Brandon Phillips was born in King City, Canada and grew up on a horse farm outside of Toronto. The game of polo was in Phillips blood as his father and brother played polo as amateurs at the Toronto Polo Club and two of his uncles were Olympic show jumpers. Phillips rode his first horse when he was only 18 months old and picked up a polo mallet at the age of 6. By the time he was 11, he played his first match at the Toronto Polo Club, becoming the youngest polo player at the time.
In June of 1992 at the age of 14, Phillips noticed severe swelling in his right leg. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma after doctors found a grapefruit-sized tumor wrapped around his ureter and was given six weeks to live. (Something his parents didn’t share with him). Drawing on his physical strength and positive outlook, Phillips was cancer-free after five months of intensive chemotherapy.
Once his battle with cancer was over, Phillips began to pursue polo more aggressively. As a standout athlete who excelled in several sports, Phillips surprised his Canadian peers when he chose to focus on the uncommon sport of polo. A weekend in 1994 at the Connecticut farm of Peter Brant turned into his launching pad for a professional polo career. There, he was exposed to top polo players which landed him a job for the following season in Palm Beach with White Birch Farm. He spent the winters of his final two years of high school in South Florida playing polo working with tutors and traveling back to Canada during downtime to complete schoolwork.
For the last 20 years of Phillips’ professional career, he has established himself as one of polo’s elite players, winning the most coveted tournaments. Although Phillips spends much of his time training and caring for over 20 horses, he finds time to give back and help children with cancer.
MJ: I had the distinct pleasure to sit down and interview my client, Brandon Philipps and ask a few questions that sports enthusiasts may be interested in reading about. I feel so fortunate to work with Phillips as he is such an incredible man, athlete and humanitarian who truly is passionate about life.
MJ: When did you start playing polo?
BP: I started playing polo in Toronto when I was 11 years old. Then when I was 17 years old, I was asked to come down to Palm Beach Florida and start my professional career. What I love most about the sport are the horses. I’ve lived with horses my entire life and I’m very lucky that I get to work with them on a daily basis.
Brandon Phillips on the field at Polo For A Purpose (LILA PHOTO)
MJ: Why do you think polo has started to become more popular in the recent years?
BP: Polo has become more popular due to more TV time. NBC Sports has started airing the main tournament finals and there are also more websites posting polo scores and tournaments. Recently, a website called Chukker TV has started live streaming many of our games. People are starting to see polo more on the internet, TV and more product advertisers are using polo and polo players for their brand.
Brandon Phillips at Polo For A Purpose (LILA PHOTO)
MJ: You were diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma when you were 14 years old. What was your recovery like and how does your remission affect who you are today?
BP: After my last round of chemotherapy, it took four weeks until my body started to get stronger. By the eighth week, I was back on my high school’s basketball team and never looked back. I have used that attitude my entire life. To me, life is a game. You are constantly thrown curve balls and you better learn how to hit them. Being able to only hit fastballs will get you nowhere and in my case, it would have killed me.
MJ: What is your polo schedule like throughout the year and do you have a favorite place to play?
BP: I play polo about 11-months a year. From January through June, I play in Wellington, Florida. Then from June through September, I’m on the road. Each summer is a little different on where I get to play. It’s either New York, Greenwich, Santa Barbara or Europe. Then I return to Wellington in October to start the fall league followed by training in Argentina and snow polo in Aspen during December. Thereafter, I return back to Wellington to prepare for the winter season.
MJ: I know you will be playing in Greenwich this summer. There certainly is a lot of history at that club. Are you looking forward to playing there?
BP: Yes, I started my career in Greenwich. When I was 17-years old, I was invited to watch the U.S. Open there. One year later, I was playing with the Greenwich-based polo team, White Birch Farms. So it will be nice to go back for a few months to play there.
Nic Roldan & Brandon Philipps at Polo For a Purpose
MJ: Let’s talk about your ambassadorship with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). You host an annual event which I just had the pleasure of attending in Wellington titled “Polo For a Purpose.” Can you share a little about the event?
BP: Three years ago, I started Polo For A Purpose to support LLS. The event is hosted at the International Polo Club in Wellington. It is a fun luncheon with a silent and live auction followed by an all-star polo match which includes some of polo’s top players. This year, we incorporated more activities for the kids and added an entire section next to the field which was filled with exciting games and attractions.
MJ: I know you are working on plans to expand Polo For A Purpose and that there are discussions of a possible New York/Connecticut fundraising event for this summer. Can you share your vision?
Brandon Phillips celebrating Polo For A Purpose victory with cancer survivor Eric Steinberg (LILA PHOTO)
BP: Yes, there are plans to expand Polo For a Purpose beginning this summer. My goal is to bring as much awareness to this underfunded cause. I hope my efforts play a major role in funding a cure for this horrific disease that takes the lives of many children each year.
Brandon Phillips having fun with special guests at Polo For A Purpose (LILA PHOTO)
MJ: If you weren’t a professional polo player, what career path do you think you would have chosen?
BP: I definitely think I would have become a profesional NHL player.
MJ: To date, how much has Polo For A Purpose raised?
BP: To date, we have raised close to $750k for LLS. I’m so blessed on how this event keeps growing and I’m so appreciative for all the sponsors and donors who come out and support this cause.
MJ: Thank you for your time and congratulations on your hard work on and off the field. I’m looking forward to Polo For A Purpose this summer.
BP: Thank you for all you do.