By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Aspen Valley Polo Club
The U.S. Open Women’s Polo Championship took another major step for women’s polo making history Sunday at Houston Polo Club.
The weeklong tournament produced a first-time champion with Rocking P Lockton (Courtney Price/Athena Malin, Kristy Outhier, Sarah Wiseman, Hazel Jackson) knocking off San Saba (Dawn Jones, Melissa Ganzi, Sunny Hale, Clarissa Echezarreta), 9-2.
In front of a good crowd, a record field of 75 players from around the world and 20 teams competed in the world’s largest women’s polo tournament.
“We didn’t win, but we sure had a ton of fun,” said Ganzi, Grand Champions Polo Club president, Flexjet patron and top player.
Ganzi has served as a role model for the next generation of players including her 16-year-old daughter, Riley, who makes her high goal debut on Wednesday in the USPA North American Cup at Grand Champions. She is the youngest female in the Florida circuit to play high goal.
British eight-goaler Hazel Jackson, 25, was named Most Valuable Player. Jackson, who has been playing polo since she was 8, scored six goals in the final.
“I don’t know what it is but there is something so unique and incredible about this sport,” Jackson said. “I am ridiculously passionate about playing. We knew it was going to be a really tough game.
Sunny Hale is always a formidable force to be reckoned with but we stuck to our strategy.”
|Clarissa Echezarreta of San Saba rides off Sarah Wiseman of Rocking P Lockton.|
At 16, Jackson’s teammate Californian Athena Malin was the youngest player to win the tournament. Malin shared the No. 1 position with 18-year-old Courtney Price.
“The women’s polo world is constantly growing,” Jackson said. “It has enabled women players to make a living from the sport. As long as the younger generations of female players have something to aim for, I think it holds a very positive future.”
Added Outhier, “It was awesome that two big operations, Melissa and Dawn, showed up and supported and elevated the level of play.”
London, a 5-year-old, was selected Best Playing Pony for a professional. London is owned by Carl Price and played by Wiseman.
Chici was awarded Best Playing Pony for an amateur player. Chici is owned and played by Dawn Jones of San Saba. Jones, a 6-goaler, scored both of San Saba’s goals.
The American Quarter Horse Association’s Best Playing Pony was awarded to Reata, owned and played by Outhier.
|Kristy Outhier of Rocking P Lockton defends San Saba’s Sunny Hale.|
My Table/Riveroaks.com won the USPA Women’s Handicap Tournament with a thrilling 6-5 victory over Herk’s Store & Grill. Argentine Lia Salvo was named MVP.
Thing 2, owned by Grace Mudra and played by Salvo, was named Best Playing Pony for a professional player.
Shakin Vibes, owned by Stacy Stover and played by Wendy Stover, was selected Best Playing Pony for an amateur player.
AQHA’s Best Playing Pony was Mike, owned and played by Sheila Lequerica.
In other events held during the weekend, Sullivan Group, 2-1 winners over Hendrick’s Gym, won the HPC Farish Cup. Esther Kane was named MVP and Alacron, owned by Cindy Madole and played by Debbie Shelton, was named Best Playing Pony. Engel & Volkers won the Bayou City Cup.
The WCT was created in 2005 to bring together women’s polo players around the world with one mission: new friendships, good polo and shared passion. To learn more about the league go to www.wctwomenspolo.com.
|MVP Hazel Jackson of Rocking P Lockton leads the pack.|
“For me it was a fantastic tournament with amazing teams,” said WCT founder Sunny Hale. “With the WCT and this tournament there were 20 teams that makes it the largest women’s tournament in the U.S. It’s fun for the young players to see other women that are coming from overseas and gives them something to aspire to.
“I think it’s a credit to the club and girls participating,” Hale said. “Rocking P Lockton was amazing. Something else that needs to be mentioned is that the reason this tournament is back in competition is due to the efforts of Luis Echezarreta, Martin Munoz and Scott Wood. They wanted to have a women’s open, went to the USPA, petitioned and got it back, and also to the Houston Polo Club for bringing in so many great players.”
Grand Champions Polo Club, a supporter of women’s polo and WCT since its inception 12 years ago, annually hosts the WCT Championships in April.
Grand Champions, the only club in the nation to stage USPA-sanctioned 20-goal tournaments during the fall, is hosting the USPA North American Cup on Wednesday and Friday and USPA National 20-Goal that kicks off on Sunday.
Best Playing Pony Amateur Chici played by Dawn Jones.
Photos by Kaylee Wroe
In addition to the 20-goal tournaments, the Carlos Gracida Memorial Legends of Polo game and fifth annual International Cup featuring Team USA against Uruguay will close out the season on Nov. 26.
The club has already hosted eight successful medium goal tournaments this season.
Grand Champions, with eleven well-manicured fields, is enjoying its finest fall season in the ten-year history of the club.
Grand Champions caters to men, women and youth polo players at all levels. Its expert staff can customize a complete playing experience including horses, pros and certified umpires in addition to lessons and practice sessions as part of its’ Polo On Demand program, the only polo club in the U.S. to offer the unique program.
The Polo School, a 501c3 organization, is dedicated to teaching polo to all ages, particularly grass roots youth. Its mission is to provide individuals opportunities in polo. The Polo School operates in Wellington January through June and September through November.