter and had six hours soloing but gave it up as he realized it was something that needed his undivided attention. “I love to fly,” Hall said. “Maybe it’s something I’ll pick up later.”
He has always enjoyed the speed, whether it’s aboard his ponies or cars. Hall has a 2016 Shelby GT 350 with 1,000 horsepower that is at Estancia Pueblo Viejo, his 330-acre ranch on the Brazos River in Sealy, Texas.
In Wellington, he drives a truck. “It’s practical, and I can stay out of trouble. I had all my fun when I was young and dumb,” he said, laughing.
Former 9-goaler Julio Arellano has known Hall for some 20 years, having been both an opponent and a teammate.
“Jeff has always been extremely competitive and very well mounted,” said Arellano, who was a teammate with Hall on the Orchard Hill team that reached the 2002 U.S. Open final. “He is tough physically on the field and a great teammate. He is a good dad and friend.”
Hall, who has represented the U.S. in numerous international matches, including the prestigious Westchester Cup in 2018, noted that he is 100 percent competitive in everything.
“I have no idea [where it came from]. I have always been this way,” he said.
The importance of family was clear when Hall and his father played in the 100th U.S. Open at IPC in 2004, the only time they did so. It was the elder Hall’s first appearance after a 17-year hiatus and fourth overall. They also played and won the 100th Silver Cup in 2000.
Hall said he has learned a lot from his father.
“Treat everyone with respect until they show you that they don’t deserve it, and treat everyone the same, whether it’s the team sponsor or the groom,” Hall said. “The old school ways.”
It’s also the Hall family way.
Learn more about polo player Jeff Hall at www.jeffhallpolo.com.