By the time this is published, Santi Torres will be in Texas. At age 16, Santiago “Santi” Torres is already riding the route of the elite sport of professional polo from the Hamptons to Greenwich and yes, even to Texas, where his team is currently anchored. While Lady Gaga and high school drama fill the minds of others his age, Torres has already secured a career in one of the highest energy industries in the world — and he’s nowhere near retirement.
“A lot of people … go through life not knowing what they want to do,” he said. “Since I was little, I’ve known I want to play polo.”
Yet Torres isn’t your average media-loving prodigy who quickly gains a pop-culture following, and polo isn’t kiddie soccer. Already the subject of 2009’s documentary The Polo Kid, Torres has evaded both his fame and the wealth associated with polo to commit himself wholly to the sport. An age-defying maturity and serenity is the only evidence of his ability to handle the extreme pressure of pro sports.
Born and raised in Carpinteria, Torres attended local schools until hitting the professional circuit at the tender age of 10. He returned this summer for the prestigious Bombardier Pacific Coast Open, which both his late father and older brother had won in years past.
“People think it’s just a party you go to. A lot of people, they just go to the tent and drink and have fun during the game,” he said in regards to the sport’s stereotyped affluence. “They don’t actually know what goes on to prepare for the game. … You see people who have no clue what’s going on.”
Torres travels every few months around the national polo circuit with every other professional player—players often twice as old as he. He attends a tutoring center that caters to young equestrian professionals in Florida for a third of the year, and has two years of work left on his high school diploma. On the street, Torres might even pass for any other clean-cut high schooler, except that his motivation and focus surpasses that of nearly every teen.
“There’s not much energy to go mess around at night when you’re going all day at the stables,” he said of his lack of interest in fooling around like others his age.
There’s no lack of commitment with the Torres family. Both his father and older brother played professionally, and Santi’s meteoric rise to success was blackened by his father’s death from cancer several years ago. “I just kept going after that. I worked as hard as I could. That hurt a lot. Mostly, kids take [the death of a parent] a different way and go into depression, but I just worked really hard—just like if he would have been here,” he explained. “You just keep on going.”
An unexpectedly calm and determined personality is the only evidence of the ease with which Torres handles the pressure of professional sports—that, and the neon green horseshoe Silly Band he wears on his wrist. Though his team, ERG, lost the Pacific Coast Open, he plans to return next year for another shot at prestige and glory. In the meantime, his success has left a permanent gold star on Santa Barbaran polo—a star that can only get brighter.