It is with much sadness that we must announce the passing of our friend Sunny Hale. Sunny, 48, a part-time Wellington resident, died due to complications from cancer at Norman Regional Hospital, Norman, Okla, Her passion for polo was felt by all who knew her. Her warmth and tireless energy inspiring others throughout the world will live on through her legacy. First woman in polo history to win the U.S. Open in a male-dominated spor, Sunny founded the Women’s Championship Tournament (WCT) that opened the door and broke down barriers for other girls and women to pursue their passion. She helped revive the U.S. Women’s Open in 2011. Because she helped promote and build the sport among women, it is now the fastest growing sector in polo around the world. In 2000, Sunny, a member of the Outback team with Phil Heatley, Adolfo Cambiaso and Lolo Castagnola, was the first woman to win the 26-goal U.S. Open Polo Championship, the sport’s most important tournament in North America and to achieve a 5-goal handicap rating, the highest handicap a woman has ever received among men players. She later created a rating system for women at all levels. She also improved resources regarding polo ponies by starting the American Polo Horse Association, a website where players and owners can collect, preserve and record horses’ pedigrees. “It is fantastic how far women have come in polo,” Hale said recently. “In polo we have one of the most unique opportunities that women can play on an equal basis as men.” Hale was a motivational speaker travelling around the world not only talking to polo players and coaches, but major corporations and businesses. She shared her inspiring journey of success and acceptance in a maledominated sport. She is recognized by both men and women as the most accomplished and well-liked woman polo player in the world. She was hired to play by the best team owners and male players, including top-ranked Adolfo Cambiaso, for more than 20 seasons.
She became the first woman to be named Most Valuable Player in several high goal tournaments. Sunny has been a role model for future generations of women polo players. She started writing books to share what she had learned along the way to the top of her profession. In 2012, she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, alongside American icons who have helped shape the American West such as Sandra Day O’Connor, Anne Oakley, Georgia O’Keeffe and Patsy Cline. She has earned Woman Polo Player of the Year an unprecedented seven times. Hale has been featured in Sports Illustrated, the New York Times and ESPN. Funeral arrangements are pending. Those close to her have asked to respect her family’s wish for privacy as they mourn her loss. In lieu of flowers please donate to a charity of your choice or help individuals in need.