Grand Champions Polo Club Hosts Season 11 WCT Finals, Women’s Polo Week That Begins Wednesday
By Arianna Delin, Sharon Robb for Grand Champions Polo Club
The much-anticipated Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT) Finals and Women’s Polo Week begins Wednesday at the Polo Museum and Hall of Fame.
The WCT Women’s Polo Week of festivities opens Wednesday with the opening kick-off party at the Polo Museum and Hall of Fame in Lake Worth 6:30-8 p.m.
Teams and players will be introduced by WCT founder Sunny Hale and will receive their official WCT finals La Martina jersey.
The draw for Friday’s 8-to-10 goal playoff matches (10 a.m. and noon) at Grand Champions Polo Club will be held and game day assignments announced.
Last year Mother Chukkers (Stephanie Preston, 2, Jessica Riemann, 3, Julia Steiner, 5, Courtney Asdourain, 6) defeated Diowave Laser System (Alison Patricelli, 1, Jennifer Williams, 3, Tiffany Busch, 7, Cecilia Cochran, 5), 6-5, to win the 12-16 goal title. Steiner was named MVP.
“Each year the quality of play is better,” Busch said. “They are getting new sponsors and I love to see that. I love to see smiling faces and everyone getting along out there and having a good, clean polo match.”
In the 8-11 Goal Final, Code4Armour (Jennifer Williams, Melanja Jones, Cristina Fernandez, Scarlet Davenport) defeated Koncordia Group (Lisa Scott, Laura Wilson, Belinda Brody, Kimberly Von Stade), 5-3. Jones was named MVP.
Among this year’s 8-10 goal teams is Palm City Polo with Busch, one of the top-rated players at 7 goals; Jaqui Casey, Hope Arellano and Mili Galindo, all 1-goal players. Another top team is Scribble Horse Polo Team with Kathy Iverson, Katherine Roze, Courtney Asdourain and Kirstie Allen.
In last year’s third annual WCT Junior Invitational, the Sapphires (Riley Ganzi, Hannah Reynolds, Mia Novillo Astrada, Luisa Hubert), coached by Sunny Hale, avenged the 7-0 loss in 2014 to the Diamonds (Hope Arellano, Mia Cambiaso, Olivia Merlos, Malia Bryan), coached by Gillian Johnston, with a 1-0 victory. Astrada was named MVP. In the newly-added WCT Junior Invitational Entry Level game, the Emeralds defeated the Rubies.
In this year’s WCT Junior Invitational scheduled for Saturday, Hale and Johnston will again return to coach the Diamonds and Sapphires. The Junior Invitational features junior girls ages 10-17.
The only women’s polo event of its kind and largest polo league in the world will use women’s handicap ratings for the third consecutive year. The handicaps were pioneered by WCT by Hale and were implemented two years ago by the U.S. Polo Association, the sport’s national governing body. The WCT Finals has attracted players from throughout the U.S. and internationally.
Hale, the first woman in U.S. history to win the U.S. Open in 2000 with Outback, is impressed by the caliber of play among women and juniors.
“The fact that we are here today eleven years into it, I am extremely excited about,” Hale said. “Now people really see the vision and depth of the vision I had is becoming visible.”
Hale said Grand Champions has played an integral role in the WCT’s success.
“The fact the WCT Finals are in Wellington during the U.S. Open sets the whole stage,” Hale said. “Women are inspired to play here. Grand Champions does a fantastic job. What it does for the WCT is it brings legitimacy to the fact they put on a great show, they’ve got great fields and you are right in the center of everything.
“That’s why women’s polo is in a new place in this generation because it never used to be a featured event,” Hale said. “Grand Champions has taken it to that level and really gotten behind it. When I started playing women’s polo it was a big deal if you got on a main field and that was if.”
Women’s polo remains the largest growing sector in polo, aided by the WCT Series founded in 2005 to help consolidate women’s polo and promote high quality competition throughout the world.
During Polo Week, players will also get together to watch Thursday morning’s Audi-Lucchese U.S. Open Game at IPC.
This year’s event is supporting awareness of the Jimmy Ryce Center and Be The Change Movement with Ted Ryce. The Jimmy Ryce Center donates bloodhounds to police enforcement to help find missing children in the U.S.
La Martina is the WCT’s official jersey supplier; Nano’s Polo Mallets is the official mallet supplier and Catena USA is the official timepiece of the WCT Finals, the official recognized event of the American Polo Horse Association. Grand Champions is the host polo club. Other sponsors are Designer Hair by Nikki, AutoMax Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram; and Frieda’s Sweets and Meats.
The WCT event can be seen on ChukkerTV, worldwide leaders in polo broadcasting.
Wellington-based ChukkerTV is exclusively live streaming International Polo Club Palm Beach and Grand Champions Polo Club games along with other games around the U.S. during the 2016 season with polo broadcasters Toby Wayman and Dale Schwetz calling the action.
Grand Champions Polo Club is the nation’s busiest and most innovative polo club. The USPA-member club hosts polo tournaments ranging from six to 20-goal in addition to special events.
The club also features The Polo School, 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.
GRAND CHAMPIONS 2016 WINTER SCHEDULE
SPECIAL EVENTS: April 13-16, Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT) Season 11 Finals and Women’s Polo Week.
12-Goal, April, Museum of Polo and Hall of Fame Challenge Cup
8-Goal, April, USPA Association Cup
6-Goal, April, Las Acacias
GRAND CHAMPIONS 2016 SPRING SCHEDULE
April 21-23: Grand Champions Cup
April 29-May 1: Spring Challenge
May 6-8: Sun Cup
May 13-15: USPA Eastern Challenge
May 20-22: Polo Gear Challenge Cup
May 26-29: The Memorial