With Charles in Charge, Polo Community Soared into New Territory
On a deeply personal note, I remember Charles Ward, the longtime Texan publicist and promoter for the Santa Barbara Polo Club, who left us for more heavenly pastures at the age of 80 in his hometown of Dallas.
We first met in 2007 when I moved to our rarefied enclave from Hancock Park in Los Angeles to be a local columnist and broadcaster and we soon became firm friends.
Charles, a former TV anchor that beat CBS network anchor Dan Rather to an exclusive interview with President Lyndon Johnson in 1964 at just 24, founded his company, Idea Works Inc. in 1980 and soon set sail for the Left Coast after winning a contract to organize the San Diego Yacht Club’s America’s Cup campaign. He raised $16 million for Stars & Stripes, allowing the crew to advance and win the prestigious yacht race in Western Australia.
The state of Hawaii appointed him head of economic development after the successful campaign, which included a victory celebration at the White House and a ticker tape parade along Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.
Charles, who was also an accomplished triathlete, worked for the Carpinteria club for 18 years and his was the first company to bring private jet travel to polo in the U.S., generating millions for the Santa Barbara and other polo clubs, with lucrative partnerships with Bombardier, Gulfstream, Maserati, Ferrari, and Silver Air to name a few.
Flags at the club’s hallowed Holden Field are being flown at half-staff in his memory and on August 15 the first match of the Pacific Coast Open season will be renamed the Charles Ward Polo Classic, when I will also be judging the club’s annual hat contest for the 14th year, which was always one of Charles’s favorite occasions.
For Charles, every day presented an opportunity to live the good life, and he left this world having savored every minute of his.