Clarence Mott Woolley, Yale and Polo

Clarence Mott Woolley Jr. led, for a time, a charmed existence.

Clarence Mott Woolley Sr. made central heating possible in America by providing cast iron radiators for millions of homes; for this, he was well compensated, so young Clarence’s educational options were not limited. He attended Phillips Andover and then Yale. Because his father had a ranch in New Mexico (reached by a railroad of which he was a director), and the ranch had a polo field, the younger Mott Woolley arrived at Yale with a grip on the rudiments of the game.

He was joined on the polo team by Alan Lyle Corey Jr., who had learned to play polo as a student at Aiken Prep in South Carolina; he was already a veteran of play on the polo fields of Long Island when he arrived on campus.

Also on the Yale team was Collister Johnson, a similarly gifted young terror. Together, they inspired New York Times headlines like “Yale Polo Squad Crushes Harvard.” In that particular indoor game, Corey and Johnson each scored nine goals, Mott Woolley had seven, and one of the Yale ponies scored as well to make it 26-6 on a day best forgotten by fans of Harvard polo.

Clarence Mott Woolley graduated in 1939. That summer, he was playing in the Brook League at Meadow Brook, in Westbury, Long Island. Alan Corey was at Meadow Brook, too, playing on Tommy Hitchcock’s team. On July 5th, Woolley was playing at #1 for Broad Hollow against East Williston when his pony’s front legs became tangled with the rear legs of a pony ridden by Winston Guest. Woolley’s pony went down, and the young man struck his head. He was rushed to the hospital, but never regained consciousness. He was 22 years old.

A glimpse of what might have been for Woolley can be seen in the life of his teammate, Alan Corey. In 1940, he captained the Yale team, and that same year, playing with Gerald Smith, Robert Gerry Jr. and Elbridge Gerry on the Aknusti team, won the U.S. Open Polo Championship. Corey won four more U.S. Opens, plus the Monty Waterbury Cup five times and the National Twenty Goal four times. Over the years, he played polo in England, France and Argentina. He was inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame in 1992.

One wonders how many times Alan sent the ball forward, and wished for a moment that his teammate from Yale was there to take it to the goal.


One comment

  1. David A. Woolley · · Reply

    While gathering family history information yesterday, I came across Clarence Mott WOOLLEY, Jr.’s grave at Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, MI. You may see it on

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