Brandon Phillips knows a thing
or two about overcoming odds.
Phillips at age 11, the youngest polo player at that time, began
playing polo in Toronto, Canada. With both uncles being Olympic
equestrians and a father that played polo, Phillips was no stranger
to horses. “I’ve been around horses all my life,” Phillips said.
“I rode for the first time when I was 18 months old and started
working with stick and ball when I was six. My father and older
brother played (polo) at the Toronto Polo Club, and I played
in my first match there when I was 11.”
While having a strong interest in polo as kid he also enjoyed
rugby, basketball, and soccer. In June of 1992 at the age of 14,
Phillips noticed severe swelling in his right leg. He attributed the
swelling to a sport-related injury. Following a medical
exam, doctors diagnosed Phillips with Non-Hodgkin’s
Lymphoma after finding a grapefruit-sized tumor wrapped
around his ureter (the tube that connects the kidneys
with the bladder). Though Phillips’ parents didn’t tell him
at the time, the doctor’s prognosis was six weeks to live.
Drawing on his physical strength and positive outlook, Phillips
was cancer free after five months of intensive chemotherapy. He
returned to his school’s basketball team that November. “At the
time, I never gave dying a second thought,” Phillips said. “I was
more upset because it interfered with soccer season. It wasn’t until
later, after it was all over, and one of my teachers asked me how I
felt about death that it really hit me what I had been through.”
His battle with cancer over, the King City, Ontario, native began
to pursue polo more aggressively. A standout athlete, who
excelled in several sports, 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.
With more than 20 horses, polo has become Phillips’ full-time job
as well as his passion. Although he travels around the world to
play polo, Wellington, Florida is his home.